Why The Things That Don’t Matter Really Do Matter

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Cars packed all the parking lots in and around the baseball fields, spilling over into the lots surrounding Ye Mendon Tavern and the Old Bean Mill. Even more impressively, they nearly filled the lower parking lot by St. Catherine’s Church.

It’s been a long time since the diamonds were this active. Perhaps it’s a sign that either the pandemic has moved behind or we simply have decided to live with it. Whatever the case, it’s good to see at least some sense of a return to normal.

Betsy & I witnessed all these as we arrived at our scheduled sitting for the St. Catherine’s Parish Directory pictures. As we got out of the car, we heard the distant murmur of the parents and kids cheering on their favorite ballplayers.

Suddenly, the unmistakable sharp clang of aluminum against ball rang out. As it echoed throughout the lowlands of the 100-year flood plain girding Irondequoit Creek, an excited cheerful roar quickly rose.

As we walked towards Legacy Hall (nee, “The Connecting Wing), a rush of memories swiftly appeared in my thoughts. How many times had Betsy and I been on those very same fields rooting on our children? And what did we tell them every time their team came up short on runs (even when the score didn’t matter)?

We’d tell them (even when the score did matter), “You have your whole life ahead of you and, in the grand scheme of things, what happened today won’t matter.”

And it didn’t.

But it does.

As those long ago memories filled my head, they took me back to a more relaxing time. At least how I remember it now.

Those dewy mornings, sunny afternoons, and early evenings filled with threatening skies bring a smile to my face. Despite serving as coach, the outcome of the games never bothered me, including the year our team won it all. No, it was all about the fun, the companionship, and building an inventory of happy experiences that could be called up anytime we needed a smile.

Indeed, fun was one of the handful of rules we lived by that winning season, (see “5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, April 26, 2018). Winning happens when you’re busy having fun. You’re laughing too hard to worry, and worry is the quickest route to mistakes and disappointment.

Now, here’s the really funny thing. Back then, I was so focused on making sure the kids didn’t get upset when they lost (we lost half our games that season), that I convinced myself none of it mattered. And with each passing year, it mattered less and less. Life presented more important memories, and baseball faded away like an old picture.

Then we got out of the car and the crack of the bat woke up those old photographs within my head. The friends. The family. Watching a new generation emerge from naïve innocence to stalwart leaders. All that crossed my mind.

That it occurred within a day of Ray Liotta’s passing made it all the more poignant. While the headlines all led with his powerful performance in Goodfellas, my mind kept a soft focus on his portrayal of Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

Like The Natural, Field of Dreams stands out as one of the best baseball movies. Despite the backdrop, they’re not at all about the game because the game doesn’t matter. They’re about the part of what doesn’t matter that does matter.

What matters? Helping demonstrate to the next generation how to make moral and ethical decisions matters. If this sounds too highfalutin for baseball or any other game, consider this: How many times have you gotten upset when someone cheats to win?

And ‘cheating’ isn’t limited to simply breaking the rules. It includes staying within the bounds of honor and of unwritten rules. It’s good sportsmanship. It’s not being a sore loser. It’s not acting like a sore winner. That’s ethics. That’s morality. That matters.

On the more casual side, friends matter. Think of all the friendships that you create, develop, and cement over the course of several seasons on the grassy diamonds. Some of those friendships slowly disappear once the kids graduate and people move on. Others grow beyond the kids that inspired them. These matter, both in terms of memory as well as your current social vibrancy.

Finally, there’s family. Nothing matters more than family. Don’t you think it’s more than a coincidence that the father/son relationship lies at the heart of both Field of Dreams and The Natural? Both movies appear to be about the game and its players, but when you get right down to it, they each end with a father and a son playing catch with a baseball.

There’s a certain Americana – a certain masculine ideal – in that image. Mothers want their husbands to nourish a strong relationship with their sons. Daughters treasure the relationships they have with their fathers, but they’re strengthened knowing there’s also a strong bond between their brothers and their fathers.

In total, youth baseball isn’t about baseball at all. Baseball is merely a metaphor. You might also see it as a tool, as a means to get to an end. And that end isn’t developing your skills for the game, it’s about developing the bonds within the family and within the community.

