Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 1, 2005


Organized baseball is a great activity for children


          Grandma and I were out late last night. It was almost ten o’clock by the time we got home. We went to see our grandson Josh play baseball.

          Josh is 9 and he was the starting pitcher. His dad, Steve, coaches the team. Josh’s teammates are 8 and 9 years old. At this age these little fellows are a hoot to watch.

          One boy is quite chubby and slow but to my amazement he hit the ball and got on base. His mother, sitting near me, said, “That is the first time he has been on base this season.” She called home to let somebody know that Dillon was on first base.

          His mother continued, “He is so slow that he will never make it to second base.” But he did, chugged over to third when another boy walked, and soon scored a run. His mom was on the phone again telling someone that he had scored his first run ever.

          Grandma recalled the first time Josh’s dad hit a home run when he was 9 or 10. It was a grand slam that won the game. We remembered that on the way home, Steve had been exhilarated, saying “That was the best feeling I have ever had in my whole life!”

          Josh got the side out in the first inning and allowed only one run in the second. In his first trip to the plate he hit a triple, and then stole home on a passed ball. A few minutes later, Josh looked at me as though he was asking, “What did you think about that, Grandpa?” I gave him a “thumbs up” and beamed with pride. I was glad the folks around me knew that was my grandson.

          Josh’s joy, however, was short lived. Suddenly unable to throw strikes, he walked in three or four runs as the other team took the lead. Frustrated, Josh motioned for his dad to send in another pitcher. He was through for the night but stayed in the game. He swapped places with the shortstop who is the main pitcher on the team.

          The new pitcher did well and his team rallied to take an 8 to 5 lead. I think they won, but Grandma and I had to leave. Old folks simply cannot stay out as late as nine-year-olds.

          I am amazed that children can stay up so late and still do well in school. I can remember when parents put their young children to bed by eight, but the culture has changed. Athletic competition has created some new priorities and, I suppose, some new sleep habits. No matter how late his baseball game is, Josh is off to school by 6:45 a.m. the next morning.

          The atmosphere at this community baseball is splendid. I never hear anyone cursing the umpire or screaming at the players. Parents and grandparents seem to cheer eagerly for all the kids, applauding the efforts of all the kids. A chubby lad may miss the ball by a mile, striking out, but the fans applaud him for swinging. At least he was trying.

          Such entertainment is not expensive, at least for grandparents. We pay no admission fee and refreshments are not high-priced. You can buy a pretty good hamburger or hot dog for two dollars. Most of the time parched peanuts are available for 75 cents.

          Baseball is big business in America. The last time I went to see the Atlanta Braves play, I spent a wad of money. They are mighty proud of those refreshments, selling a Coke for four dollars. Take a few family members along and you can spend well over a hundred bucks watching Andruw Jones hit a home run.

          We have our problems in America, especially in the big cities where crime is a constant dilemma. But our small towns are, for the most part, great places to live and raise families.

          Children like Josh have energy to burn and organized baseball provides a good outlet for releasing that energy. My hat is off to the folks who make it happen, and to the parents who love their kids enough to let them play.

          An evening of baseball is good for grandparents too. It keeps us out of trouble and reminds the grandkids that we love them. + + + +