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The Boys & Girls of Summer

Nicolet, sports, summer

The Boys of Summer playing in the Mid-Summer Classic.  Major League All-Stars playing in Historic Yankee Stadium, home to the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

As nine men take to the field, I am sure that at least one of them will be thinking, “Wow, I’ve sure come a long way from being a kid playing in the sandlots of the park.”  For the remainder of his career every player in this game will be known as an All-Star.

Yes, I know that the outcome of the game has implications for the World Series, but these All-Stars are there to play for the love of the game.  Rivalries are put aside in favor of good sportsmanship.  Yankees will play along side Red Soxs and Brewers will play on the same team as Cubs’ players.

Some of the players on the American League and National League rosters were lucky enough to make it directly into the Major Leagues.  Others had to come up through the farm system.  Each of these players showed that year after year he was learning more and able to move up in the ranks.  For these former double A and triple A players, not only was it an honor to make it to the Major Leagues, but then to be named an All-Star, well, that’s a Major League dream come true.

In the stands of this Mid-Summer Classic, most fans will also display good sportsmanship.  They will cheer for the All-Stars, regardless of the team the All-Star regularly plays for.  While there will be some fans at the game solely for the prestige of attending an All-Star game, others will be sitting in Yankee Stadium watching the game, for the love of baseball.

As the Major League Baseball season goes into the bottom half of the season, the Nicolet Rec Department’s Parent Pitch Softball League is in the bottom of the ninth inning of its season.

Far away from the House That Ruth built, young boys and girls take to the sandlot at Parkway School.  Some came directly into the Parent Pitch League while others came up from the T-ball league.  Being able to hit the ball after the pitcher throws it and not off a T stand, that’s the beginning of Major League dreams.

Boys and girls of different ages, sizes and abilities all playing side by side; each cheering on their fellow teammates when one is at bat.  Every child is allowed to run around all three bases and then run to home plate.  In the outfield, you might see a group of kids all racing for the ball.  Kids give other teammates the ball so all have a chance to throw the ball back to the parent pitcher.  Nobody is a ball hog.

It doesn’t matter if you have a friend on the opposing team.  Friends cheer on friends, regardless if they play for the Sharks, Tigers, or Fireballs.  At the end of every game each player gives a high five to every member of the opposing team.  Boys and girls are taught and show good sportsmanship.

Even though some of these boys and girls are more interested in picking dandelions or playing in the dirt, others already have the stance of a future Ryan Braun or throw like a young Ben Sheets.  Yet they all have one thing in common.   All are there to have fun and to play for the love of the game.

In the stands, most parents also display good sportsmanship.  Parents cheer on all the batters, even if their child’s team isn’t at bat.  Parents volunteer to help the kids with their swings or they assist as base coaches.

Sadly, while sitting on the bleachers of the sandlot, I’ve overheard a few parents yelling at the coaches.  Some parents were even saying that the children are not learning the game because each child bats until he or she hits the ball.  For these parents, my suggestion would be that you do not sign your child up for this league next year.  These are young children having fun.  Restrain your own competitiveness and teach your children the virtures of being a good sport, while leading by example.

Yes, our sons and daughters are learning the game.  In fact, they are learning three of the most important rules of the game.  They learn teamwork, good sportsmanship, and to play for the love of the game.  With these three values, they cannot strike out.

As a Brownie Troop leader, I know that it sometimes can be challenging to lead young children but I also know that it has its rewards.  Watching them learn, mature, and have fun makes the occasional headache seem insignificant.

I’ll speak for all of the parents of the children in the Parent Pitch Softball League (or at least those of us not yelling at the volunteer coaches) when I say “thank you” to the coaches and other volunteers. Thank you for teaching our children, giving them a chance to have fun, and most of all giving them the opportunity to have Major League dreams that one day they might become the next Cory Hart.  With the time and dedication that you have shown, you have made this season a home run.

From the sandlots of Parkway School to the home of the Bronx Bombers, the boys (and girls) of summer will take to the fields.  Some are already All-Stars; others have Major League dreams of playing in the 2028 All-Star Game.  Regardless of RBIs or the number of times at bat, each player who shows teamwork and the virtues of the game has just hit a grand slam.     

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