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Picture of the day - April 30, 2006

A Little League Baseball Game In Damascus, VA

A swing and a miss.

Cheria and I decided to spend part of yesterday afternoon watching a Little League Baseball game, so I grabbed my camera and we headed to Damascus, Virginia. By the time we got there, the kids were already starting the 5th inning (they only play six), with Damascus down to the visiting Marion team by several runs.

With just two innings left I knew that I would have to work fast if I wanted a chance to get some good pictures, so I hastily set up my camera and tripod in a place where I could look down the first base line towards home plate - but the first base coach and umpire blocked the view. I moved around the perimeter of the outfield fence, stopping occasionally to set up the tripod and attempt to get a clear view of the action at home plate - it seemed that there was always someone standing in the way!

By the time I finally made it all the way around the fence to a spot near third base, it was the bottom of the sixth inning...meaning I had as few as three at-bats to work with in order to get a good shot. I took several fast-action photos of each pitch sequence, and I finally ended up with one I was happy with - the "Picture Of The Day"!

I have always had a love for Little League Baseball. I used to watch the games as a young child, and everything about them fascinated me. I loved the bright colors of the uniforms under the stadium lights, the sound of the "crack of the bat" when a batter hit a fastball, the excitement of chasing all the foul balls that found themselves anywhere near where I was standing, seeing a runner slide into home plate with the winning run...even the ever-present smell of freshly-mown grass.

The sights and sounds of those Little League games were almost overwhelming to this skinny little kid looking out onto the field through the chain link fence behind home plate. I knew I had to wait until I was 8 years old before I could put on one of those bright, neatly pressed uniforms, and the suspense built with each game and each season.

My dreams finally turned into reality in the spring of 1968. I would turn 8 in the fall which meant I was finally old enough to play Little League Baseball! I went to the try-outs and they placed me on "the bank's team" - the team sponsored by the The Bank Of Damascus.

I still clearly remember my first uniform and every detail about it: white cotton shirt and pants with green stripes down the arms and legs, a large green "BD" on the left front of the shirt and a huge number 8 on the back, a green baseball hat with "BD" beaming from the brow, and what I thought was the coolest thing a human being could wear... green "baseball socks" that slid up over a pair of plain white socks. In my mind it was the socks that made a baseball player a baseball player!

Little League baseball in Damascus, Va.I played Little League Baseball in Damascus, Virginia for four years, starting out in the outfield, then moving to third base and finally catcher for the last two years (my favorite position because I was "in" on every pitch when my team was in the field!). I went on to play baseball at other levels, but it was never quite as much fun as my Little League years. Little League Baseball is all about fun - kids playing a kids game just for the fun of it.

The fun part of playing the game tends to fade away as you move up from level to level in the world of baseball. There comes a point when the primary objective of the coaches (and to a lesser extent the parents) is winning the game instead of having fun playing it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for instilling a winning attitude in young players, but winning should never be the primary reason for playing baseball. In my mind, baseball should always be a kids game, played for fun - even if the "kids" happen to be major leaguers making millions of dollars a year.

I won't tell you who won the game yesterday because it really doesn't matter. All that really matters is that a couple of dozen kids had a great time playing ball on a beautiful spring afternoon. They came to the ballpark wearing crisp, clean uniforms and they went home with the red clay dirt of the Damascus Little League infield all over them - and that's the way it should be.

I'll always have a love for Little League Baseball because Little League is baseball in its purest form. There is no overwhelming pressure on the coaches or players to win at all costs (at least there shouldn't be), no player strikes, no contract negotiations... Little League baseball is simply a bunch of kids playing a kids game, excitedly peeking into the bleachers to see if mom and dad are watching as they approach the plate, bat in hand...

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