I’m sitting on the edge of the curb, iPhone camera in one hand, coffee cup in the other. It’s 9:30 on a beautiful warm morning, the first weekend in May and the first Saturday we could call a real spring day in Vermont. Two other moms sit to both my right and my left. We chat about new jobs, new babies, school, our kids. Behind me rests a tote bag packed for what promises to be an active, excitement-filled day. Inside it are ice-cold water bottles, an extra pair of shoes, a few snacks, sunscreen, and baseball gloves.
We all look up the street as we hear the middle school band strike up a tune, and a parade begins making its way toward us. It starts with the kindergartners, sporting huge smiles and baseball hats with names like Hot Rods. Next come first- and second-graders, Grasshoppers and Owlz, followed by older kids in Rockies and Cubs uniforms, Indians and Tigers, and many others. The community is out in force, including a village fire truck to close out the parade.
It’s Little League® Opening Day in Essex Junction.
This is my family’s fifth opening day. It’s a festive scene that repeats itself around the state, and across the country in different towns with other kids and other families, but I have to think the excitement is the same.
It’s easy to see why baseball is considered America’s pastime when you’re part of small-town ball.
My kids’ baseball experience started when my oldest was in kindergarten, and now I have a son and a daughter who look forward to taking the field every spring. Their zeal for baseball is why we’re here, but there are so many other things that keep us coming back.
In Essex Junction, and many other towns like it, Little League® is truly a community affair run completely by volunteers. From the Board, coaches, and umpires to field maintenance, score keepers, and hamburger grillers, people donate their time, energy, muscle, and sweat to a long-standing tradition. In the process, every year in my town 150+ kids ages five through twelve experience what happens when a group of people pull together. And how lucky are they that they get to do it outside on immaculate fields just when the long New England winter finally turns for the better?
For that matter, I feel pretty lucky myself to spend five days a week at the ball field, cheering, chatting, and waving from the stands, pitching in where an extra set of hands could help, and enjoying the spring warmth and sun (knock on wood). Sure, I’m rushing out of the office to be at the right field at the right time, and I’m adjusting dinner plans to allow for quick school-to-field turnarounds or late night dinner sprints. My husband and I are also stocking up on nickels to fund a season’s supply of Dubble Bubble from the snack bar and desperately trying to keep water bottles and uniforms clean.
But as I do it, I think of the other countless parents who settle into the bleachers with a smile, week after week, to watch their kids happily play another ball game.