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San Marino National Little League

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Photos courtesy San Marino National Little League
The Red Angels and Team All Black pose for a joint team photo among the signage welcoming San Marino’s Little Leaguers back to action. Pictured above are (front row, from left) Keegan Vuong, Max Carpiac, Henry Kang, Jake Flores, Jamie Chung, Grant Walker, Emilio Carr, Herman Webb, Grant O’Mara and Jack Rome. Back: Will Martin, Fuming Yang, Dylan Harris, Dylan Lau, Chace Lee, Mason Hsieh, Vincent Hou, Luke Delgado and Nick Grossi.

There is perhaps no more accurate indicator of the societal heath of San Marino than the condition of its Little League. That institution received a spotless check-up at last Saturday morning’s annual Opening Day festivities.
Though teams had been returning to practice sessions for several weeks, players donned uniforms and — in many cases — matching facemasks to celebrate the official return to the season.
“It was great to have our kids back on the fields,” said Daisy Wilson, president of San Marino National Little League, noting that more than 300 kids played their first games on Saturday. “It is so nice to finally be surrounded by some normalcy as we hopefully get back to reality.”
Until further notice, spectators must be from a player’s immediate family, remain socially distanced, and are not allowed to sit in the grandstands.

Daisy Wilson, 2020 president of San Marino National Little League, is shown at the past president’s brunch last February. Though the league was shelved in the spring by the coronavirus pandemic, Wilson will resume her term in 2021.

The young people of San Marino and Southern California received some rare and hard-earned good news last week.
“We’re one step closer to a somewhat normal season,” Daisy Wilson, San Marino National Little League president, announced on Feb. 4.
“As anticipated, things are changing daily,” Wilson continued, referring to an announcement from Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that lifted the restriction of outside organizations not being able to use outdoor school facilities.
SMNLL is one of the community’s most popular activities for young people and had approximately 400 registrants last year. Since the state and county mandate still restricts the playing of actual games, SMNLL will for the time being be limited to practices and skills clinics. Wilson targeted the end of February for the league to announce a schedule and possibly be able to play actual games.
San Marino’s popular opening day ceremony was held on Feb. 22, 2020, but local softball and baseball play was halted on March 13 when the coronavirus pandemic overwhelmed all public gatherings. Wilson was asked to continue her term as president of SMNLL when play resumes.
“I have aged five years,” Wilson quipped, a comment that is quite understandable considering she and husband, Jon, have four boys between the ages of 7 and 14. All four — Cooper, Parker, J.J. and Miller — will be back in uniform when their mom gets the call to “Play Ball.”

IN COURTNEY’S SPIRIT: San Marino National Little Leaguers Kennedy Taylor and Kayla Giddings earned the prestigious Courtney A. Miller Spirit Award for their positive attitudes, sportsmanship and team spirit. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are Randy Miller, Softball Commissioner Brent Bilvado, Cathy, Kayla and San Marino National Little League President Dan Giddings, Melissa, Kennedy and Jarrod Taylor and Linda Miller. Mitch Lehman Photo

San Marino National Little League softball players Sophie Kennedy Taylor and Kayla Giddings received the Courtney A. Miller Spirit Award at the 4th of July celebration in Lacy Park.

The award is presented in memory of Courtney, a former SMNLL softball player herself, who passed away in 2006 at age 19 following a three-year battle with cancer.

The Courtney Miller Foundation and the Miller Family present the award annually to the softball player or players who best exemplifies Courtney’s indomitable spirit. The recipients are selected based on the following criteria: team spirit, enthusiasm, sportsmanship and fair play, team contribution, dedication, inspiration and the ability to overcome challenges to participate in SMNLL softball. The award was first presented in 2006.

Courtney played in San Marino National Little League for five years, beginning in the Pitching Machine division, and then moved on to Minors Softball. Courtney was selected to the Minors All-Star team – which later became the very first San Marino Softball District champion to qualify and compete at the Regional level, launching the SMNLL’s softball program to the level of success it has enjoyed ever since. Many of the girls on that winning team went on to play as Junior All-Stars and in 2001 competed on the first team from San Marino to participate in the National Little League World Series.

