The South Milwaukee Little League AA season concluded Monday night with the Royals beating the Red Sox in the championship game. Not that the victor matters. It shouldn’t when you’re talking about 7- and 8-year old kids.
What matters at this level is that the kids learn the game in a positive environment with supportive coaches, parents and fans … and have some fun along the way.
The South Milwaukee Little League delivered that and more this season, and my summer is a bit emptier now that it’s over.
Christian, my 7-year-old, was a member of the AA Brewers this season, his first out of Rookie Ball, and he had a blast. So did his family – me included.
Now, winning helped. It’s always more fun when you win, and Christian’s team, led by Coach Bob and Coach Ken, went 11-2 before losing as a No. 2 seed in the tournament semifinals last week.
But my impression of the South Milwaukee Little League was not formed because of the success of his team. Rather, my positive – and, I’ll bet, lifelong – memories will come from the small moments that showed an innocent love for the game that too many of us lose over time.
I’ll remember Christian’s happiness with even the smallest of hits, including his two-out, two-strike game winner late in the season (which I had to celebrate over the phone, as I was out of town) …
His heartbreaking “it’s the end of the world” sadness at making an out (we’re still working with him on that) …
His little legs churning around the bases after a hit (surprisingly quickly, unlike his father) … and
Win or lose, his anticipation of post-game trips to the concession stand (where you can get a lot for $2).
The list of happy memories goes on, and includes the volunteer hours at the concession stand and sneaking up to the press box to run the scoreboard.
I’ll also cherish the time I got to spend with my father, sister and other family members as they, too, became regular and rabid Little League fans.
Of course, not all the memories will be positive. Too often, me included, parents and coaches get too wrapped up in a game being played 7- and 8-year-olds. Perspective can and does get lost. But thankfully those issues were few and far between, and they’ll retreat from my memory.
In their place will be moments like the end of a second-round tournament game between the Red Sox and Royals – the same two teams that would later meet in the finals.
The Brewers and their fans were waiting for this game to end so ours could start, and we had a chance to see first-hand as the Red Sox took a late lead, only to lose it in the bottom of the final inning on a game-winning hit.
I expected crushing disappointment from the Red Sox, to see a bunch of players sobbing into their hands and seeking the calm reassurance of mom. Instead, I saw elation, on both sides … as both teams, seconds after the last out was recorded, happily spilled out on the field and eagerly continued their tradition of racing around the bases after the game.
Smiling kids having fun, win or lose. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be for these Boys (and Girls) of South Milwaukee Summer?
That’s how it was for my boy. And his dad.