This is a guest post from a grade school buddy of mine Ron Lingron. Ron was all passion and spitfire from age 5-.. still is at 40. Especially on the field. Still the only kid who knew I was going to pull a liner to Right Center every time I got up because that was my only swing… Here’s a copy of his post from Facebook..
Thanks Ron.. I’ve got a feeling that this is universal for our age of ex players..
“I grew up on the river. There it is. Forestville, CA. 30+ years before I got married and moved far far away to……Windsor. I played Little League there from the ages of 7 years until I was 15. I went to Forestville again last night, and the El Molino Little League fields where I cut my teeth playing the game. I drove out there and the first thing I noticed was there was no game and plenty of parking on the bottom portion of the park. This was unusual and kind of shook me up a little because I remember when there used to be five days worth of games during the week and more on Saturdays. Also, there were people out there who didn’t live there when I did. Fair enough, as this was 25 years ago. I get it. Things change. What I didn’t expect was I also saw people who were all too comfortable playing the PC game at the Little League field. NO COACHING ZONES. Pitch counts. Warnings? What happened to the Forestville Little League I knew? You know, the one with a full 6 teams per league that actually played baseball on weeknights with passionate parents, who were passionate enough to bring their kids from freaking TIMBER COVE to play on a Tuesday night. The Little League that actually played baseball opening day instead of doing a fundraiser? The one with teams like the Reds, A’s, Indians, Dodgers and Tigers? I saw the River Cats play the Storm yesterday and had to shake my head as all of this started to add up. I actually told my wife I’d rather my 4 year old never play Little League and let’s just get him a racecar and we’ll race instead. This coming from a lifelong baseball fan who also was pretty damn good at the game to the point of having his picture on the wall at El Molino High School. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
I gotta admit, playing Little League to me was a rite of passage. One year, I was in orange, the next, when I turned 13, I was in blue. The teammates changed and you realized nothing was forever. You grew as a kid and made some new arch enemies on the team that was your rival, even if you slept over at their house later that evening. Every year, you’d have practices leading up to the greatest day of the season, OPENING DAY. When it got close to opening day, your coach would bring THE BOX to practice, and everyone would see THE BOX throughout practice. You were distracted by THE BOX and it may have caused you to lose concentration on the fielding drill because your eyes were transfixed on THE BOX. For those transgressions, you might have had to do pushups or running drills. I know “everyone on the line” were words you’d never be able to enjoy when said consecutively. Why was THE BOX so important? It held the Holy Grail of baseball, your crisp new uniform. You’d work out during class in school (sorry teachers, the digestive system of a salamander just wasn’t as important) the returning players would probably get their old numbers from the year before, and the numbers rarely went over 16, so you’d have it narrowed down to a few precious numbers that you’d like to get, kind of like a pseudo NFL draft but with baseball jerseys. Upon the end of practice, THE BOX would make it’s appearance and the 12 year old version of trading at the Stock Market would commence. There were elbows thrown, barters made, might even have been a bribe or two to other players to get that precious number 7, which was vacated by the kid who wore it last year who moved out of town. Once in your hands, you were now ready to attack the world. Upon the arrival of opening day, you’d also break out the new cleats, the new hat (which was also the only official place to keep track of your team’s record throughout the year), check it in the mirror a few times before you left for the opening ceremonies and then prayed you’d make it through the day to your game with it still clean, which inevitably it never was. The entire schedule was known to everyone and you’d stop to watch games to see the ace pitchers face each other, and when it got out of hand, head over as a group to get a soda from the snackbar or head to the playground for a game of hot box. This was Utopia.
Nowadays, that opening day adrenalin kick has transformed into a money grab with no games being played. The Opening Day Carnival is now a yearly occurence. The first game of the season is played on a weekday? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?? Does Major League Baseball stop to say “It’s Opening Day! There will be no games played!” Hell no. They play ball. This particular trip to Forestville saddened me to see no games being played on the bottom field and the Storm playing the River Cats on the top field, with signs that said NO COACHING ZONE on the fences. What happened to the guy yelling over the fence in Left Field? He’s been replaced with that sign. The parent giving signs from the stands? Nope, now he’s holding a pitch counter. What happened to the US vs. THEM? Last night a coach from the other team was giving the other coach advice on how to help a kid mid-at bat. WHAT HAPPENED TO LITTLE LEAGUE? I used to have a baseball card of Rickey Henderson in my back pocket. Nowadays, it’s an addition to the “uniform” and most likely would be considered a health hazard. I don’t get it. Our coach recommended beer and marshmallows before, during and after games. An obvious joke, but in yesterday vs. today’s Little League dichotomy (thank you El Mo High), chances are a kid would tell their parents and instead of laughing, a parent would tell the League Board of Directors and that coach would be removed for telling a joke. What would today’s Little League say about our batting tee which was a car rim with a pipe welded to it with a radiator hose holding the ball? Is this safe? Will someone sue us? Forget the fact we all were near passing out and throwing up at a practice as we experienced our first taste of Copenhagen at 12 years old. I’d like to think that’s why I DON’T chew now. Hell, it’s a wonder I graduated with the negative influence Little League had on me. Looking back, it was the greatest time of childhood, those summers in Forestville followed by swimming in the Glover’s pool afterwards/going to Lemos’s house after a game and seeing all the guys at J’s Amusements afterwards.
Last night, I watched for four innings and couldn’t do it anymore. It was baseball, yes. But a controlled, vacuum sealed, skeleton of baseball. I saw one “coach” who I’d recommend continue. The rest were there in uniform only. It’s basically a two hour daycare, except with more restrictions. What about little brother in and around the stands running around throwing apples and climbing on trees? Nope. This tree was braced to prevent climbing, presumably to save the tree or prevent the tree from running away.
I just don’t understand where my El Molino Little League went. Maybe the ones who are still there didn’t see it coming and rolled with the punches so to speak. Maybe they just don’t know any different. Even scarier, but maybe they don’t care.
To the ones who were there and then left and came back, it’s downright depressing.”