Courtney was a gifted athlete, a spirited and positive softball player, an enthusiastic competitor, hard worker, good friend and teammate, and embodied all of what it means to participate in SMNLL softball. She continued that spirit and competitiveness in later endeavors, in high school at Pasadena Poly and at the University of California, Berkeley. Courtney inspired many in her brave fight against cancer.

Brent Bilvado, San Marino National Little League’s softball commissioner, presented the awards last Thursday during the annual salute to the city’s Little League All-Stars.

Kennedy played this past season for the Texas Longhorns and Kayla was a member of the Clemson Tigers. During his presentation, Bilvado quoted former United States women’s national soccer star Mia Hamm in paying tribute to Courtney.

“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back,” said Bilvado. “Play for her.”

TAKE THIS: 2018 San Marino National Little League President Jay Fuerst, right, passes the ceremonial bat to his successor, Dan Giddings, left, at Sunday’s past president’s brunch which was held at San Gabriel Country Club. Mitch Lehman Photo

The two events couldn’t be more different, yet they are held by the same organization and take place just twenty-four hours apart.

The frenetic pace of Little League Opening Day, replete with uniformed youngsters dashing this way and that, at Huntington Middle School on Saturday morning, balanced by the Little League Past Presidents brunch at San Gabriel Country Club a day later, which is, shall we say “staid” by comparison.

Both took place last weekend under ideal conditions though it’s difficult to guess when the environs at SGCC could be considered anything other than “ideal.”

Though the current year’s leader was chosen months ago, the Past President’s Brunch includes a literal and metaphorical passing of the torch, or—more appropriately in this case—the transfer of an old, wooden Hank Aaron baseball bat that for some reason has a broom attached to the business end.

“That’s to gently sweep away the problems,” one SMNLL president said years ago, as he handed it to his successor.

Jim Ukropina, who was president of San Marino National Little League in 1979, spoke of the league’s unique traditions. Mitch Lehman Photo

Jim Ukropina, the 1979 president who was in attendance last Sunday, believes the tradition began in 1973 during the presidency of Paul Crowley, that great beginner of local traditions. For decades, even long after Crowley was involved in the league, the annual draft was held in Crowley’s basement as a matter of tradition. Whenever its genesis, the handing over of the ceremonial bat survives to this very day.

“Whatever you do, don’t lose that,” said 2018 President Jay Fuerst as he handed the stick to Dan Giddings, the current head man. “That was the biggest worry of my term.” In handing the reins to Giddings, Fuerst also mentioned that he felt the main job of the president of San Marino National Little League was to serve as its chief ambassador.

Giddings, believed to be just the third in the town’s history to be a player in and later president of San Marino National Little League, harkened back to his days as a player and told a story about his experience as a ten-year-old.

“We didn’t have enough coaches, so the league just drafted another team,” Giddings said, as the room erupted in laughter. “They eventually found a dad to serve as our manager, but he didn’t know much about baseball, so I essentially served as player-coach. I made all the substitutions and changed all the pitchers.”

Giddings then acknowledged many in the room who he looked up to as a mentor including Ukropina and Dr. Bill Dietrick, who was president while Giddings played on a championship-winning team with Dietrick’s son, Todd.

If Fuerst served under the banner of ambassador, Giddings preached the theme of friendship.

“That is what it is all about,” Giddings said. “The friendships that are made through Little League are what make it so special in this community.”

Dan Giddings, who played in the San Marino National Little League as a young person, takes over as president for the 2019 season. Giddings, here in front of the Wall of Champions, played on the 1984 Majors baseball team that is acknowledged above and to the left as 1984 MA. Mitch Lehman Photo

He spoke of the “fraternity” among past presidents and the many changes that have transpired over the years, including a recent switch to electronic scorekeeping and custom made uniforms, which elicited many headshakes from the wives in the audience. Anne Hogeboom, wife of Bob, who was president in 1991, said that the scorekeeping duties occupied three people during those days. Dietrick recalled his wife, Joan, dutifully mending uniforms at the end of a season so they could be handed over to the next team. No more.

