Our youngest son is on a hand-picked USSSA travelling baseball team. This is a group of very talented, amazing little boys, and we love them all. The parents don't totally suck either, so that's a plus. Just kidding Elite family - we love ya'll too.
We started the Spring Season as the only 8AAA pitching machine team in the State. This limited our playing options. We would either have to seek out "open" machine pitch tournaments that would allow a AAA team to play, travel out of state anytime we wanted to play or skip our last year of pitching machine and move up to play with the 9 year old teams in kid pitch or live arm as we call it. Our coaches made the decision to forgo the last year of machine pitch to play with the 9 year old live arm teams. We knew playing up would be tough, but we felt the boys were up to the challenge and it would give us an advantage next year when we'll be a true 9 year old team. Besides, if you don't challenge yourself, you don't improve. Right?
The boys have done better than we could have imagined. Not only are we playing with the 9 year old teams, we're beating them. Consistently. We were jokingly told the other day that we may be the only 8AAA team in history that gets bumped up to 9AAA. So last weekend, we decided to ratchet up the challenge just a little. We entered a tournament where the 9 year olds and 10 year olds were in the same pool. That meant that our team of 8 year olds (some having just turned 8) would be playing 10 year old teams. WOW! Let me tell you, these boys stepped up to the challenge! We should have won the tournament (thankyouverymuch Mr. Umpire), but ended up with third. A few bad calls resulted in us having to go extra innings against a big 10-year old team, and we ended up losing by 1 run.
Sorry about the crappy cell phone picture, but would you just look at the size of that catcher compared to my baby in the batter's box! When our boys saw those big 10 year olds walk by, many eyes got really big and mouths fell open. They were intimidated for sure. Not for long. Once our boys stepped on the field it was GAME ON! Our boys fought and fought with Rocky-like heart and determination. As our coach said, our boys proved that whomever is in the other dugout better be ready to play no matter who they are.
After the game parents of the other team and general onlookers came up to us and our boys and commented on what an amazing little team we have. One nice gentleman even offered to house our team should we ever play in his town. Our boys did the usual shaking of hands, good game routine at the end of the game. However, after we packed up all of our gear and were leaving the park, a few members of that 10 year old team approached my son and a few others and offered their hands again. A few parents even clapped as we passed. What a nice group of folks. Obviously, that day our boys earned something more valuable than a trophy; respect.
So, the lesson: Never give up. No matter how bleak or hopeless things may seem, never give up. Dig deep and fight!