It’s baseball season.

I’ll admit we haven’t been doing as much Scouting, because spring sports have taken over our schedule. Combined with the end of the school year, I haven’t had much time to write. But tonight was one of those moving experiences ~ we all have them ~ that I wanted to share.

It’s been a rough start to our season. With the exception of a non-season game in a tournament, our boys have been winless.

I’m glad I’m not the coach because it’s the kind of thing where everyone questions if the right things are happening, and when you wear the jersey, all eyes are on you. The kids are depressed, and it shows in their play.

But this isn’t really about being the last place team. After each game, we shake hands with the other team and our boys promise one another that NEXT game will be the one that matters.

Winning tonight was a pretty big deal.

Halfway through the season, they handed the other team a pretty decisive defeat. And it wasn’t just any team – it was a team with a pretty good record and near the top of our league. Throughout this game, and when we have played this team before, the coach continued to yell at and berate his players. It’s behavior I’ve seen before, even in Scouting. It’s a badge of bullying that transfers an adult’s anger to the hearts and minds of 9 and 10 year old boys.

At the end of the game the losing coach made his players run 5 laps around the bases. One boy was sobbing as he did so.

If you’re familiar with playing Little League, its rather customary the WINNING team gets to take a victory lap around the bases. This coach, who continued to belittle his players as they ran, not only affected the youth on his team, but robbed our boys of taking their first victory lap this season by refusing to yield the field. He extended his sphere of influence to every one of us there.

As we left to go get ice cream at Uncle Harry’s – our coach’s treat for winning their first game – my son said to me that he felt sorry for the kids on the other team that they lost. He was glad his team had finally won a game, but winning wasn’t that important to make the other kids feel that way.

Sometimes as adults we forget that words are more than just words.

When we wear the jersey; when we wear our Scouting uniform ~ we stand for far more than what we do on our own. Boys look up to Mom & Dad. They admire Coach. They’re eager to please their adult Leaders. Our actions say “I’m big and you’re little – so it’s OK for me to push you around.” We all get angry and frustrated once in a while. It’s easy to forget that our kids are, well – kids!

I don’t like to give that power to anyone. I try to teach my sons to stand up for what is right, and resist those who abuse that trust. Not an easy task when you’re 40, and certainly not when you’re 10.

My son struck out twice. He sat on the bench feeling pretty low and I put my hands on his shoulders. “It’s OK buddy” – three tremendously difficult words in front of your team. “Be proud you went down swinging. You’ll get it next time.” He and I were both choked up a bit.

Our boys watched the other team run the bases – then they congratulated one another, got a pat on the back from their coach, and turned their back on the field and walked away.

On another night we might not have won, but tonight our boys were clearly the better team out there.

If I had to choose between a team with a winning season that behaved like this coach did, or a team that was still growing and learning to come back to be better not just at baseball but at life, I wouldn’t hesitate one moment in making my choice.