Caswell’s Little League season ended last night with the final make-up game of the year. The Hampshire Indians lost. Not surprising. But it was a fun game to watch! And the season taught us both something.
Before last night’s game, Tyler told Cas he’d give him $10 if he got to pitch. So Cas, who’s been playing right field and batting ninth for most of the season, asked his coach if he could pitch. (Hey, we don’t want to be the sort of parents who tell coaches what to do, but we certainly encourage Cas to stand up for himself — if cash was the motivator, so be it!). And his coach said yes! So during warm-ups, Cas got a few pointers on his stance and how to avoid balks. When the game finally started at 8:45 p.m., he played center field. Right field was being played by one of the coach’s sons who had broken his wrist (I think) before the season began and hadn’t played any games. When only 8 boys showed up, the fill-in got a chance in the outfield.
The Indians’ starting pitcher struggled (to put it mildly) in the first inning, allowing 5 runs. With only 1 out in the top of the first inning and the bases loaded, the coach made the call to the “bullpen,” and Cas got his chance to pitch in a game. For the first time ever.
He threw one pitch — a wild one in the dirt, and it looked like an inauspicious beginning. The runners started going, but the Indians in-fielders were wide awake (they had never seen Cas pitch either, so they were on their toes!). The catcher tracked down the ball and threatened to throw — somewhere, anywhere. The base runners panicked, and when the catcher threw it to first, the first baseman tagged out the first-base runner. Then he threw it back to the catcher, and the catcher tagged the third-base runner out at home! A double play! Cas had thrown 1 pitch, and the Indians were finally out of the inning! Wow!
The second inning wasn’t quite as dramatic. Let’s say Cas might need a little more practice pitching. He hit three batters and walked four others. He ended up walking in two runs and allowing 5 total to score before the coach gave the ball to another kid.
Cas got to handle the ball that inning more than he had in the past half dozen games put together! I was proud of him for asking his coach to pitch and proud of him for taking the ball in a high-pressure situation. I was even proud to see him struggle and not give up through the long second inning.
The team played only one more inning as the night wore one, and the game ended with the Indians being blanked, 10-0. The team ended their season with something like one win, 24 losses (enjoy the summary — or don’t — under “Little League Update,” above).
In a culture that values winning over almost anything else, it’s tough to watch game after game of mistakes, misplays and losses. My athletic career in high school was less than stellar, too, and the only thing I learned back then was how to hate Kari Willis (the basketball phenom) and golf.
Watching Cas’ baseball season reminded me that being the best might feel good, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you anything. Instead, hanging in there when the going gets rough can be fun if you maintain a good attitude, it teaches you teamwork and you learn to find success in situations that look pretty bleak.
Caswell won’t be the best at everything in life, and he will encounter his share of crushing defeats. But maybe he will recall the fun of pitching in a lost cause and remember to find joy in every moment.