Dear Little Leaguers,
“I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”
If you didn’t already know, these are the words that make up the Little League Pledge. From the time I started watching sports on TV, the Little League Baseball World Series was all I wanted to think and talk about. I practically ate, drank, slept and breathed all things related to the event. I recorded the games on my family’s VHS player and accumulated a massive library of the games (if you’ve never watched a VHS tape, google it and be thankful for digital technology－I promise you, I’m not that old). I watched the recordings nearly every night as I fell asleep. Growing up, I shared a room with my brothers, and we could memorize almost every player’s name, height and weight. With the series taking place in Williamsport, an easy three-hour drive from my hometown, my Dad drove us up for a day-trip every year. On each trip we watched a few games, traded pins and slid down the famous hills of Lamade Stadium in cardboard boxes. To me, getting an autograph from a player was like meeting a celebrity. And I wanted to be in those shoes.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2005: my team’s thrilling all-star season landed us one of the sixteen spots to play in Williamsport for the annual international classic. It truly was an unforgettable, magical journey with ten of my best neighborhood buddies. Now, I had the honor of reciting The Pledge on opening day of the Little League World Series. As a 12-year-old, I stood boldly in front of thousands of people from across the globe, celebrating America’s pastime on the grandest stage of youth sports. Representing Council Rock Newtown Little League (Pennsylvania) and the US Mid-Atlantic region, my childhood dream had come true and I was on cloud nine.
The first pitch of the 2020 Little League World Series was supposed to be thrown this weekend. For the first time in history, the tournament is canceled, and I can’t express the disappointment and sadness I feel for you. I’ll miss listening to you ring off your favorite professional players during the pregame introductions. I’ll miss seeing you dance with Dugout, the Little League mascot. I’ll miss watching you interact with players from different continents and mesh your diversity tightly together like the seams of a baseball. If there’s anything the world needs right now, it’s you. It needs your smiles. It needs your laughter. It needs your fighting spirit to conquer your dreams. You are the only shreds of purity and integrity that remain in society. I’m calling on you to maintain those virtues and restore kindness in humanity.
In lieu of this year’s tournament, I want to share some tips that will help you hit the curveballs this life will throw at you. I hope you’ll pass these onto the next generation of legendary Little Leaguers:
- Say please and thank you (start with your parents, coaches and volunteers who work in the snack shack at your ballpark; common courtesy and manners go a long way).
- Don’t chew tobacco (the label literally tells you that it can cause cancer; plus your teeth should look like the bases, the foul lines and the ball－pearly white).
- Play multiple sports (you’ll create more friendships, build more athleticism and indirectly become a better baseball player)
- Learn something new every single day (it doesn’t always have to come from school).
- If you ever need help, ask for it (a lot of people care about you and want you to succeed)
- Be a good teammate.
- Always hustle.
If you struggle to keep those commandments, then I ask you to return to the beginning of this letter and take the same oath I did when I was your age. Recite each statement with confidence. “I trust in God.” Whatever your beliefs may be, your Creator put you on this planet and gifted you with special talents for a reason. Use them to do good for others and yourself. I also encourage you to pray often (the baseball gods are powerful!). “I love my country and will respect its laws.” The game of baseball speaks every language spoken around the globe. Everyone is welcome. Stand up as a proud citizen of your nation and member of your local community. You are capable of being a hometown hero. “I will play fair and strive to win.” You can be competitive and practice good sportsmanship at the same time. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. “But win or lose, I will always do my best.” The next opportunity you get to throw a baseball or swing a bat, cherish that moment, clutch onto it and let it live in your heart forever. Once it’s gone, you’ll want it back.
Play baseball because it’s fun. Play baseball because it’s your passion. Play baseball because you love it. Again, I’m sorry you don’t have the chance to play in the World Series this year. Dream big, follow The Pledge and make this Earth better than how you found it. God bless.
With Character, Courage and Loyalty,
Blaise V. Lezynski
This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn article written by Blaise V. Lezynski.