Sports Report

Shelburne Little League baseball team to appear on Red Sox pre-game show.  Photo contributed

Shelburne Little League baseball team to appear on Red Sox pre-game show
The Storm, Shelburne’s Little League baseball team, will appear live from Fenway Park before the Red Sox game with the Cleveland Indians on the NESN Clubhouse on August 26 at 11:30 a.m. The Storm is the AAA Little League team, coached by Little League president Scott McDade, with players from Hinesburg and Charlotte as well as Shelburne, that won this year’s league championship. The Charlotte players are Jack Dore, Sam Norstrand and Will Boyce.

We’re coming up to “fall ball”
Country singer Kenny Chesney has it right when he sings “The Boys of Fall” that took “every ounce of heart and sweat and blood to get to wear those game-day jerseys down the hall, the kings of the school man, we’re the boys of fall.”

In my high school days, football was indeed king of the fall, and we were indeed be-knighted troops. “Friday Night Lights” shown on us. Our coach followed the Lombardi doctrine—winning wasn’t the most important thing; it was the only thing. 

Well, the “boys of fall” are approaching, but now they are accompanied by the girls of fall on the soccer pitch and the cross-country trails. 

There is another element in recent years that has come into play regarding football, and that is a medical issue, the chance of head injury. Rule changes have been made in attempts to lessen the likelihood of damaging blows to the body—particularly blows that injure the brain. Parents, however, read almost daily of players who are affected by them, either directly or in later life. Their concerns lessen their fervor for offspring to play the sport. Who knows how much of this anxiety went toward combining Burlington and South Burlington teams into one because of low numbers? It could be excessive cost, but more likely the potential for injury.

Where does ceremony begin in baseball?
As baseball season winds to a close, let’s go back to opening day and its ceremonial first pitch – often thrown by someone who may never have stood on the pitcher’s mound or may have no clue how to grip and throw a baseball – or, like me, whose shoulder muscles no longer have the strength to throw even a five-mile-per-hour fastball.

The July 8 New York Sunday Times Magazine contained a column by Malla Wollan about this very subject. I was drawn to it because the primary commentator, John Thorn, was an old friend from college who has made baseball a historical profession and is the official historian of major league baseball. John says he learned the procedure of ceremonial pitch the hard way. Twenty years ago he was invited to throw out the first ball at a minor-league game. It bounced before reaching the plate. After having been deeply involved with baseball since graduate school, John figured this was just another pitch in the game of life, and he had seen a million pitches in his day. Reflection followed, however, and he warned invitees to practice to “avoid chagrin.” Since the ritual is older than the major leagues themselves, throwers are part of a long tradition, so they had better be ready. Don’t wear “restrictive clothes or footwear,” John warns, referring to Mariah Carey’s spiky high heels in 2008. In the sport’s early days, fancy-dressed luminaries threw out the first ball from the stands. Now they sling from the mound or near it.  Thorn suggests that if you have not thrown off a mound, you may want to stand on level ground in front of it.  

As a final note, John says that it is “OK to be unskilled.” Not everyone can be an expert in everything, and, as we know from watching sliders and knuckle balls, pitching a baseball can be an art. However, straight forward to home plate is the best dictate for a ceremonial opening-day pitch. So do it, wave to the crowd, get back in the stands and let the real pitchers take the mound.