I decided to do some community service (it wasn't even court appointed!) and coach a Little League team in Providence this summer, but even before the season started, I heard about what a poor decision I had made. A former teammate made sure to offer his opinion on kids these days. "They just don't care anymore," he said. "They kind of suck now." Leave it to a 20 year old to tell me how great things used to be.
The truth is, my friend had it all wrong. My little guys had all kinds of neat skills.
Most of them had the concentration of ARod. In fact, one time my third baseman was focusing so much on blowing a bubble the size of his head that he didn't bother to let a slow roller heading his way bother him. He just let it go off to left field.
Luckily, my little guy in left field was the best listener on the team. He heard me yell "get it in," and in he came, running toward me, ball in hand. He dropped it in our ball bucket. "Just like practice, coach."
All of my little guys had big time dreams too. In fact, my shortstop spent far more time watching the older guys play on the field behind ours, even when we made the playoffs. "You'll be up there soon," I told him. "You're almost too old to play here."
Most of my little guys were Scott Boras-type negotiators. At some point during the season, every kid broke down the reasons why they should get a chance to pitch and at some point, every kid did, even the ones who weren't sure whether they were right or left-handed.
My little guys had spirit even the Laker Girls would be jealous of. They cheered, "Let's go Joey, let's go, get a hit!" louder than any kids I had ever seen. And when Joey actually did get a hit, you would have thought we had just won the pennant by the ovation they gave.
For better or for worse, my guys always acted like big leaguers.
There was the pitcher that begged me to pitch in pretty much every game who constantly threw the ball right down the middle. Hit got shelled every time he toed the rubber, but at least he pumped strikes. "Baseball needs more pitchers that want to challenge hitters," I said.
And there was the kid who begged me to keep him out of the lineup every time a fast pitcher was on the hill. I told the parents that it was just little Bobby being little Bobby.
You know, it's easy to take a shot a Manny Ramirez (and fun), but the truth is that my favorite thing about most of my little guys was the same trait that Manny displays almost every game he plays, no matter the situation: The ability to forget.
My little guys probably struck out more than they hit. They dropped a lot more balls than they caught. And they lost more than they won. But no matter what, they were loading up on hot dogs and doughboys minutes after the game, showing even their coach that it really doesn't matter what the score was.
Sometimes we don't realize that kids these days are lonelier than ever. Everyone likes to talk about the good old days, but we forget that more children are growing up in single parent households than ever before. Too many grow up with John Madden as their male role model and Grand Theft Auto has taught them far more about stolen cars than they will ever know about stolen bases.
It's really sad, especially when you hear from people who have already given up on a generation. Children need coaches and role models in their lives now more than ever.
It's so easy too. Spend a couple hours a week with a youth. Mentor them. Coach them. Teach them. Do something.
It's not hard to have an impact on a child's life.
So make it happen.
Get sports tickets from Vivid Seats today!