When I was leaning against the fence taking pictures on Monday at Warwick Continental Little League, a player from Continental put his face against the fence so it was right behind me.
“I don’t want to lose,” he said, sounding dejected.
It caught me off guard. I don’t usually talk to players during games – it’s not the most professional thing to do – but this kid was playing for a 9/10-year-old all-star team. What kind of person would I be if I just ignored a little kid in distress?
I looked back at him, his face close to tears, and tried my best to make it a little bit better.
“I know, buddy,” I said, hoping I was expressing as much consolation as I could without jeopardizing professionalism.
It didn’t seem to cheer him up a whole lot, but his team’s play sure did. Continental, facing elimination in the Rhode Island state tournament, got out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in a tie game in the bottom of the sixth inning.
They celebrated like you’d expect 9 and 10-year-old kids to celebrate, jumping around and screaming like miniature pennant winners. In the top of the seventh, they scored three times to take the lead and chanted loud enough to wake the people sleeping in the Crowne Plaza Hotel that sits behind the field.
In the bottom of the inning, they held off a charge from Cumberland, their opponent, to win by a single run. The win was impressive, but the sheer joy on the faces of those kids was more impressive. It made Christmas morning look underwhelming.
The whole thing was great. Adults can hide emotion, kids can’t. I was witnessing unfiltered love for the game of baseball.
Earlier in the game, the pitcher for Continental flew out in one inning and came back to the dugout on the verge of tears. That’s not uncommon for kids in Little League when they make outs – they all think they should be batting 1.000.
There was a silver lining in that situation, though – another kid, sitting on the dugout steps who looked up at him and said “Shake it off kid, we need you on the rubber.”
I’ll remind you that this kid was either 9 or 10, and was roughly four feet tall. But with the way he was talking, he might as well have had pine tar all over his hat and a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth. I was really hoping that he was going to call his manager “Skip.” It was hysterical.
There were examples of that all throughout the night. Whenever there was a runner on first base, one of the kids on the infield would always yell “infield, turn two,” even though 10-year-olds complete a double play about as often as they conduct brain surgery. I saw one kid on Cumberland do the sign of the cross, put some dirt on his batting gloves and clap before he stepped in to the box.
He was the smallest player on either team.
It might still be a few years before they’re executing a hit and run, throwing knuckeballs or suicide squeezing with the game on the line, but believe me – if they could do all those things now, they would.
These kids love baseball. It was a nice reminder that it’s still the best game in the world, no matter how old you are.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.