Life Lessons We Can Learn from LLWS
The Little League World Series is over, but the real deal is right around the corner.
Soon America will be watching two of the best teams in the world play for the Commissioner's Trophy. Hearts will break, dreams will be realized and somewhere a Cubs fan will shed a single tear into his couch upholstery.
Before we get swept up in the post-season mania, however, I think we could all use a reminder of the things we learned from watching the future of baseball this August.
You can learn a lot by seeing how these kids handle victory and defeat on the big stage, and at this important juncture in time, we could all use some of that perspective.
The following are 12 life lessons we can learn from the Little League World Series.
Some Days You're the Ball, Some Days You're the Bill
Sometimes you win, sometimes you take a baseball right in the face. That's just life.
What separates the winners from the losers is what you do after taking a shot to the dome. Take this young pitcher from California, for example, who somehow managed to rally after taking a vicious line drive to the head during the 2011 LLWS.
The ball crushed the bill of his hat and knocked him half-senseless, but according to Glenn Davis of SportGrid.com, this kid got right back up and kept pitching. In other words, stop feeling sorry for yourself and get back on the horse.
Rules Are Rules, Even If They're Stupid
Sometimes it's the littlest, dumbest things that can really screw us up.
Just ask Phillip Johnson—the little league coach who was banned from the 2012 LLWS after bringing alcohol into his dormitory room at the Williamsport sports complex in 2011. According to Johnson, one of his player's parents had given him a bottle of booze as a gift, and he didn't drink a drop of it.
Never the less, alcohol is banned in the Williamsport complex when the Little League World Series is in town, and an anonymous letter to Little League International led to its discovery on the premises.
While we're here, how about another lesson: Don't snitch, and if you're going to be a snitch, don't be an anonymous snitch.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Lying can get you places quickly, but you're building a house of cards when you start throwing out falsehoods.
This is a lesson Danny Almonte learned the hard way. You might remember Almonte as the star of the 2001 LLWS—a talented pitcher who threw a perfect game while taking his Bronx team all the way to the championship game.
You might also remember that Almonte turned out to be 14 and thus two to three years older than the kids he was playing against. The youngster's family had provided a fake birth certificate to league officials, and his team's unlikely run to the championship was wiped from the record book.
Big Hits Don't Have to Be Home Runs
Whether we're pitching in front of the board, writing an article or stepping into the batter's box, we're swinging for the fences and going for big air. It's not always the best strategy, however.
Sometimes less is more, as Bradley Smith proved during a game against New Jersey during the 2012 World series. A heavy hitter boasting a .750 batting average and a pair of homers on eight at bats, everyone expected him to wait for the first fastball and go yard.
Instead, Smith bunted one down the first base line and the element of surprise (along with an infield error) allowed the runner on second to make it home.
Remember, guys: Don't just play hard, play smart.
Win or Lose, You Hug It out
True sportsmanship is increasingly rare in this world.
Sportsmanship is usually just an obligatory handshake—less than meaningful and nothing like the moving show of love demonstrated between the Japanese players and the Warner Robins team in 2007.
Dalton Carriker's walkoff home run in the championship game sealed the LLWS title for the Georgia little leaguers and left Japanese players devastated. Instead of spending an eternity celebrating with each other, however, the Georgia players took the field and embraced their distraught opponents.
It was a classy move by both sides, considering the Japanese had all the reason in the world to not want a hug at this juncture. Indeed, there does remain hope for the future.
Eat Your Wheaties
Actually, don't eat Wheaties. They taste like cardboard and regret. You don't want to start your day with a bowl of shards that could double as shrapnel in a pinch.
With that said, you do need to look after your health, lest you end up like this umpire at the 2008 LLWS. He tried to run away from a popped foul ball, and wound up rolling on the ground like an overturned turtle.
Eat wings and nachos this October, but don't forget to squeeze in the occasional run. Or you can just climb the stairs at the stadium, that works, too.
Don't Be 'That' Guy
You can tag a guy out, or you can needlessly truck-asaurus them into oblivion.
There's nothing wrong with physical play, but going out of your way to be a jerk rarely pays dividends. One little leaguer went out of his way to make some kind of point when he demolished a baserunner in 2010.
Granted, there might have been some kind of preexisting feud between the two—or maybe someone's just starving for dad's approval.
Always ALWAYS Spellcheck
As a writer who types thousands of words a day, I cannot stress the importance of SpellCheck enough.
It is your best friend (most of the time), and while I still manage to mess words up, I rarely get something as wrong as the LLWS gaffe ESPN managed in August.
The network displayed Asia-Pacific player Nagiru Hiramatsu's favorite band as "Wandai Wrection"—a strange misspelling of the popular English boy band One Direction.
It's unclear whether or not Hiramatsu submitted the misspelled name (sometimes networks have ballplayers fill out their bios), but a little bit of double-checking on ESPN's part could've saved it a lot of awkward press in this case.
So while you're talking trash over the next few weeks, try to at least get the names right.
Show, Don't Tell
Actions speak louder than words, and sometimes they're the only way to get a point across.
Teams from all around the world compete in the LLWS, and it's great to see kids using their hands to communicate with one another.
A kid from Wisconsin might not be able to tell an opponent from Japan he throws a great fastball, but he can definitely get the point across with some of the more universal hand gestures.
Baseball is a universal language, in its own way, and everyone who makes it to this level of competition can speak it fluently. So if you run into Yasiel Puig without his translator, just give him a thumbs up or a big hug.
Show Your Opponents Mercy (After You Destroy Them)
Joseph Sauceda wasn't trying to utterly destroy his opponents—it just sort of happened.
The pitcher from Mexico threw a perfect game in 2008, decimating an overmatched Italian team with his arm and his bat.
Sauceda retired 12 batters over the course of the shortened game, throwing fastballs that reached 70 mph and faster. He also went three for three with six RBIs and a grand slam. The game ended after the fourth inning due to the league's 10-run mercy rule.
Remember, kids: Sack your opponent's city and put their idols to the torch—then show them mercy.
There's Occasionally Crying in Baseball
I know this goes against all the rules of God and Tom Hanks, but it's true—sometimes there is crying in baseball.
The two don't mix often, but I have to give these kids credit. I know grown men who would still be on the ground bawling right now if they had they the hard tag this young Kentucky player laid down in 2011.
For the rest of us adults, however, there is only one circumstance when you can cry over baseball—when your team loses the World Series on an unlikely walk-off homer.
If that happens to you, just let it out, man. It's okay. I won't blame you.