Write Again … Just a little boy

Published 12:35 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let me be honest here. Today’s column is lifted from “New View — A Collection of Columns,” which was published in 1985. This column was actually written in 1973. So, I’m sort of borrowing from myself. This is the first time, however, that I’ve done this for “Write Again.” I promise not to make this a habit.

So. This is what I wrote:

It was the bottom half of the last inning. The score stood 4-2 in favor of the other team. There were two down, but things were not that bleak. We had a runner on second and our heaviest hitter was at the plate.

The count went to 3 and 0 and things started looking up. The opposing pitcher took his signal from the catcher, went into a quick windup, then fired the ball.

“You’re out!” hollered the base umpire. This took us all by surprise, for our man at the plate had watched the pitch all the way. On a 3 and 0 pitch, he was taking.

The base umpire began walking off the field. The startled players and managers were nonplussed. Then it all sank in.

In Little League a base runner must not leave the bag prior to the pitched ball crossing the plate. So, the base ump had ruled that our runner on second had violated this rule. It must have been oh, so close.

But, rules are rules. Even in Little League.

Little Gary, the culprit — the goat — was crushed. The tears began cascading down his chubby cheeks even before he reached the dugout. He tried to stammer out, “I’m sorry,” but the words wouldn’t come.

The players on the victorious team were really whooping it up. It took a little extra urging for our boys to adhere to our hard and fast rule of crossing the diamond to congratulate the winning team.

But Gary sat weeping in the dugout. He was ten.

“It’s just one of those things, Gary. Don’t worry. But, you’ve got to go shake hands with the other team. You’ve got to be a man.”

Little Gary didn’t budge.

Once again, “Come on, Gary. Be a sport. Let’s go congratulate the winners.”

“I can’t,” he said, regaining some of his composure.

“Why not?” I countered, preparing to give him a little “chin up” talk.

“I just can’t,” he blurted out.

And then he stood up for me to see. The front of his trousers — his “big league” uniform — was sopping wet. In his anguish, and embarrassment over being called out at second base, he had uncontrollably become a little boy again. He had wet his pants in an obvious and uncomfortable fashion.

It came home to me, in a sickening way — right there and then — just what we were all doing to these kids. Though our intentions were good, we were placing totally unnecessary pressure on these youngsters. And deny it though we might, what we wanted more than all else was to WIN.

All of us. Coaches. Parents. Relatives. We had taken the game away from those it was intended for.

And a crushed, distraught, “I-want-to-die” little ten-year-old boy — with wet baseball trousers — made me realize what so many still can’t see.

APROPOS — “A child’s world is best ordered by children.”

— Phillip Harrison