Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Little Big League

I’m going to tell you why you’re rooting for the 2014 Kansas City Royals, or why you should be. These Royals are essentially a little league team. No, that’s really not an insult, but instead it’s the greatest compliment I can give. They play like a bunch of 12 year olds. Not just the enthusiasm, which is copious. But they play the way we were all told to play. First and foremost, you hustle. You always hustle. Play defense well. Catch the ball, throw to the cutoff. Don’t try to make the great play, just play smart defense and hustle and the great plays will happen. Learn how to lay down a bunt and learn how to run the bases. Throw strikes, and trust your defense. If they can’t catch up to your fastball, that’s great, but throw strikes.

They do everything your little league coach taught you. And they play like 12 year olds. They love to run, and they love to get dirty. They chomp their gum, wear rally caps and spit seeds. But even the players on the team remind you of kids you played with. Alex Gordon is the great athlete, who does everything like the cool kid in school. He can strike out four times in a single game, but he never looks phased.  Eric Hosmer has the punky haircut and is always pumping up his teammates, and man can he hit. And anytime he gets a hit, the first thing he does is look back to the dugout and pumps everyone up even more.  Mike Moustakas is that super intense kid, the one you want on your side if there’s ever a fight. He’s the strongest kid on the team, and you get the feeling that his parents are probably too hard on him, but he lives and dies with the team. Salvy Perez is the big lug of a catcher, always quick with a joke and a word of encouragement. And he’ll swing at anything and everything. Lorezno Cain is the kid who started later than everyone else, but he’s such a great athlete that he’s already one of the best players on the team. He’s just a freak athlete, but he doesn't even realize it yet.

And everyone really likes each other. The parents sitting in the bleachers can tell, and watch with pride as the dirty up their uniforms. They have an air of confidence, but never seem arrogant. There’s just no quit in any of them. They go up against teams with bigger and stronger kids, whose parents pay for all the best coaching and ridiculously expensive bats and cleats, and they beat ‘em. They appreciate every victory, and never take it for granted.

Maybe it’s the last summer before someone leaves to join a traveling team, or a dad’s  transfer takes someone else away to a far off exotic city, or maybe they’ll stick together all the way through high school.  None of that matters to a 12 year old on the field. That’s the stuff grown-ups worry about; these kids just want to keep playing.  And man, they sure are fun to watch. 

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