Things Only People Who Played Little League Will Remember
Put on your stirrups, throw on your tiny jersey and walk on down memory lane, when the fields were small, the umpires were just as blind and the parents were loud.
It's time to talk Little League.
For most, our formative years playing baseball were about fun and postgame snacks, leaving the true passion for the parents peppering the stands.
Here is a brief breakdown of the things that rush to our minds the second we conjure our own Little League-playing days.
Of course, there will be overlap with your own experiences, but we would love to hear what you remember: the good, the bad and the hilarious.
Note: Some examples are specific to late-1980s and 1990s kids, so I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive.
Life was so much easier when you were a kid (Read: better). A job well done was met with a pat on the back and maybe, just maybe, a trip to get pizza with the team.
Whether to kick off the season or to celebrate a win, the best part of Little League jubilation was knowing pizza with the team was in your future.
The pizza parlour, as we all know, was a magical place, filled with pitchers of root beer, piles of pepperoni slices, pinball machines and marathon sessions of Super Off-Road.
For one day, the quarters flowed like water from your parents' hands, as they just wanted you to give them a brief respite.
I've been trying to incorporate this into my own life, suggesting to my wife that household chores and completed errands should be met with pizza parties.
So far I have been unsuccessful. Please let me know how you all do with your spouses.
- The Usual: fruit snacks, Fruit Roll-Ups, Capri Suns and other delights.
- The Awesome Result of Laziness: The parents in question forgot they were on snack duty, so they had to bulk buy hot dogs at the snack stand during the game. Hooray for adult-onset memory loss.
- The Bountiful: This was the Mardi Gras spread, complete with all the best, including but not limited to: Gushers, Squeez-Its and candy.
- The Lame: This was as lackluster as finding out there would be just orange slices and bottled water to as awful as finding out that no snacks would be provided. The latter is an unforgivable offense that pretty much ruined childhood. You have been warned, parents.
This is the big one, folks. The veritable Super Bowl of Little League memories.
We are talking about postgame snacks, goodies and delicious baseball eats.
The first question offered by any kid, well ahead of "What's the lineup, coach?" was "Whose parents are on snack duty, and what did they bring?"
What came next fit into one of various buckets.
Now, this is a good time to remind you that amid these snacks, if you were lucky, there was an instance or two of the crème de la crème of childhood beverages: Hi-C Ecto Coolers.
Get back on it, Hi-C.
Get a Foul Ball, Win a Candy
Perhaps it was just my league, but if you were in the stands and ran down a foul ball that left the field, you could get something from the snack stand for returning it.
It makes sense, because Little League games don't feature the buckets of balls MLB ones do, so you need those to come back.
However, that led to the obvious sprint to get to the ball, as if the baseball was the one ring and you and your friends were ringwraiths tracking it down.
More accurately, it was the same as some adults trying to get a free ball at a Little League game, as seen here.
Excited About the Little League World Series
Now, don't get me wrong, because there is still a certain part of me that enjoys watching kids battle for Little League supremacy in the summer.
When you see how national attention and immense pressure can affect these young athletes, it sort of loses its luster, though.
However, being a kid in Little League meant watching the World Series with the fervor we now do with March Madness or the Super Bowl.
Perhaps it was that thought that crept through the transom of your mind that all you needed was to make the All-Star team, and you would punch your ticket to Williamsport shortly there after.
Watching Parents Freak out
- Little League success
- everything else
According to my childhood experience, the best way to have parents lose their minds is to break an expensive vase while horsing around in the house or to have their kids enrolled in Little League.
Thankfully, my own parents were even-keeled about the entire Little League experience.
However, there were other kids who had to watch their parents scream at umpires, shout at other parents and, if there was time, yell at their own kids.
To these grown adults, the list of priorities went something like this:
Remember, baseball is a game. You win some and lose some, but you create lasting memories throughout. This, of course, is directed to all you adults out there.
Emulating MLB Stars
I like to think I did a rather nice "Ken Griffey Jr. from the right side," minus the results. Heck, I even attempted to perfect a right-handed Lenny Dykstra in my younger years.
This is just what you did when hitting soft toss dissolved into utter monotony.
Instead of seriously taking hacks from a bucket of balls, you began doling out your best batting stance impressions, something the great Batting Stance Guy, Gar Ryness, has thankfully stuck with.
Baseball Cards, Pogs and the Like
You can only play baseball for so long. Practices as well as games would come to an end, leaving kids with the energy leftover from playing a meager six innings.
In the early 1990s, that meant it was time to deal in pogs, a lost art that was as intoxicating as an open seat at a poker table is now.
While visions of slammers and rare pogs float through the mind of some, the rest of you probably remember flashing off that rare Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck rookie card to all of your friends.
I still remember my buddy had the entire 1989 Upper Deck set. He was like a god among very little men.
Hitting a Home Run Like a G
Those of us fortunate enough to play high school baseball and beyond took home run success and the like for granted.
However, there was nothing like getting ahold of one in Little League, placing that glorious pearl over that wall 220 feet from home.
For a brief moment you were a big league star, trotting around the bases like Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.
Trips to the Batting Cage
Video features NSFW language.
There was nothing like enjoying a field trip in school, savoring a brief respite from a normal day in class. For Little League teams, that sentiment is closely tied to meeting at the batting cages.
The team would take up a couple of cages tossing 60 miles an hour, each kid hopping in to show off the Lenny Dykstra you had been practicing all week.
It also gave you the perfect opportunity to show off the fact that you could totally be a switch-hitter if you really wanted.
