In the years to come when you look back on the COVID-19 pandemic, what will you remember most? While it may seem trivial to most, for a family that spends most of our evenings and weekends watching, attending or participating in sporting events, I will remember how things I took for granted since I was a youngster — March Madness, trips to Cincinnati to watch the Redlegs, and September football in the Horseshoe — can, in fact, be brought to a screeching halt.
In the scope of things, missing out on sporting events pales in comparison to losing a loved one to COVID-19. Fortunately, my family and I have remained relatively healthy during the pandemic, which has allowed us to make the most of a year for the ages.
Thanks to the dedication of the Buckeye Valley Summer Baseball League, the Ostrander Summer Ball Association, and the Bellepoint Youth Athletic Association, when I look back at 2020, I’m certain there will always be one thing that puts a smile on my face — the memories made helping coach my son’s coach pitch teams.
Even though he had to wait a few extra months this year to take part in America’s pastime, something he has done since he was 4, the memories and friends he made this summer and early fall certainly had a positive impact on his life, even if he is too young to realize it yet.
While it was a blessing to see him have fun and excel at something he loves when it appeared the pandemic would wipe out all youth sports this year, as a parent, I’m thankful that at such a young age he was able to experience some of the life lessons sports help teach our youth.
For instance, this was the first season where the score was kept, which meant he got his first taste of friendly competition. While no parent likes to see their kid upset after a loss — I could see he was visibly upset as he’s a competitive kid — it’s good for him to experience that feeling as I’m a firm believer that failure, or in this case defeat, breeds success.
While his summer and fall teams were fortunate to finish a combined 18-4-1, I was proud of the way my son and his team responded after each loss. In fact, I noticed as the competition got tougher, I found my son wanting to go to the closest ball diamond almost every other night to practice hitting and fielding grounders.
Another life lesson I hope he took away from his time on the field this year is that girls can compete right alongside boys. Some 30-plus years ago when I was playing coach pitch baseball, boys were conditioned to think girls couldn’t compete with them. Society, however, woke up and realized when given the chance, girls can compete and even outperform boys in athletic competitions.
Case in point, my son’s teams this year were successful not because of the boys, but because of a talented group of girls who outhit and outran a majority of the boys throughout the season. The great thing about it was it didn’t matter to any of the boys as they cheered, celebrated, and laughed with all the girls on the team.
Looking back at this dynamic in particular, I can’t help but to think of a line from one of the great baseball movies of all-time, “The Sandlot,” in which Hamilton “Ham” Porter (aka “The Great Hambino”) insults a player on the other team by saying, “You play ball like a girl!”
Fast forward 27 years since the movie was released and it’s safe to say that line would never have been uttered by anyone facing my son’s teams this year as the girls brought the power and speed game after game.
As for myself, I had the privilege of helping coach both my son’s Ostrander and Bellepoint teams this summer and fall. Watching him field grounders and make great catches at first base, and drive in runs with big hits at the plate, is a feeling this veteran journalist can’t even describe in words.
Earlier this month, everything came to fruition when my son’s fall ball team won the tournament title. Seeing the big smile on his face when he received his first-place trophy is a memory I will never forget for as long as I live.
After having a few weeks to look back on the summer and fall baseball leagues, it’s not lost on me the fact my family is lucky to call Delaware County home. When some leagues decided it would be too challenging to try to make a summer season work during the pandemic, the Buckeye Valley Summer Baseball League took the necessary precautions and got the season in, as did the Bellepoint Youth Athletic Association when it came to the fall league.
Also, I can’t say enough about the great coaches here in the county who took time to help my son and all the other kids on his team learn how to play the great game of baseball. As most parents know, getting your kid to listen to your advice is easier said than done, but my son was eager to listen and learn from his other coaches.
Joshua Keeran is editor of The Delaware Gazette. Reach him by email at email@example.com or by phone at 740-413-0900.