Life Lesson From Little League

The other day, out of the blue, I got a text from the mother of a kid I used to coach in Little League. And even though it’s only March, her message made my year.

By kncitom on March 7, 2018

By Tom Mailey

The other day, out of the blue, I got a text from the mother of a kid I used to coach in Little League. And even though it’s only March, her message made my year.

I coached my son’s teams for several years and for every year but one, her son Emani was one of my players. He was a very quiet kid, but very respectful, a good listener, and a heck of an athlete: fast, smart, good bat, good hands. More than anything, he just loved the game.

Emani and his sisters were being raised by Gloria, a single mom with a full-time job who still managed to make every game that I can ever remember us playing. He also had two wonderful grandparents–her mom and dad–who also never failed to be at a game and often were the ones who dropped him off and picked him up from practice. Great people…as good a player as Emani was, they never acted like some Little League parents–you know the ones: their kid is going pro and you better not screw that up. No, Gloria and her parents would cheer just as loudly for the other 11 players as they did for Emani.

Because he was so quiet and so serious, some folks didn’t quite know how to take him. I remember once being asked if Emani was tough to coach.┬áNo, I said, he was one of the easiest kids to coach! He wasn’t ra-ra; if he hit a home run he *might* crack a smile but you’d better look quick or you’d miss it. He rarely joked around and always just sort of led unwittingly by example: first to practice, last to leave, always hustling, always taking it seriously. Given some of the squirrels you get on any given Little League team, what coach wouldn’t want a kid like that?!

I always figured the reason for his demeanor was, for a kid, Emani had a lot on his shoulders. As I mentioned, his mom was single and worked full-time, and with two little sisters I think he had to the be the man of the house from an early age. He was a serious kid because he had a lot of responsibility. I think baseball was an escape, and not one he took lightly.

As good a kid as I knew Emani was, once my time coaching him was over and he and his family drifted out of my life, I sometimes wondered about them, and him. And worried, too, a little. When a lot is asked of a kid at an early age, they can rebel when they get older. Go a little sideways. I always hoped that hadn’t happened to him. I hoped he’d kept playing baseball.

That’s why I was so happy to hear from his mom, who forwarded me this poster for Del Oro high school baseball 2018.

That’s Emani, in the catcher’s gear. Pretty badass, huh?

But wait, it gets better. A senior, Gloria said Emani has already been accepted to FIVE colleges. A few are even interested in him for baseball. But for her, that part wasn’t important. What was? That “for now he’s just having fun and enjoying his senior year.”

And then she added this:

He makes me proud every day, but I couldn’t have raised him to be a good man on my own. I had to surround him with great male role models like you, and with wonderful kids who never minded sharing their awesome fathers with kids who didn’t have one, like Emani. Thank you again for all you did, and all that you do.”

After I, um, dried my eyes (it was dusty, OK?) I reminded her of the incredible job she and her parents did, raising up a boy who knew he was loved and who knew the most important people in his life believed in him.

I don’t think I had all that much influence on the person he’s grown to be, but if I was some small part of an overall mosaic of dads who collectively helped this young man to realize his potential as an athlete and more importantly as a student and a son..?

Sure, I’ll take that.

I think I’ll go catch one of his games in Loomis this season. I’ll look forward to sitting in the stands with his family and cheering him on.

But even if it’s cloudy, I’m probably going to leave my sunglasses on. It gets dusty out there.

 

 

 

 

 

Around the site