Friday, August 26, 2011

Joy in Mudville

 Strike Three!!!

In Ernest Lawrence Thayer's memorable poem Casey at the Bat, there is no joy in Mudville because mighty Casey has struck out.  This past summer, I was able to find some joy in my Mudville.  With the loss of the Keystone All-Stars last night at the Little League Series, I was able to put a season behind me.  More importantly, I have come away on a positive note even in defeat.

When Carl Stotz tripped over his lilac bush in 1938 in Williamsport, what he created out of necessity has become the largest organized youth organization in the world with 2.5 members. Carl's vision of providing a safe place for young boys to play baseball is the lasting one.  He wasn't a big fan of the corporate version.

The Shamokin-Coal Township Little League had been laughing stock for District 24 for nearly 30 years.  Small miracles were making a game last to the 5th inning.  This is not a knock against the kids that played, but an indictment over adults in the area having two leagues over a money issue. I knew the only way to South Williamsport was going to be by hopping in the family car and driving up Route 15.

I got to watch my son grow up through Little League baseball and facing it's trials and tribulations.  He was fortunate enough to be on 3 league champions when his team was only considered a favorite once.  He settled into the catcher's position for his league team and all-star team knowing his dad once played the position.  His all-star team ended up with two victories.  It was the first time since 1980 that his team won 2 games in districts.

As pictured above, his Little League career came to end on July 4th.  He happened to be the last out.  We were able to catch Keystone in the Section 3 tournament as fans.  Keystone has been playing a long time since July 4th.

It was nice to watch a local team make it to the Little League World Series.  Back in 1997, I watched a coworker coach his Railway Park league to the South Williamsport's paradise.  Whether you struggle to win a district game or have the talent to go all the way, most of the characteristics of the teams are the same.  Fathers trying to coach and be examples for the sons.  Boys and some girls playing a simple game of baseball with the neighborhood friends. Boys getting a chance for the first time to represent their community.  Players taking their swings and chances at fielding a ball. Take away all the fanfare, this is most basic part of the game.

Keystone will be remembered in their community forever.  Lost over time will be who they played and how many games they won.  What will be remembered is the efforts by the kids, coaches and parents coming together and uniting a community and state. Although my son only won two games in the local district tournament and he was the last out to end the dream, there was still joy in Mudville.

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