If your experience succeeds at this, the investment of time you’ve made on those fields of dreams will pay dividends later and forever.

You’ll know whenever you hear that distinct ding of metal on cowhide leather. It’ll take you back and you’ll add your distant voice to the excited roar of the crowd.

And, in the end, you’ll finally know why what doesn’t matter really matters.

“Can I Do This?”

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Just under two minutes away from the fields, the car’s audio system thundered that ever-familiar “Thud– Thud–CLAP!” bass beat. I knew what it was. The kids didn’t. I could use this. They needed it.

All I said to them was, “Boys, listen to this. It’s an omen.” It’s good to have been an AM disc jockey (back in the days when they used to play music).

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

It captivated the boys. They couldn’t turn away from its allure. The a cappella voices meant Continue Reading ““Can I Do This?””

5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach

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I never asked to be a baseball coach. As you might recall (see “A New Beginning,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, April 27, 2017), baseball and I have had a strange – and sometimes strained – relationship. You could understand my reluctance to agree to play the part of assistant coach for my son’s T-Ball team. Still, it was only T-Ball (how hard could that be) and it was my neighbor who was the head coach. He needed help, so, as any good neighbor would, I readily assented to assist. But, then, the unexpected happened.Continue Reading “5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach”

A New Beginning

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There’s nothing like strolling out to the pitcher’s mound for the first game of the season. A new season ushers in a new beginning, and with a new beginning comes new hope. For someone like me, the games may be of the past, but the smells aren’t: the sweet fragrance of the freshly mowed outfield; the gritty dryness of the dusty infield; the melts-in-your-mouth aroma of broken-in leather. With these smells, of course, bubble up the feelings of old: the promise of a clean slate; the dreams of achievements yet to be; the comradery of brothers only shared experience can forge.

Admit it. If you’ve ever played Little League Baseball, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever coached, then no doubt you’re amazed how a new generation of kids Continue Reading “A New Beginning”

America’s Pastime Sadly Past its Time

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worn-out-1423626I’ve been blessed to have lived a Norman Rockwell youth. Sure, I grew up in the gritty shadow of the Bethlehem Steel complex in the snowbelts south of Buffalo. Indeed, my elementary schools and my church were literally in those shadows. And, with my house abutting the New York State’s most famous interstate, the rush of Thruway traffic lulled me to sleep every night. (To this day people wonder how I can get to sleep when staying on the lower hotel floors in noisy New York City.)

Yet, despite the seemingly urban nature of my childhood environs, it endures as an idyllic Continue Reading “America’s Pastime Sadly Past its Time”

Some Silly Thoughts…

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the April 12, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

 

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259Yes, I’ve lived in Western New York all my life, but the crazy April snowstorms we get still strike me as silly. “April showers bring May flowers.” I can’t recall any lyrics dealing with April snowstorms.

Once silliness infiltrates my mind, it doesn’t require a whole lot of effort for other absurdities to encroach upon the various unemployed synapses and neurons. For material, one merely needs to review current events…  Continue Reading “Some Silly Thoughts…”

Chaos and Opportunity on Capitol Hill

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the June 15, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259A few weeks ago many of you read about Pete Rose and Jim Wright on this very same page. Well, folks, I admit to you now, the closest I ever got to correctly predicting the future was when I played the role of the Soothsayer in our eight-grade production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. (Remember him? He only had two lines, both identical: “Caesar, beware the Ides of March!”)

OK, so I was wrong about Wright (the jury’s still out on Rose). Boy, was I wrong! I was Continue Reading “Chaos and Opportunity on Capitol Hill”

The Difference Between Wright and Rose

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[This Commentary originally appeared as Rose vs. Wright in the May 18, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259I spent my formative years growing up in Buffalo, home of the original Buffalo Bisons and an upstart American Football League team. By the end of the 60’s, football had taken hold of the city. The Bisons, who had been a farm club for the Cincinnati Reds, were on their way out. Naturally, then, I became a football fan prior to becoming a baseball fan.

The first baseball game I remember watching – the 1970 World Series – featured the Baltimore Orioles against the Cincinnati Reds. Without a favorite, I put my Continue Reading “The Difference Between Wright and Rose”