Giddings was proud of his focus on rebuilding the Little League softball program and his founding of a local baseball team called the Isotopes, which was created to keep local kids together and discourage them from leaving to travel ball squads. Isotopes is currently on its seventh rendition, by the way. Giddings has worked on recruiting young adults to coach the older Little Leaguers in the High School Prep league and has cut a deal with San Marino High School that allows Little League to hold Saturday games on those fields when the Titans and Lady Titans are not scheduled. He also resurrected what he called “an old-school all-star game” for the Majors that allows the players to vote for the teams.

He then thanked his wife, Cathy—herself an accomplished athlete and high school softball player—for her support and dedication to the league. Al three Giddings children play in San Marino National Little League and participated in the ceremonial first pitch.

“I couldn’t believe that that I was giving a speech and these guys were listening to me,” Giddings said a few days later of the past presidents event. “As a kid I looked up to so many of them.”

Giddings said that the entire Opening Day experience “was like Christmas morning.’

“Looking at all of the kids in their colorful uniforms was like looking at gifts,” Giddings said. “They are like presents under the tree and you don’t know what you are going to get with each team. So many of my friends are coaching and my own kids are playing and I just can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Like Christmas, there is drama, some family drama, and you have to roll with it. For Christmas, you know it is going to be a great day and for Little League, you know it is going to be a great three months.”

There was one more appropriate comparison to the holiday.

“I was exhausted,” Giddings said of the morning after. “Exhausted, but with a smile on my face.”

Let’s hope it stays there. We’re confident it will.

Dan Giddings, as a San Marino Little Leaguer.

He calls it sacred ground, high praise for an oft-trodden patch of land that has served countless different purposes over the decades, but to Dan Giddings, the it’s a declaration of respect, not a punch line.

“When I look around, I can remember the exact moments when I met people who are still among my best friends to this very day.”

Giddings is walking across the Major’s baseball field behind Huntington Middle School that served the same purpose forty years ago, when he was a player in San Marino’s beloved National Little League. He now joins a select few who have made the jump from San Marino Little Leaguer to San Marino Little League President. It’s a privilege he isn’t taking lightly.

“Having played here I believe gives me a unique perspective about what that it means to the experience of being a kid in San Marino,” said Giddings. “To ride your bike to the fields to play a game. Then ride your bike to watch your friend’s game. Spending the day with all your friends. Eating at the snack shack.”

Giddings then drifts off into nostalgia, a condition he hopes to reproduce for each of the more than 445 young people under his watch.

Giddings moved to San Marino in 1973 with an older brother, John, and his parents, Dr. John and Marilyn Giddings. At one time or another he attended all of San Marino’s four schools, graduating from SMHS in 1990. To say he excelled in athletics would give but a faint idea of the fact: He lettered in football, basketball and baseball, was a two-way starter on the Titans’ 1988 CIF championship football team and pitched in two CIF baseball championship games: A loss in Dodger Stadium and a win in Anaheim Stadium.

Much of his pedigree was developed on the same ballfields kids will inhabit on Saturday, February 23, when he oversees Opening Day. His 1984 Majors All-Star team won the District 17 championship and was among the first to be acknowledged on the Wall of Champions. And while there always exists the temptation to quantify the sport in terms of runs, hits and errors, Giddings uses a different barometer.

“It’s really all about friendships,” he said. “It’s the lifelong friends, the bonds that you built. Being friends with kids who you might not be friends with except that you played on the same team. Your friends who crossover from public schools to private schools and the friendships that are developed in the stands between families. They are friendships that eventually cross the border lines into family.”

Giddings mentioned one such relationship that endures to this very day.

“One of my first coaches was Mitch Milias and I became friends with his son, Craig,” Giddings recalled. “We became very close and we were even in each others’ weddings. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get into some fights out here,” he said, suddenly overcome with laughter.

