All American: Opening day and Little League
Cape Region Little Leagues have opening days over the next two weeks. I've always had a special place in my heart for this rite of spring. Of all events, Little League comes about as close to hometown America as any sport.
It's a league where kids at many stages of development and talent get a chance to play the nation's pastime.
It's a safe estimate that I've been to at least 40 opening days as a player, coach, umpire, elected official and journalist. I've never been disappointed.
Opening days usually follow the same format, but each one has it's own flavor. Teams march out, their colorful uniforms contrasting with the green and brown of the field. There is always a ceremony – with plaques, banners and trophies – to honor long-standing volunteers and all-star winners. League officials – those people who devote hundreds of hours each spring and summer – are introduced, the pledge is read and the National Anthem is played. The first pitch is thrown out, and the season gets underway. This same schedule is played out thousands of times in April and early May all across the nation.
I can't begin to recall all of my Little League memories. I vividly remember losing my glove while playing in Senior League. Even with a new glove, I lost my confidence and never gained it back.
As a girls' softball coach, the league placed an additional player on my roster – everyone has to play – beyond what all other teams had. The league president, who was a friend of mine, said he trusted me to do what was right. Thanks.
She had a disability and had never been around any kind of sport or ball. She had to wear a helmet with a face mask whenever she was in the field or at bat.
Working with her was a challenge. But you know what? None of the other girls on the team made fun of her because they totally understood what was going on. They helped her when they could.
Of course, she played right field, and in her mind I know she was praying a ball would never be hit her way. I can't remember if one was, but I can remember one particular time at the plate.
She really didn't swing the bat and struck out every time, except once.
On this one particular glorious day, this young girl walked. It was unbelievable, but she walked.
I don't think I've ever seen someone so excited. She shuffled down to first base, tripped over the bag and immediately threw up – and never stopped smiling.
The girls in the dugout were going wild with joy. I still get tears in my eyes when I recall this special time at bat. I was never sure if she really understood what the sport was about, but that thought was erased from my mind as she stood on first base: She got it.