I’ve shared in the past this year – maybe more so in comments left than in posts made – that I am managing my 9-year old son’s Little League team this season.
At his level, the kids do their own pitching – and this is not coach-pitch, as it’s become known in Little League circles. And, we have umpires who work the games, calling balls and strikes, safe and out, etc. As coaches, we are required to count and log pitches thrown – and there are clear rules on how much a kid can throw, and how often he can be used, etc. (to prevent against arm-abuse). And, we keep score during the games – mostly because there’s a 3-out or 5-run rule that’s applied to each half inning. (The side is retired when they make three outs, or, score five runs – whichever comes first.)
So, with all this umpiring, pitch counting, score-keeping and run watching, it’s obvious at the end of the game who won or lost the contest. Yet, the league has a strict take on game outcomes at this level: There are no wins, no losses, no standings, no playoffs, no champions and no prizes. The games are about playing baseball – teaching, learning and having fun. And, no one should be concerned about winning and losing, etc.
O.K., that’s understandable and good. But, 9-year olds, while very young and all that, aren’t total idiots. They can keep track of when they win or lose. And, they can tally up the win and loss totals pretty easy.
Back to my team, while wins and losses don’t count, going into our game last night, we were 13-2 on the season. And, in the only two games that we “lost,” even though there are no wins and losses per the league, we just “lost” both games by two runs – and each of those games were against other teams who have played very well this season (again, even though wins and losses don’t count).
Forgetting the record, which doesn’t really exist, per the league, what I am most proud over, for my team, is the way they play the game. They try and have good At Bats. They’re very aggressive on the bases. And, in the field, they know to try and prevent against giving away extra bases or allowing for extra outs. Each game, they got better and better at this as the season progressed.
Well, last night’s game was our third to last game on the schedule. We have one tomorrow that will probably be rained out. And, then we have our last game next week. (That said, last night’s game just may be our next to last game for the year.)
How did we do? Keeping it short, we were terrible. We had 23 plate appearances and probably four or five times where our batters struck out on pitches that were nearly over their head. In the field, we let balls get through and had catches dropped that either allowed runs to score or extending the inning further than it should have gone. And, in the first four innings, we only had four batters reach base – never allowing us to get our running game going on the bases. The final “score” was 8-4 in the “loss” – even though wins and losses don’t count, etc.
After the game, I felt very sad for the team. They didn’t play well across the board and that’s the reason why the game went down the tubes. And, truth be told, even though everyone knows about team records (despite the fact that there are no real standings, and wins and losses), I don’t even care that it was a “loss.” What bothers me most is that they played so hard, and well, all year long, and, now, as we’re almost done, they have this turkey of a game as what could be their last taste in their mouth for this season.
Man, I was so chapped over it yesterday – I didn’t even sleep well last night (since it was gnawing at me).
I hope we get another game in this season. Again, tomorrow looks bad. And, who knows, maybe our game next week gets rained out too? I just want them to have one more chance to get out there, play well, and cleanse their palate after last night’s mess. The memory of this season should be about how well they did, all year – and not about how they played very poorly at the end.
In any event, as I fussing over the game last night, I had to think about how stressful it must be for big league managers to deal with this, probably at least 40 times a year, being chapped over a bothersome loss. No wonder why so many of them have a bottle handy to dull their senses. Tough job, being the manager, eh?