Giddings and his wife, Cathy, have three children and all of them will be wearing Little League uniforms this spring. Tyler, 13, is an eighth grader at Huntington Middle School and will be playing High School Prep; Kayla is a 6th grader at HMS and is on a Softball Majors roster and Makenna, 5, is a kindergartner at Valentine and plays Coach Pitch Softball.

That sport, precisely, elicited a hint of pride from Giddings.

“We didn’t have enough softball players when Kayla was young and so some of the girls had to play baseball,” the Claremont McKenna grad and former baseball player said. “We went out and engaged in some guerilla marketing and here we are, five years later, with eleven teams. That is a number I am very proud of.”

Aside from that impressive accomplishment, Giddings said he has “a list” of goals.

One is to renovate the aforementioned Wall of Champions, but he has some other “building” in mind.

“I want to provide a platform to grow the league,” Giddings said. “I want to help our managers win as many all-star banners as we can, but I also want to continue the goals of previous Little League Presidents Sean Gill and Jay Fuerst, and that is to build a bridge to the next generation of leadership. I want to cast a wide net of volunteerism, to find people who have not been involved in the administration of the league. Pretty soon we are all going to be riding off into the sunset.”

When he does, Giddings hinted that he would like to be remembered by one name.

“Coach,” he said.

“The coolest thing is when you coach a kid and many years later, they might be on another team or you might see them somewhere away from the ballfield and they call you ‘coach,’” Giddings said. “That makes it all worthwhile.”

IN COURTNEY’S SPIRIT: Sophia Bilvado and Amanda Redding earned the prestigious Courtney A. Miller Spirit Award for their positive attitudes, sportsmanship and team spirit. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are FRONT ROW: Courtney A. Miller Spirit Award winners Sophia Bilvado and Amanda Redding. TOP ROW: Courtney’s mother Linda Miller, San Marino National Little League President Jay Fuerst and Courtney’s father, Randy Miller. Mitch Lehman Photo

San Marino National Little League softball players Sophia Bilvado and Charis Chung were presented with the Courtney A. Miller Spirit Award at the 4th of July celebration in Lacy Park.

Bilvado was a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

“In addition to being nominated by her own coach, was even nominated by an opposing coach, which tells you everything you need to know about Sophia’s character and sportsmanship,” San Marino National Little League President Jay Fuerst said. “Sophia’s smile and personality are contagious and she makes everyone around her better with her bright and cheerful spirit in addition to her skill and athleticism.”

Redding suited up for the Florida Gators.

“Her coach says of Amanda, ‘no matter what, she always shows up to practices and games ready to go,’” Fuerst said. “She is always pumping up her teammates on and off the field and especially when no one is watching. I love her can-do attitude and how she is willing to play any position or sit out to let others have a chance to play.’”

The award is presented in memory of Courtney, a former SMNLL softball player herself, who passed away in 2006 at age 19 following a three-year battle with cancer.

The Courtney Miller Foundation and the Miller Family present the award annually to the softball player or players who best exemplifies Courtney’s indomitable spirit. The recipients are selected based on the following criteria: team spirit, enthusiasm, sportsmanship and fair play, team contribution, dedication, inspiration and the ability to overcome challenges to participate in SMNLL softball. The award was first presented in 2006.

Courtney played in San Marino National Little League for 5 years, beginning in the Pitching Machine division, and then moved on to Minors Softball. Courtney was selected to the Minors All-Star team – which later became the very first San Marino Softball District champion to qualify and compete at the Regional level, launching the SMNLL’s softball program to the level of success it has enjoyed ever since. Many of the girls on that winning team went on to play as Junior All-Stars and in 2001 competed on the first team from San Marino to participate in the National Little League World Series.

Courtney was a gifted athlete, a spirited and positive softball player, an enthusiastic competitor, hard worker, good friend and teammate, and embodied all of what it means to participate in SMNLL softball. She continued that spirit and competitiveness in later endeavors, in high school at Pasadena Poly and at the University of California, Berkeley. Courtney inspired many in her brave fight against cancer.

