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Learning from Kids

Wednesday, August 28, 2002, 20:54 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday afternoon, I left work early to greet the Little League World Series semi-finalists at their big homecoming rally at Worcester City Hall. It was hotter than hell and there were thousands of people there, a few in business or “business casual” clothes but many more in casual summer clothes – which is what I wish I had been wearing. My co-worker, Jen, went with me. Being much shorter than I am, her nose was about armpit-high to the average person standing around us. Needless to say, she too wished it were cooler.

But I digress. There were several thousand of us, up to 10,000 by some estimates, packed like sardines onto the Worcester Common, which should not be confused with the Boston Common in either size or ambiance. There is very little grass, a few trees, and most of the area is taken up by what used to be a reflecting pool back in the days when they actually had water in it. Yesterday, it was dry – which was probably a good thing because otherwise all the people standing in it would have gotten their shoes wet.

Did I mention how hot it was?

Anyway, we left our office a few blocks away at about 3:45 for the rally that was supposed to start at 4:00, the time the kids and their coaches and families were supposed to arrive in vintage automobiles after a short parade from the west side of the city. They arrived at 4:30. Why? Because the parade got caught in traffic on Pleasant Street. That’s right, the brain trust that runs the City of Worcester apparently didn’t know enough to close the street for the parade. I’ll bet the kids would have done it right if they had been in charge.

The kids. That’s who we were there to see, not the long-winded politicians (the mayor, city manager, a couple city councillors, and a member of Congress were all scheduled to speak). As the kids left their vehicles and made their way toward the stage set up in front of the City Hall patio, police cleared a path through the crowd that, as it turned out, went right past me. So I got a good look at the little buggers as they passed.

They looked absolutely stunned.

If I had to take a picture of these kids and write their thoughts in a word bubble over their heads, it would read:

Who are all these people I’ve never seen,
and why are they all at my parade?

Which isn’t to say they weren’t appreciative. They were terrific, shaking hands with the total strangers among whom they were walking. They just looked overwhelmed, as if they couldn’t understand why this was all happening TO THEM. They’re 11 and 12 years old, and even though they know they’ve been on national television, and even though they were told that thousands of people packed the Worcester Centrum arena to watch them play in the U.S. championship game, they still don’t understand. All they were doing was playing baseball – the operative word being PLAYING.

Jump ahead to the day after tomorrow, when Major League Baseball players are scheduled to go on strike because they don’t want drug testing or any limits on their gazillion dollar salaries. Some of these guys are barely twice as old as the little leaguers, but they have long since forgotten that they are playing a game and will make more money in their short careers than many of us who are working real jobs until a ripe old retirement age will see in our lives.

The major leaguers who play in Boston will honor the little leaguers from Worcester tonight before the game at Fenway Park. I hope the little buggers give the big babies a piece of their minds.

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