Every year around this time, I second-guess myself, teetering on the edge of indecision. Asking myself “will I” or “won’t I,” as in, will I once again dive into the deep end and voluntarily put on the umpire mask again for the upcoming Little League® season?
Like many unsuspecting parents, I got involved in volunteering for Little League because my son was playing, and, like most, his team needed some help.
Though I’d never done it before, I volunteered as an assistant coach. The next year I became the head coach. Then I joined the league’s Board of Directors, and soon became the league Vice President; and when my son stopped playing, I ventured into the toughest shark tank of all: I became a Little League umpire.
Over the years, I’ve experienced more than most parents could possibly imagine. I’ve had parents tell me that I don’t do my job very well, but when I ask them if they’d like to take my place, I generally get the stare of a zombie.
I’ve had parents ask me how much my position pays, which is usually followed by an expression of shock when I tell them that I don’t get paid a cent — though there is the occasional recompense of a free hot dog or a bottle of water.
And, for all the complainers, there will also be some parents who understand that a Little League volunteer does what he or she does out of a sense of community service, a commitment to paying it forward for the children. A handful of parents may even take the time to thank a volunteer, or maybe just call out to the umpire, “Good game, Blue!” as he or she leaves the field.
For me, though, and most of Little League volunteers I know, all we really need is to see a child smile, see that expression on a young face when that first hit comes, or simply hear them laughing and joking in the dugout.
So, even though my children are now in their twenties, I’ll be back on the Little League field again this year—and, when I start asking myself next year, I’ll be back, and probably the year after that. Because deep down, I’m willing to be one of those volunteers who believe that, “Little League is a heritage to be carried forward proudly,” as it says at the beginning of the official rulebook. But most important of all, I love helping kids learn how to love the game, and that’s the way I solve my volunteer dilemma every year.
– Submitted by G. Demarest, Little League volunteer, Sandia Park, N.M.