DISTRICT 17 CHAMPS: San Marino National Little League’s 8 & 9-year-old baseball all-star team won four straight games to claim the District 17 championship banner. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are TOP ROW: Coach John Morning, Manager Jason Rome and Coach Spencer McCroskey. MIDDLE ROW: Vincent Huo, Chase Mena, Matthew McCroskey, Miles Morning, Grant O’Mara, Daniel Jeffries, Luke Delgado, Jamie Chung, Grant Walker, Ryan Fong, Sam Merryman and Andrew Rindone. FRONT ROW: Jack Rome. The All-Stars were solid, especially in the nailbiting 6-5 title game win over Pasadena American.

San Marino’s National Little League’s 8 & 9-year-old baseball all-star team, led by Manager Jason Rome and Assistant Coaches Bryan Merryman, John Morning, and Spencer McCroskey, downed Pasadena American Little League’s all-stars to win the District 17 Tournament Championship. Tuesday evening’s victory capped an undefeated tournament run for San Marino as they compiled four consecutive wins. San Marino won the game 6-5 in a tense battle that was neck-and-neck until the final out of the 6th inning. San Marino’s pitchers in the final game were starter Miles Morning, who threw one of his best games of the season; Grant O’Mara, coming in strong in relief, and Matthew McCroskey, who closed out the game, pitching through the nail-biting seconds of the 6th. The infield played strong defense, led by Grant Walker at 3rd base, Ryan Fong at 2nd base, and Jack Rome at catcher. The fearless outfield – Daniel Jeffries, Sam Merryman, Jamie Chung, Luke Delgado, and Chase Mena – caught several hard-hit fly balls, including a diving catch by Mena in the 6th, one of the best defensive plays of the game, that helped secure the win.

Andrew Rindone and Vincent Huo rallied the team in support throughout the tournament while they recovered from injury. The team looks forward to hanging their championship banner on Opening Day next season!

Braving Banning’s triple-digit heat and blast furnace-like winds, San Marino National Little League’s 10 & 11-year old softball all-stars swept Palmdale and Hesperia last week to win the Southern California State Little League championship. The local gals won the four games by a combined score of 35-4 to claim the crown for Manager Jarrod Taylor and Coaches Maren Pellant and Andy Esbenshade. 

SOFTBALL SECTIONALS

SMNLL 11, Palmdale 1

Paced by a complete game, 8 strikeout, 0 walk, 2-hit performance by Kennedy Taylor, the SMNLL softballers defeated Palmdale by the mercy rule. The winds in the high desert of Rosamond were fierce, but the girls pounded out 6 hits, paced by Kayla Giddings (2 hits, 2 runs, 3 RBI), Caroline Holdsworth (1 hit, 2 runs), Sophia Bilvado (double, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Libby Esbenshade (single,1 RBI) and Emma Hiddleson (single, RBI). Holdsworth and Malia Yu keyed the defense with a number of solid plays to assist Taylor.

The pivotal moment in the game came in the second inning, when with one out Manager Jarrod Taylor called for Giddings to bunt with runners on 2d and 3rd. Giddings laid down a beauty, forcing Palmdale to rush the throw which went into right field, scoring the two runners and staking SMNLL to a 4-0 lead. The play set the stage for Bilvado’s double, which plated two runs, leading to a comfortable 6-0 lead.

SMLL 6, Palmdale 3

SMNLL found themselves in a tight battle, leading only 2-1 in the 4th inning and having left 6 runners on base. After loading the bases, Sophia Bilvado stepped to the plate and eased the nerves of the SMNLL faithful by drilling a line drive that cut through the wind all the way to the fence for an inside-the-park grand slam home run.  

Emma Hiddleson would take it from there, as she threw a six-inning gem against a pesky Palmdale squad that was playing savvy and putting the ball in play. Tylie Pellant made an incredible catch in center, Kayla Giddings made a number of plays at shortstop, Kennedy Taylor snared a line drive at the hot corner, while Hiddleson made a number of plays to help herself and Holdsworth and Yu displayed their typical steady play.
Bilvado had 3 hits and 5 RBI and was joined in the hit parade by Pellant (2 hits), Taylor, Esbenshade, Giddings and Holdsworth while Ella Moriarty was on base every bat over the two games and Chloe Wang worked a quality at bat for a walk.

