I went to one of my son's Little League games last week at a field I'd never been to before. When I found a spot on the bleachers, I saw a sign on the fence surrounding the field that read:
These are kids
This is a game
Coaches are volunteers
Umpires are human
Your child does not play for MLB."
I'd never seen a sign like this, so I took a quick picture of it and shared it on Twitter, saying it was sad a sign like this needed to exist, but I was glad it was there.
The tweet ended up widely shared, and I got a lot of responses from people, mostly sharing examples of bad experiences they'd had at games or similar signs they'd seen in places like Massachusetts and Ireland.
This could be a time to get into group mentality and how being in a crowd can affect people's behavior; the William Carlos Williams poem "The crowd at the ball game" would fit in really nicely there. Or to discuss the way youth sports have been ramped in some cases up to a degree that's not healthy; I wrote a story on that subject a few years ago.
But what stood out most to me was the simple reminder of the value of keeping things in perspective. A couple of days before the game where I saw the above-mentioned sign, I watched my second to youngest son play in his Little League game. He struck out both times he went to bat, but after the game, he came running to me, face lit up with a smile. He'd found two really cool rocks in the outfield, and that had made his night.
Kids are naturally good and finding the fun in just about anything they do. In adulthood, it takes more intentional effort. We sometimes need a sign to remind us to keep perspective at a Little League game.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa said last week that at his level, players don't play ball, they work ball. When rookie outfielder Andrew Vaughn talked about getting out of a slump, he said the biggest part was reminding himself to enjoy being on the field: "Gotta be a little kid. It is your job, but if you go out there and have fun, everything works out." Just this past weekend, Cubs reliever Rex Brothers shared about how becoming a father has changed the way he sees his job as a baseball player. He also talked about the simple mantra that has helped him keep baseball in perspective: "I always told myself, play the game like you’re in high school," he said.
I think the sign at the Little League field resonated with me (and a lot of other people) so much because it's also a nice reminder to be careful not to take the joy out of what my kids are doing. I'm not prone to losing my cool in the stands at my kids' games, but it did make me think about the other parts of my life where I might be losing sight of the fun and even risking spoiling some of it for my kids by focusing on the wrong thing, like the two strikeouts instead of the smiling kid in front of me.