May 9, 2012 Edition

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Baseball fever

It is baseball season, and the stars have aligned to heighten my interest in the sport. I have never considered myself a big baseball fan - at least, until recently.

First, I've caught the tail end of a couple of Little League games at Stewart Park. Major league games couldn't be much more exciting. One Little League game was nearing its end and the outcome hung on the skills of the pitcher. You could feel the tension of every player and spectator there. In another game, play ended after the batter hit a winning grand slam. The joy of the player and his teammates was contagious.

Second, the latest John Grisham book, "Calico Joe," was released just in time for baseball season. Baseball is the topic of the novel, and Renee gave me a copy of the book. "Calico," by the way, refers to Calico Rock, Arkansas, which is the hometown of the baseball legend in the book.

Third, I have been reading an essay about Frank Shell's baseball experiences, including his play as a catcher in the minor leagues. Sarah Shell Teague, who grew up in Walnut Ridge, shared the essay, which she wrote from stories her father had recently shared. Frank Shell, former area pastor, as well as a coach and teacher at Williams Baptist, died in March. WBC's Shell Field is named in his honor.

I guess it's never too late to take up a new interest. Late in the evening, when it's time to unwind, I've even found myself stopping on the Cardinals' channel to see the game's end. I know we have many diehard Cardinals fans in our area who like to watch each game from beginning to end when possible. Some of those fans, such as Angie Skimahorn, are on our staff.

For others, the excitement is taking place on the T-ball, Little League and softball fields. Editor Gretchen Hunt's two young boys, Conley and Colter, are in the midst of their Little League and T-ball seasons, respectively.

As most everyone realizes, skills and ability of a player start, almost from scratch, with T-ball and then develop as the child moves up in his or her respective programs. That's why those early experience are important and why I appreciate the poem below.

*********

Keith Brand, who helps oversee the Little League program at Stewart Park, shared this timely piece about good baseball sportsmanship. The author is unknown, but I found that many community baseball websites post the poem, while others show photos of it printed on posters at their ballparks.

Having a daughter, I know the same poem applies equally as well for little girls.

"He's Just a Little Boy"

He stands at the plate with his heart pounding fast! The bases are loaded, the die has been cast.

Mom and Dad cannot help him; he stands all alone. A hit at this moment would send the team home!

The ball nears the plate; he swings and he misses. There's a groan from the crowd, with some boos and hisses.

A thoughtless voice cries, "Strike out the bum!" Tears fill his eyes - the game is no longer fun.

Remember, he's just a little boy who stands all alone.

So open your heart and give him a break. For it's moments like this, a man you will make.

Keep this in mind when you hear someone forget. He's just a little boy and not a man yet.

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