A low beating sun, young kids running around shagging foul balls, dedicated parents sitting in uncomfortable grand stands rooting on their son and his teammates he met a week prior. It must be time for summer baseball, and its subsequent days of double headers and tournaments. This past week was no exception as we put on a very successful four-day tournament of ten teams from all over the greater bay area, culminating in a fantastically well-played championship game on Sunday.
Many of the teams consisted of players still in high school, and in many cases having never met the players they were expected to compete with. I was taken aback by the ability of these players to hardly know each other, yet be able to root on and build up their fellow teammates. In many cases it became clear that the players saw each other as much more than just individual players, ignoring the name on the back of the jersey and paying sole attention to the name on the front. In one specific instance I was standing behind the backstop with a couple of players from the Golden Era Elite, when one of their players hit a double to clear the loaded bases. One of the players behind the backstop yelled, “Atta baby Antwan, nice hit!”
His buddy leaned over and told him, “Dude, his name is Andre.”
“Oh, well I did just meet him yesterday.”
For the most part these thrown together teams impressed me with their ability to coach, cheer, and console each other as if they had been together for a long time. I couldn’t help but notice that the younger the team the greater the sportsmanship. I understand that as we are trained to win, and be competitive, and that this passion only grows as we get older and better at competing. However, I was taught at a very young age that there is a way to win as well as a way to loose. Win with grace and respect, remain composed and dignified as you lose. At times these attributes seemed to be absent from the older players on the field this past week, making me proud of the younger high school influenced teams.
I was extremely impressed with the Walnut Creek Crawdads. They had some tough luck in the four games of theirs I watched culminating in three heartbreaking losses and one great win. While things were not going their way, their camaraderie never waned. While the coach was obviously frustrated he continued to coach his players in an upbeat manner, and positively acknowledge the accomplishments of the opposing team. This attitude obviously wore off on his players and seemed to rub off on the players and coaches of the teams they were playing against.
I play on a baseball team that plays for about eight months every Sunday all around the greater bay area. We then play in a tournament in one weekend in September based on how we do through out the year. The weekend crowns a winner that is deemed the champ of Northern California for a whole year, but that is not really the victory that most teams are striving for. We have an award called the “Fellowship Award”, going to the team that exudes the most amount of sportsmanship, between each other and toward their opponents. My team has won the award two of the last three years, and while we may not win all our games; we have a ton of fun playing and competing and fellowshipping with fellow lovers of baseball. Teams like the Crawdads, Elite, Warriors, Zephyrs, and Redbirds win my “Fellowship Award” for the Johnnie Baker Fathers Day invitational. Although they all were not winners of the championship on paper, they played like champions in the world of sportsmanship.