Itis the Sixth Inning for an Encino Little League Dad
Grab a Kleenex for this one.
Written bySteve Seidel
Illustrated byChristine Georgiades
Tucked beneath the steady hum of the 101 Freeway sits an oasis of ballfields, fields as soft as a yacht-rock ballad, and the chatter of boys and girls at play. A largely technology-free zone, save for siblings who have been dragged there against their will, this is The Land That Time Forgot. Banners of past victories adorn the fences. The best kosher dog in the city can be still purchased at a snack stand once manned by Annette Funicello. The obsessively maintained grass, never wavering from its kelly green sheen, would make Julie Andrews pirouette in ecstasy. Here, the hills, or perhaps I should say fields, are alive with the sound of baseball.
This idyllic setting, better known as Encino Little League, has been the home of countless moments that have shaped my son’s youth. At 12 years old, he is in his final season at ELL, completing his journey as a “lifer,” having participated in every level of competition. He started with Wee Ball, where no runs or outs are counted and the most one can hope for is that its participants know to travel the bases in a counterclockwise rotation. And he is ending in the Majors, where the emotional highs and lows of competition are as palpable as the nerves of the parents cheering—and sometimes coaching— from the stands.
It was here on the fields of ELL where my son learned that passion, practice and the fundamentals are the great equalizer. This proved important these last two seasons in particular, as 11- and 12-year-olds personify the haves and the have-nots of puberty. My undersized, squeaky-voiced son stood on third base the other day, next to a kid purportedly his age but seemingly three feet taller. He appeared to have a budding mustache; I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a driver’s license.
Meanwhile, we parents learned a thing or two about being supportive, but not too tribal. “Your Children Are Watching,” command signs posted above the bleachers. It can get intense, but for the most part we have kept ourselves under control while cheering him on. Little League parent chatter is unlike any other. “Good eye!” for a ball taken. “Nice cut!” for a hearty swing and a miss. “You’ve seen it!” for a taken strike. Try chirping “good eye!” at a Dodger game and imagine all the blank stares of bewilderment.
As the sun sets on my son’s Little League experience, he hopes that his baseball career is just beginning. He’ll represent ELL with a team of his buddies competing in a tournament at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, this summer. From there, he plans to play as long as the game will have him—in middle school, high school, maybe beyond. After a recent Sunday practice, the parents brought in dinner of pizzas, salad, homemade brownies … and maybe some concealed adult beverages; I will neither confirm nor deny. At one point, the kids all seemed to have disappeared. We looked around for them, and sure enough, they were on a neighboring field, playing a simplified version of baseball with Wiffle bats and tennis balls. No Fortnite to distract them; they didn’t want to stop playing. The action continued until darkness overtook the field. That little slice of (mostly) prepubescent youthful activity felt like the end of a particular journey. Hormones, girls, driving, college and all that other “real life” stuff beckons. For now, let’s leave it all out on the field.
Steve Seidel is an EP and partner at the branded content studio VIMBY. He lives with his wife, two children and golden retriever in Sherman Oaks. Follow him @schnd