We thought the season was over. We all kind of had a little let down. There was the team picnic at the end of the year. Talk of spending the rest of summer lounging and relaxing took over the conversation. The kids on our team, 11 year olds, began to talk about water parks, bikes, Wii, and other ways to spend their time. Parents talked about getting away for a few days of baseball tournament-free time with the family. The end had come, we had a great season, and we were done.
But then, when a chance for out team to play in a benefit tournament arrived (see earlier blog "The Benefit of Sports"), the question was asked of our boys, "you wanna play in one more tournament?" A unanimous "yes" came from all the boys and parents that would be in town. So we scheduled a few more practices, picked up a couple more boys from another team to make a complete roster, and we had ourselves a tournament.
The weather was wonderful, and the fields looked welcoming. The ball park had had a two week rest since the "end" of the local tournament season. The boys, once on the field, looked similarly rested except for one vital fact - they were still sleeping. The relaxing of the mind and heart that took place two weeks earlier was not easily overcome. Not only that, but not may 11 year old teams signed up for the tournament, so these dozing boys had to play 12 year olds. Faster pitches made it hard to hit. And the extra year of batting practice made these 12 year olds whack the ball all over the field. Or boys got shelled. They ended the tournament with one win, for a tournament record of 1-4. But they all knew it was for a good cause.
About half the team also play youth football. Practice would be starting in two days. But it was still baseball, kind of. As the coaches gave their second end-of-season talk, the boys were down and obviously disappointed in the way the scoring and play had gone. They'd done their best against tough competition. And now the season was done. As the boys, hanging their heads listened to the coaches, one coach simply said, "and now it's time for football." These boys picked up their heads, grinning from ear to ear, and let out cheers.
These days, our 11 year olds have pressures to play one sport, to focus and specialize even now, so young. These boys all love baseball. For some of them it is a fun way to be outside and play. Others look to the future and dream of paying their dues through the Minor Leagues and making to the Show someday. But each of them, whether baseball is deep in their heart, or just a way to have sumer fun, needed a change. It might be football, for others, band. Others might take a break and play basketball later in the fall. As sad as they were initially to have said good-bye to baseball (the first time), they were ready to move on when they said good-bye to it the second time. Giving these boys a break, even from a sport they love, does their minds, bodies, and spirits good.