The Love Language of Little League

As this year’s two-month Little League marathon drew to a close, I came to realize something important about myself:

When it comes to baseball, I’m just a teeny, tiny bit more …intense than most 9-year-olds.

This year, as the manager of Sean (#2 Son) and Mark’s (#3 Son) Red Sox team, I spent countless hours — or maybe I just don’t want to count the hours I spent — pleading with my players to “Stop makin’ dirt piles in the middle infield” or to “Get a little wider and keep your knees bent at the plate” or to “Look at the batter while you’re playing third or you’ll get hit in the face” or to “Reach all the way back when you’re throwing, and get that elbow up” or “FOR THE 500TH TIME, OUTFIELDERS, DON’T HOLD THE BALL! JUST HIT THE CUTOFF MAN!!!

To be honest, I’m not really sure what they thought of me. I like to think that I’m not full-on R. Lee Ermey. But the realist in me recognizes I’m a bit of a self-important, “Play the Game the Right Way” kind of guy. (Which is funny, since baseball’s very much a later-in-life interest for me. I never played growing up.)

Whatever the evolution of my disturbingly diligent diamond devotion, I found that I was “communicating”/(yelling?) pretty much all of the time. Encouragement, mostly. And instructions, often. But …not always. And I was doing it without any confidence that it was actually working.

They improved over the course of the season, which is a great feeling. But I think their improvement had a lot more to do with repetition and real-game situations than it did with any expertise I brought to the table. Honestly (and somewhat painfully for my self-important-self), I have a sneaking suspicion they improved at least partially because they tuned me out towards the end and just “played the game.” (And I’m betting their parents now understand a bit more clearly the colloquial definition of insanity that comes so instinctively to many of us.)

But when ’twas all said and done, I think the kids had fun. And most importantly, as we walked away from our final game (which we lost in part by stranding the tying run at third base with no outs in the bottom of the last inning because my little Red Sox KEEPSWINGINGATPITCHESOVERTHEIRHEADS!), Sean asked me: “Are you going to coach me next year, Papa? Because I’d like to play again, if you’re coaching.”

Ah, right. That’s why I’m doing this.

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, being amazed by his (currently) lone daughter, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.

  • Katrina Fernandez

    I SOOOOOO get this. I was the parent that boo’d the umps and tried to buy booze at the concession stand during my son’s games. I screamed something incoherent one time and popped a blood vessel in my eye.

    • Joseph Susanka

      …but your kid had fun, didn’t he?

      Don’t even get me started on David (#4 Son’s) Rookie League games. (Actually, you couldn’t get me started on those. Because there are no words.)

  • Maggie Goff

    Oh boy, did I enjoy this. It brings back so many memories of when I was a kid in the 50′s (yes I’m ancient), and my Dad & his friends were starting teams on the Army post on which we were stationed. Our team was quite the family affair. Dad was Manager; Mom was Coach (pregnant with her fifth child); I (oldest) was designated Catcher for practices when the real one wasn’t there; Brother (next oldest) was a Player, Short Stop, Second Base, Whatever; Brother (third in line) was Ball Boy, Bat Boy, Jack of All Trades; Sister (fourth in line) Looking Pretty. What a summer that was!! That’s when it hit home that Adults could yell at each other and still be friends. Joseph, I think you would have like my Dad…As a Master Sergeant, he could BARK OUT those orders. ;)

    • Joseph Susanka

      There were certainly times this past season when I could have used a bit more Master Sergeant, Maggie.