It was the bottom of the last inning. Runner on second. Two outs. Two strikes on the batter. And the score was knotted at 1-1. Tension filled the stands. The pitcher toed the rubber, looking at his catcher and delivered a belt-high heater. Game over. The hitter knocked a walk-off single into left field. The play at the plate wasn’t really close. The Little League Championship would go to the Rangers. Parents cheered words of encouragement. Kids cried. It was such a beautiful scene.
There are moments in our lives that are forever memorable. I remember baseball, soccer or basketball games that I played in like they were literally yesterday. I still dream about certain games where I made a great save, hit a game winning shot or caught a towering fly ball. But, one game that really stands out for me is a Little League Game when Peter Olson hit two home runs. I was reminded of that game while watching the championship.
You see Peter was not a very good hitter. He wasn’t a very good player, at all. He was tall and awkward. But, he tried like hell. He wasn’t afraid to strike out. He wasn’t afraid to have a ball fly over his head, as long as he made the effort. But on the last day of the season, it all came together for Peter, as he absolutely smoked two rocket shots over the wall. Even though I was only nine or 10-years old, I remember feeling happier for Peter on that day than I had ever felt for any of my own accomplishments. I remember feeling so proud of my friend for working so hard.
I remembered Peter as I watched this present day game because the kid who was standing on base and who scored the winning run was the #9 hitter in the line-up. At first, he tried desperately to bunt in order to make contact. Any kind of contact. It was obvious that he wasn’t expected to get a hit. But he did. He crushed a towering fly ball to left field that, although it was playable, proved too tough for the left fielder. I remembered Peter.
As I looked around, I was shocked at how many people were there simply to support a friend, a neighbor, or the community. After all, there were only 30 or so kids on the field and in the dugouts, but there were hundreds of fans. I didn’t have a kid playing in the game, but K-Man’s best friend’s brother was playing. I wasn’t going to miss it. The feeling in the stands and in the standing-room-only area behind the fence was one of…togetherness. It was a feeling of “one.” We were all there to celebrate a common purpose: The kids in our community. We were there to take a break from the noise of our digital lives to revel in the noises of our real lives.
Obviously, there weren’t as many “shiny object” distractions back when Peter Olson knocked his two home runs. Nobody was checking their email, chatting on their mobile phones, or checking-in at the park. There was just a community and a passion for Little League. In a way, that’s how this game felt – a throwback to that (cliché alert) simpler time. As I looked around, all eyes were on the field. It was an amazing vision to behold. Parents, grandparents, friends and everyone else – all of us – were in the moment.
Although I felt badly for my friend’s son, I knew that he’d get over the loss. He’d live to play another game. And, in losing and recovering, he’d learn an important lesson. The same lesson that Peter Olson learned all those years ago – just keep going. Just keep trying. As for the rest of us, I think we (or at least I) learned an important lesson too: Real noise is so much better than digital noise. Even if we don’t capture them on our phones – memories, like the ones I have of Peter Olson, and the ones that were created during this game – can still last lifetimes.