Just remember to wear a helmet, no matter how awesome it looks.
"What's up, fellas? Whose mom is on snack duty tonight?"
Some of the best aspects of baseball continues to be the camaraderie in the dugout, chatting up one another with tedium that seemed to be so darn important at the time.
Of course, this was the moment to mess with some of the more sensitive kids. Perhaps placing gum on an unsuspecting teammate's hat for the giggles.
Big League Chew
Big League Chew continues to be the best chewing gum ever created. Don't bother to check that, because it's just an undeniable fact.
Be careful, because the moment your teammates hear you're packing sour apple is the second that you are left with an empty pouch.
That One Kid
If you aren't clear who "that one kid" is on the team, chances are...well, you know.
This is the poor bloke whose parents demanded he get out there and make some friends, forced to learn the game on the fly with other kids who have been immersed in tossing a baseball since birth.
Obviously, this is also the same kid who was mandated to play at the end of the game for one at-bat per Little League rules, because rules can sometimes be ruthless.
He's the kid praying the ball is not hit his way, much in the same way you hope the ball never finds him.
No matter how confident you were in your own game, you still walk with trepidation when facing that young kid who threw gas and had the control of Rick Vaughn.
OK, you were shaking in your oversized jersey.
We all know how John Kruk felt as he stepped into the batter's box not wanting any part of the actual at-bat.
The moment you showed up for the first practice and spotted the head coach wearing a short-sleeved shirt tucked into his tight shorts, you knew you were in trouble.
The more accessories he had, the more you were going to be treated like one part of an MLB farm system. Hopefully you didn't run into the coach with a stopwatch, clipboard and whistle, because that's the same guy who would wear an actual uniform to the games.
And nobody wants that.
Good luck having any fun as you wasted your after-school hours running drill after drill, taking hot grounders next to a cage.
The Beauty and Shame of the Mercy Rule
We all learned a valuable lesson in life while playing Little League: Sometimes it's best to cut your losses and go home for some marathon sessions of video games.
At least, that's all I gleaned from the humiliation that was the mercy rule.
As with any form of domination, it's always best to be on the winning side, because then you don't have to hear your parents' attempts of talking you down on the way home.
Look, we already have the Super NES fired up in our minds, just drop the 15-5 shellacking and call it a day.
6 Innings Is Far Too Short
The worst part about being a kid is that there seems to be a time limit on everything. Let's go ahead and ignore the fact that it gets worse in adulthood and time seems to be leaving quicker than Miami Heat fans near the end of a game.
Bedtimes, sleepovers, recess, trips to the batting cages: They all seemed far too quick.
In that same way, Little League games seemed to be over well before we wanted them to be, usually leaving you short of four at-bats and that one chance to make good on your pregame home run promise.
As long as we are talking peewee sport frustrations, we might as well remind that having to keep a foot on the bag while the pitch is delivered remains one of the most annoying things in all of sport.
New Cleats + New Glove = Undying Happiness
Really, getting any kind of new gear garnered Christmas morning-type joy. Wrist bands, eye black and the team uniform, no matter how used it may have been, was always a treat.
The ultimate in Little League accessories has to be the items that helped you steal bases and pull off amazing web gems.
The glove: I still remember my first glove, a tiny Rawlings infielder glove than made me equal parts Iron Man and Brooks Robinson.
Like waiting for the Tooth Fairy, you would place it under your mattress with a ball inside, hoping that the next day would finally be the one that you had a permanently perfect pocket.
The shoes: There is nothing like getting a new pair of cleats, because the moment you stick those bad boys on your feet, you feel like you can outrun The Beast and stop on a dime.
If you were lucky, your parents gave you the key to feeling like The Flash, and it came in the form of synthetic leather.
Taking Pictures and Cashing Checks
We didn't have cookies to sell or candy to pander, but we had the promise that we would run a fixed amount of laps, and we would do it for money: My Little League chose to feature the joy that was the jog-a-thon.
Regardless of how your league garnered donations, you were mandated at the start of the season to hop on the phone and start cold-calling your relatives for money.
Granted, there was never the pressure of keeping Grandpa on the phone for fear of being disconnected or being told to be placed on a do-not-call list, but the chore still ate into Tiny Toons and Animaniacs time.
Having raised enough money, it was time to head off to the preseason kickoff, which, for our league, featured a pancake breakfast (always the best kind of meal) and team pictures.
That of course brought up the most important question of the season: Are we smiling in this thing or mad-dogging the camera?
Champions, as it turns out, never smile.
Video contains NFSW language.
As it were, there is crying in baseball.
Take kids away from the normal complacency of childhood and drop them in the middle of a game and you get the general waterworks that is my adult self watching Steel Magnolias for the 50th time.
Kids would find reasons to cry just about every game.
A crucial error, the coach yelling in your direction or a strikeout to end the game were all catalysts for our childhood comrades to devolve into a puddle of tears.
Sometimes sports aren't all that fun. Just ask Cubs fans.
"Mom, Where the Hell Are My Stirrups?"
I can almost feel the panic attacks that would come knowing that I had five minutes to get to the field and still couldn't find that damn stirrup.
The sweat really started flowing when I realized I might have to play the game sans stirrups, something that the cool kids just didn't do at the time.
Little League Video Games
It wasn't R.B.I. Baseball and wasn't even close to the 8-bit masterpiece known as Bases Loaded, but the NES game Little League Baseball Championship Series was still part of the rotation.
We tip our hat here to that game and to all of the Little League memories.
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