SOUTHERN STATE CHAMPS: San Marino National Little League’s 10 & 11 Softball All-Stars won the Southern State championship. PICTURED ABOVE, left to right, are, KNEELING: Caroline Holdsworth, Tylie Pellant, Kayla Giddings and Julia Pisano. STANDING: Malia Yu, Little League President Jay Fuerst, Chloe Wang, Sophia Bilvado, Manager Jarrod Taylor, Kennedy Taylor, Coach Maren Pellant, Emma Hiddleson, Ella Moriarty, Coach Andy Esbenshade and Libby Esbenshade.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

SMNLL 10, Hesperia 0

SMNLL 8, Hesperia 0

Primed after great success from their Fourth of July water balloon battle and parade, the SMNLL Softball 11s rolled into Banning for a series of 8:00 a.m. games against Hesperia American. Undaunted by the mileage and early wake-up calls, the girls out hit their opponents 19-3.  Following a similar formula from Sectionals, Manager Jarrod Taylor and Coaches Maren Pellant and Andy Esbenshade started Taylor in Game 1 (7Ks, 1walk, 2hits) and Hiddleson in Game 2 (5Ks, 3walks, 1hit) who were a dazzling and dominant 1-2 punch.  The girls pounded the strikezone, fielded their position with aplomb and had confidence their defense would make plays behind them.

Defensively, Holdsworth was rock solid at second base as the ball found her glove again and again. She made plays to her left, right, forward and back, including the play that sealed the title. Tylie Pellant made a matrix-esque’ catch at third, while Yu and Taylor gobbled up everything at first base.  Giddings made every play that came her way at shortstop, highlighted by picking a throw from Bilvado to nail a would-be base stealer.

Bilvado threw out multiple runners, including at third base with two outs to quell a Hesperia rally in the title game.

Offensively, Pellant and Bilvado came up clutch as Pellant had multiple hits in each game while Bilvado continued to hit bombs, including one that was held in the park only because of the monsoonal gusts blowing straight in from center field. Giddings, Taylor and Yu (5 total RBI) also had multiple hits while Esbenshade (on base every at bat in Game 1), Holdsworth, Moriarty (bases loaded single), Hiddleson and Pisano (a textbook bunt) contributed hits and Wang rocked a liner to right field and was robbed of an extra base hit.

Game 1 was a 4-inning mercy affair while Game 2 was much more of a grind. Up 1-0 in the 4th, Pellant led off with a single, followed by Pisano’s bunt single and Hiddleson’s infield single, setting the stage for Moriarty’s drive into the outfield scoring Pellant. Then, with the infield in, Giddings punched an outside pitch down the left field line to score two and give the girls some breathing room.

When all was said and done, it was clear that the coaches prepared the girls well as they made every play in the field, were hustling to the right spots, scored in a variety of ways, threw strikes and most importantly, were pulling for one another on every pitch.

These girls had a tremendous run and will be working hard in the fall and spring to see that they can do in the signature 12-year-old tournament next summer.

The San Marino Firefighter’s Association will host its annual Pancake Breakfast in Lacy Park on Saturday, May 20 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, Firefighters Quest for Burn Survivors and the Childrens Burn Foundation, according to San Marino Firefighter/Paramedic Jeff Tsay, who chairs the annual community fundraiser.

The Ruch Burn Foundation puts the money it receives toward providing a variety of services to enhance the lives of burn survivors—both firefighters and civilians—and educate communities across California about burn prevention.

“Most of the injuries we see are from burns,” Tsay said of the injuries faced by firefighters. “They do so much with the fire service to raise money.”

In recent years, the philanthropic reach of this event has grown. Local groups, like Boy Scout Troops and San Marino National Little League, have been added to the list of donation recipients.

Tsay also told The Tribune that the Huntington Middle School Concert Band has recently agreed to perform at this year’s event.

