It seems like an eternity ago when my Kennedy Little League All-Star team took the field for our 12-year-old all-star campaign.
The District 8 Tournament hosted leagues from all over the city limits trying to find a team worthy of continuing on to the next level.
All-Stars have always been the final stage of the season, yet the debut stage for future superstars. Battling opponents that you had never seen, as well as ones from different leagues that were friends would usually make up the highlights of the tournament.
Now, that’s no longer the case.
Players are regulated by pitch counts and the mid-summer Little League tournament has taken on a cult-like following. The bleachers can only accommodate family and friends for two or three players, so now the norm is seeing fans all the way up and down both baselines.
It has to be a big deal for the players when you take the field and see over a hundred fans in attendance. These kids are getting their first audition on the big stage, only now the stage has really gotten big. Some of the players are wearing unified Mohawks and every team mom has preordered a dozen t-shirts for the parents to model.
Contrary to what most people think, I feel this is a move for the better. If any of these kids are lucky enough to compete at the collegiate level, this first big-time tournament will serve as a quality preview of stages to come.
The pressure is only as real as one makes it, so the majority of the kids are still out there to have fun. Seeing their buddy steal a base, or striking out one of their friends will go as far as winning and losing for most 12-year-olds.
When these tournaments roll around once a summer, it becomes a breeding ground for a kids love for the game of baseball. When the chalk is on the baselines and the National Anthem is bellowing from the sound system, each and every kid understands that this is not a regular game.
The All-Star Tournament is far from a regular game and the participating players are far from the regular players. Every kid on an all-star roster has been chosen for a reason and the tournament will likely be the beginning stage for a baseball career.
Every kid wants his team to win and they want to see their teammates do well. It is just as important for the kids, and the parents, to understand that every success and every failure will undoubtedly be magnified on the big stage.
Let’s all make sure that we handle things accordingly.