Spring Valley sounds romantic and for me, it was . . .and is;
It is the home of my son’s Little League career, now decades past,
And was a home to me, his fan and coach, and so I sit here,
Reminiscing about moments I cannot regain but days of glory,
Times when families sang a chorus of melodies that echoed
Dreams and fantasies shared by three generations.
There is no symmetry to those enchanted voices, only love
And always sharing of excitement and potential sometimes realized.
Friendly players challenging each other one year,
Encouraging each other the next as new-found teammates,
They marched in peaceful yet rambunctious columns at the start
Of every season, past the stores and buildings of the town,
Cheered on by sideline viewers who perhaps recalled
When they or when their sons wore those uniforms.
Then the games, each a living entity unto itself, a way of
Channeling our combative nature — a work of living art
Created by a marching melange of pitches
Often accompanying grunts and uniforms dancing in the air,
Slides kicking up the light brown dust as if a nomad, struggling in the desert,
Had desperately bent down and dug for water with bare hands,
players running across the greenery, at times like the last
Of the wild horses waiting to be brought back home,
Sounds of teammates cheering each other on and opponents
Taunting, teasing, daring a batter to hit or a pitcher to throw.
Other images come to me: a jock strap worn outside the uniform,
Left-handed catchers and second basemen, injuries and screams
Of agony, tears at the end of a hard-played game, arguments
With umpires that were lost before begun, rowdy adult father-fans
Abusing their privileges and embarrassing their boys,
Superb diving catches and flubbed cans of corn —
All a poignant reminder that we sometimes are too serious
When we should remember to have fun.
I recall one time when another assistant coach and I went to Shea
For a talk by Jeff Torborg, suggestions for bettering our coaching
And our handling of the boys, remembering that they were young,
Sensitive, impressionable, and still malleable. I listened with my heart
But when Jeff wasn’t talking, I was just a kid myself, gazing at the
Blank scoreboard and empty stands (for the game would not begin
For hours). I stared at the infield so well manicured and recalled
How when a child I had run along the warning track in days at
Yankee Stadium when at game’s end the fans were still allowed
To leave their seats and walk upon the field of history that mattered.
I missed those times as Jeff went on.
For me, the greatest part
Of that whole day had occurred when we were waiting outside the
Entrance door and Yogi Berra walked amidst our group to the entrance door
And he smiled as we grownups like so many kids greeted him with yells
Of “Yogi” (as though he were ignorant of his name). It was our
Doing homage to a man who was baseball royalty, who’d earned
Three MVP Awards, 13 World Series rings (10 as a player, 3 as a coach)
and who’d entered the Hall of Fame in 1972: This was a baseball god —
And then I realized that all those boys in the Little League I spoke of earlier
Were not just my young son and his friends and teammates;
They were me and all those other coaches shouting at Lawrence Peter Berra!
Baseball has such magic that it keeps us young
And passionate and hopeful and enchanted. Rooting for my son
Was rooting for myself way past vicariously. I was on the field with him,
At bat, running bases, talking to my teammates, smelling the newly cut
Pungent verdant grass and gazing at the azure firmament.
Yogi brought it home to me and made me love the game that much more.
For a father there is nothing little about the Little League.