A vendor’s row at the park’s entrance provides an opportunity for local businesses to advertise their goods and services.

Tickets are $10 per person for the “all you can eat” event that includes pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee and can be purchased at the San Marino Fire Dept., at the door on May 20 or at www.eventbrite.com.

…thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to help out with my team. There are so many other things that you could be doing, and I am honored that you have chosen to spend your time helping me to become a better athlete and citizen.

I am every young person that you come into contact with during the season. I am the players on your team, the little brothers and sisters that come to watch our games, the friends who show up and hang out around the park, and the umpires and referees who do their best to see that the games are contested in a fair and safe manner.

As the season gets underway, there are a couple of things I would like to say to you, since we probably won’t have the opportunity to sit down and talk during the season.

Please remember that my participation at this level is both a right and a privilege. There will be many, many opportunities for me to participate in activities for which I will try out, and then either be ‘cut’ or made a part of the team on the basis of my ability. But at this early point of my young life, I am allowed to play just because I want to. I don’t have to be good and I don’t have to try hard if I don’t want to. This is one of those rare times in my life that I can just show up and play a sport that I may never have the opportunity to play again for the rest of my life.

Please also remember that I am constantly being told what to do at school, at home, and just about everywhere I show up these days. I know that every activity has some requirements and that there are some responsibilities that I have to uphold as part of the bargain, but I really want to do this so that I can be around my friends and have some fun.

So then, winning isn’t necessarily the main objective as to why I have decided to play.

At this point in my life, there are so many things that I am trying to learn more about. My body is in a constant state of flux, changing day by day, so that I can accomplish some things on one occasion and then feel like a total klutz the next.

So if coaching a winning team is your chief goal and your ego and sense of self-esteem are at all tied to our final win-loss record, please do us all a favor and go find something else to do.

You might consider playing golf or softball or something that you can compete in and have more control over the outcome. Maybe there are some issues relating to winning and losing that you need to spend a little more time with. Which is perfectly okay!

But I certainly hope that your perception of social acceptance isn’t tied to whether or not you can get a group of kids my age to win at any cost.

In spite of what we might say when you ask us, we’d rather learn about the game, try our best and have a great time. If a winning season is a result of that formula, so be it. What we really want is to be taught the game and have some fun.

I also play on the other team so if you tell your players to “take an extra base on the right fielder because he doesn’t have a very good arm,” some of my friends are going to hear you.

Remember, I have to go to school and live my life with these people. There is enough pressure just being a kid my age and I don’t need the additional shame of being known as a “weak-armed outfielder” to go along with everything else.

If you are a good coach, your players will listen to you while they are running the bases anyway, so if you and the other coaches on your team don’t think that I have a very good arm, that’s okay. But please keep it to yourself. Just tell your players to keep running.

And if I’m pitching against you, please don’t get your team together between innings and tell them they have to get a bunch of hits off me because I’m no good. Instead, tell them what good hitters they are.

You might get the same result, but my life will be a lot better the next day in the cafeteria.

If I have the opportunity to move on and play at another level, and if I am lucky enough to survive being cut by a coach, and when I have played long enough to know exactly what situation I am in, then you can say that I don’t have a very good arm or that I am not a very good pitcher and I’ll be able to handle it a lot better.

But, come to think of it, why would you ever, ever want to say things like that?

If you’re my mom or dad, please try to treat me like the other kids. Please don’t show me favoritism, because that just makes the other kids show envy. Please don’t single me out from the others and give me a harder punishment if we’re caught goofing around, because that just makes the other kids show pity.

I know that it’s a lot to ask, but please try to treat me like I’m just another kid in a uniform. If this is too much to ask, hey…you don’t have to coach me…do you?

And if we lose, or if we don’t play up to our ability, please allow us to go our separate ways and let’s talk about it later. There is nothing that you can say at the time that will do us much good. Besides, we’re probably not in much of a mood to listen.

By the time our next practice rolls around, you’ll still remember the things that are really important. 

Thank you for listening, and thanks again for coaching us. Now let’s stop wasting time…let’s get out there and have some fun!