Some years ago, essayist Robert Fulghum surmised that everything he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten.
Maybe I was a slow learner. Or maybe Little League was just the beginning of my higher education, but everything else I ever needed to know I learned in endless games in the sandlot and night games on my neighborhood baseball diamond, when the ball became a moving bit of the twilight sky.
Just like in regular school, you’re never truly conscious of your own education. It comes back to you much later, say, as you watch your son play in his first T-ball game and you stifle the urge to shout, "Keep your eye on the ball!" And, come to think of it, that was one of the good lessons to be learned way back when your father shouted it to you. And maybe when his father shouted it to him.
Tonight, the first pitch of the 2005 World Series will be thrown and I’m in my 48th October, a good time to revisit some of the lessons I learned as a boy of summer, like:
Being safe at home is the overall objective ... Two hands work better than one ... It sometimes takes every kid in the neighborhood to make something possible ... Persistence can turn even a bunt into a home run … Errors are inevitable ... every season the fences get a little closer.
I played baseball in college, and one glorious season of small-time semi-pro ball, when the fences were as close to me as they’d ever get. Today, I couldn’t tell you if I batted my weight, but I recall the smell of freshly mown outfield grass, leather and road dust, and the way small-town girls flirted with traveling ballplayers. I was no longer a Little Leaguer then, and my playing days were all but done, but the lessons continue…
The sun shines in everybody’s eyes … We sometimes see things differently than the guy who has to make the call … Long-ball hitters strike out sometimes, too … Don’t dig yourself into a hole at home … Sometimes you get hurt, but it eventually feels better … Cry later.
I asked my daughter about baseball’s lessons. Her life was either enhanced or forever marred by my volunteering to coach her team when she was still very young. Today, she is a professional photojournalist for a big-city newspaper. I wondered: What did my little girl of summer take away from the ballparks of HER youth, if anything?
"If you're lucky," she said, "you'll remember everything you need to know. And your coach will forget when you don't."
Pictured above: The author's first home run ball, gently gnawed by a beloved family pet. May she rest in peace.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Little League ...
[You can listen to this commentary by Ron Franscell
which originally aired on NPR's All Things Considered Oct. 22]