A Father in the Stands Speaks of the Trials, Tribulations and True Joy of Little League

Bottom of the Sixth

  • Category
  • Written by
    Steve Seidel
  • Illustrated by
    Christine Georgiades

Tucked beneath the steady hum of the freeway sits an oasis of ball fields—fields as soft as a yacht-rock ballad—and the chatter of boys and girls at play. A largely technology-free zone, save for siblings who have been dragged there against their will, this is The Land That Time Forgot.

Banners of past victories adorn the fences. The best kosher dog in the city can still be purchased at a snack stand once manned by Annette Funicello. The obsessively maintained grass, never wavering from its kelly green sheen, would make Julie Andrews pirouette in ecstasy. Here, the hills—or perhaps I should say fields—are alive with the sound of baseball.

This idyllic setting, better known as Little League, has been the home of countless moments that have shaped my son’s youth. At 12 years old, he is in his final season, completing his journey as a “lifer,” having participated in every level of competition.

He started with Wee Ball, where no runs or outs are counted and the most one can hope for is that its participants know to travel the bases in a counterclockwise rotation. And he is ending in the Majors, where the emotional highs and lows of competition are as palpable as the nerves of the parents cheering—and sometimes coaching—from the stands.

It was here on these fields where my son learned that passion, practice and fundamentals are the great equalizer. This proved important these last two seasons in particular, as 11- and 12-year-olds personify the haves and the have-nots of puberty. My undersized, squeaky-voiced son stood on third base the other day next to a kid purportedly his age but seemingly three feet taller. He appeared to have a budding mustache; I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a driver’s license.

Meanwhile, we parents learned a thing or two about being supportive but not too tribal. “Your Children Are Watching,” command signs posted above the bleachers. It can get intense, but for the most part we have kept ourselves under control while cheering him on. Little League parent chatter is unlike any other. “Good eye!” for a ball taken. “Nice cut!” for a hearty swing and a miss. “You’ve seen it!” for a taken strike. Try chirping “Good eye!” at a Dodgers game and imagine all the blank stares of bewilderment.

As the sun sets on my son’s Little League experience, he hopes that his baseball career is just beginning. He’ll represent with a team of his buddies competing in a tournament at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, this summer. From there, he plans to play as long as the game will have him—in middle school, high school, maybe beyond.

After a recent Sunday practice, the parents brought in dinner: pizzas, salad, homemade brownies … and maybe some concealed adult beverages; I will neither confirm nor deny. At one point the kids all seemed to have disappeared. We looked around for them, and sure enough, they were on a neighboring field, playing a simplified version of baseball with Wiffle bats and tennis balls.

No Fortnite to distract them; they didn’t want to stop playing. The action continued until darkness overtook the field. That little slice of (mostly) prepubescent, youthful activity felt like the end of a particular journey. Hormones, girls, driving, college and all that other “real-life” stuff beckons. For now, let’s leave it all out on the field.

Steve Seidel is an executive producer and partner at the branded content studio VIMBY. He lives with his wife, two children and golden retriever. Follow him @schnd.