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The Zen of Little League

More than two million kids from around the world will play on 7,000 baseball Little League teams this year. These children, ages 13 and younger, are taking part in a tradition that spans nearly 70 years. Parents across the world enroll their children in Little League not just to learn the sport, but to learn the ethics and team spirit associated with the great American pastime. What is on the field is an imitation of human life, said Dan Liberthson, PhD., and author of the new book The Pitch is on the Way: Poems about Baseball and Life. Liberthson said taking part in baseball games and watching the professionals on the field are fantastic ways to teach children the basic morals and guidelines of life. For 130 years weve been cheering for players to battle each other and challenge themselves on the ball field. No other sport is quite as American or inspirational. Parents want to give their children the tools for a successful and enjoyable life. Little League, Pony League, college, and professional baseball are great ways to build the foundational skills kids need to become adults. In praise of Liberthsons book, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig agreed: The great American pastime isnt just a sport its a chance to learn skills that guide Americans through all the pitfalls the world can throw at us. Liberthsons poems point out four life lessons both adults and children can get from baseball if they know where to look: Failure, Injury, and Defeat Are as Much a Part of the Game as Success. As Liberthson points out in his poem The Mound, about a pitcher yanked from the game, we can all blow it, but we need to pick ourselves up and try again. Dont Relegate Yourself to the Dugout. A player might miss one opportunity and lose his focus for the rest of the game. He becomes obsessed with that one early mistake and cant recover. It is the same with life: if you dwell on your past mis-step, youll never get a foothold on future success. Dont Let the Hecklers Get You Down. In many games, some fan is shouting above the crowd for the batter to miss, or the pitcher to throw badly, or deriding the umpires calls. Taking such spiteful criticism to heart will only ruin the players pleasure in the game and his chance of winning. Everywhere in life you run into people rooting for you to fail, said Liberthson. Look at these professional athletes on the field and think about how the rival team is hoping theyll fall flat on their faces. Still, these men often manage to succeed. Its a good lesson for life: ignore unhelpful criticism if you are giving the game your best. You wont have a chance to win if you dont stop beating yourself and letting the hecklers beat you. You Cant Win By Yourself. Baseball is a team sport. Sure, some teams have high-paid hot shots, but without nine players on each team and many support staff there is no game. The same is true of life: you can be the best at what you do, but if youre not surrounded by good, supportive people whom you treat well, your chances of enjoying the experience are zero. Life is hard, but at its core life is a game, a serious game. Maybe who wins or loses the game isnt as important as how a player feels about the job hes done as he walks off the field, Liberthson said.

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