Way to Go District 9 – And 18

typingmonkeylarge11.jpgI wrote this for the girls I coached this weekend. People seem to like it, so I’m putting it here too. The people involved here are wonderful people. All of them. I thank specifically Gilbert Gutierez, Ana Estrada and Gabby Sanchez. I’m lucky to know you and the girls are lucky to have you.
I want to congratulate the District 9 Big League girls for their third straight trip to the Little League World Series. It is an impressive feat by some good hard-working girls and some excellent coaches.
I also, however, want to congratulate the District 18 girls I had the honor to coach in the Southeast U.S. Regional. These 15 girls are not travel-ballers, not college players and not a 365 day a year team. They are not, like the others, the dozen best selected from a pool of 100.
What they are is what I have heard called “real” Little Leaguers. They love to play softball. When Lehigh Acres Little League and Fort Myers Beach Little League are playing they are on the field. They are good kids and hard workers like their more accomplished (softball-wise) counterparts.
The team Lehigh and The Beach put together to play in the tournament was 10 girls from Lehi and 5 from The Beach. There were no tryouts. Those who wanted to play played. There were no girls sitting at home wishing they could be part of the team. No one was cut.
I have always been proud of the inclusive nature of Beach Little League – my league. We are a teeny tiny league with annually only around 100 players – total – between the ages of 4 and 18.
That puts us in a difficult position when it comes time for Little League’s post-season All Stars. We fielded a 9&10 year-old softball All Star team this season because we luckily had enough girls that age to create a team. They played in the District 18 tournament. They did not win.
I am nonetheless proud of them. I am proud of their hard work and their positive attitudes. I am proud of their coaches, who knew the odds going in. I am proud of the league itself, which invests time and money to get kids on the field and afford them the benefits that team sports provides.
Lehigh Little League, though much larger than The Beach, is the same. It is hard-working volunteers and good kids. It is coaches surrendering huge chunks of work time they can ill afford so that kids who are not their own can have experiences they believe make them better people. It is parents who cart kids to practices and games at the end of long work days, and who surrender huge chunks of their own time. It is board members, district officials and umpires who spend countless hours on the agonizing behind-the-scenes tasks that allow kids and coaches to take the field.
What it is is ‘real’ Little League.
I am rooting for the District 9 girls. They are good kids who work hard and who make consistent sacrifices to be part of something special. And I thank their coaches. They are fine people surrendering huge chunks of their time to make good things happen for kids.
So are ours.
For the record our District 18 girls played four games. They lost them all. That doesn’t make them losers. They are winners. I’m not sure about Lehigh, but I know no other Beach Little League team has ever played in the Southeastern U.S. Regional.
Be proud of them. I am.

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