When Baseball Is Really Just a Kids Game
Little League Rays Meet Charlotte Stone Crabs
In 2013, I fell in love with baseball all over again. But it was not that I ever didn’t love baseball, but there was a time in my life when all that mattered were the games on the Major League level. But six years ago, an old mentor of mine, Joe Decaro, founder of Metsmerizedonline.com gave me some advice and he was absolutely correct. Joe wanted me to cover the minor leagues for his second site MetsMinors.net and at first I was very reluctant because all I knew were the big leagues, but after my first real experience covering a minor league game, I was hooked and since it has been the most fun I have had at a game.
Now, I have the best of both worlds; not only do I get to follow the minor league games and all the amazing talented players that make up the MLB farm systems, but I also get to enjoy it with my two sons and my little league teams. Nothing better than taking a group of young kids to a game to watch how the big boys do it, but even better when the game comes to life for the youngsters, as they connect with the athletes on the field.
I have coached little league since my 13-year old son was nine years old, while at the same time doing double duty with my 8-year old son, since he started in T-ball. It’s always a fathers joy to watch his boys playing a sport we love, so I have been blessed in that department.
But the other joy I have is when I can connect my teams with the professional players and on Sunday, April 14th, I took some of my Little League Rays baseball players to visit the Charlotte Stone Crabs, who ironically are also the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Part of the trip included having the boys meet Simon Rosenblum-Larson, a promising and talented pitcher in the Rays organization, who also is part of MoreThanBaseball.org. I met Simon while browsing Twitter looking for ways to help Minor League ball players with their basic needs during the season and also if they are released from the game. It was ironic that both Simon and Jeremy Wolf, who founded the organization a year ago, were doing the same thing that I wanted to do, so partnering with them was a win-win for all. That story will be in another post this summer.
We chose a Sunday, April 14th at 10:30 am game to avoid the Florida heat, but the weather had other plans as it was already 75 degrees at our arrival at 9:00 am and only soared from that point on. Can’t complain about the hot sunny days unless you are sitting directly in the heat and melting. But I knew this was for a great event.
We arrived early and we were all able to get on the field and play catch as the Stone Crabs allow field time an hour before each game on Sunday’s. Who doesn’t want to play catch in a big league outfield. I think I caught myself acting like Willie Mays going back to catch an over the shoulder fly ball, or just staring at home plate from dead center field wondering if I could hit a ball that far. I am not sure what the boys were thinking as I watched them gaze around the outfield in awe, but what I did tell them was that if they really love this game and put in the work in practice, maybe one day they too could be playing professionally. Like I always say, you believe in any kid and they may just surprise you.
After the memories on the field, it was time to meet Rosenblum-Larson and as we were settling into our front row seats (next time I will take the top row seats if it means shade), the pitching prospect from Madison, Wisconsin, came over, shook my hand and met the boys. It was cool to watch each boy interact with Simon as he signed autographs and took photos.
When the game actually began, it didn’t take long before the boredom sank in and the boys wanted to be off and running around the stadium. They are ages 8-11 years old, so it was clear that soon enough they would get bored. I normally do not like to move from my seat when I am watching a game, but the heat was just too much to bear and I welcomed the adventure. I also dragged my fellow coach and buddy John Rivera to help watch the boys.
First, it was running round playing tag on the right field foul area berm, then it was the bounce house, walking around near the Stone Crabs bullpen asking for baseballs, to finding ourselves in the center field area, to chasing a foul ball down the left field foul area. One cool thing, my buddy, Andrew Seymour, who is the GM for the Palm Beach Cardinals, who also happened to be playing against the Stone Crabs in the game, text me that on the Stone Crabs radio, they announced that some of the kids with the powdered blue jerseys were chasing after the foul ball. Hey, I made my kids famous for a day.
Now it was time to head back to our seats down the right field line, as some of the boys were going to participate in an on the field game. This I think is one of the highlights of the trip, just watching the boys crack us up as they competed on the field. First, it was brother against brother in a toss the chicken into the hole on the floor game, then it was spin around in a circle while your head is leaning down on a bat, which is touching the ground, then start running straight to the finish line. In the video you could hear me cracking up as the boys struggled a bit with the game. But in the end it made for a great all around time at a baseball game.
I live for these moments and I have had plenty with my two sons over the years. But I do not intend to stop because uniting the professional ranks with the little league ball players, just creates a bigger love for the game and reminds the big boys, where they started. More adventures to come, follow along to enjoy.