End of an Era

We experienced the end of a short era on a ball field this Saturday afternoon. After seven years of organized youth baseball, from "rookies" run-around mornings to T-ball, coach-pitch league to "real" baseball and four years of playing on the 60-foot diamond with an (almost) full set of Williamsport rules, my son played his last Little League game.

From a standings and playoffs point of view, it was a completely meaningless game; both our team and our opponents had been mathematically eliminated from the cross-town World Series playoffs earlier in the week. Our "graduating" 12-year old players were called upon to pitch, catch and play the entire game. It was Little League at its best, with the score going from 1-0 to 3-1 to 5-2 in our favor and then 6-5 against us as we went into the 5th inning. My son's 4-run 4th inning on the hill made him the pitcher of record in the game. In the top of the 5th, he gave himself a no-decision by knocking in two runs on a long double, giving us a temporary 7-6 lead.

In the bottom of the 5th, the game was tied up again. With the bases loaded, our other 12-year old pitcher picked up the third out to keep the game knotted. It was a graceful performance under pressure; I told him his upcoming Bar Mitzvah will be nothing compared to that situation. We played a scoreless 6th inning, and that's how the game ended, tied 7-7 going into the 7th inning.

The scoreboard looked like a slot machine jackpot winner, lit up 7-7-7, and that pretty much captured my mood. No winner, no loser, just 24 kids and 8 coaches who had 2 hours of fun on a clear Saturday afternoon. There's a wonderful symmetry in having your last game end the way your first one did, seven years earlier -- no real score, no real pressure, and kids who just wanted to get a snack after the game.

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