Baseball is forever and so are lessons

Baseball is forever
and so are lessons

Baseball — a sport that spans the generations — figures prominently in two stories in today’s edition of the Tri-Town News.

A page 1 article describes how the Jackson Jaguars, a travel team of 12-year-olds from Jackson and Lakewood, have spent the better part of a year running fund-raisers with their eyes on a prize.

With the support of their coaches and parents, the boys are trying to raise $8,000 so they can travel to Cooperstown, N.Y., in August and compete in a baseball tournament in the town that is home to the baseball Hall of Fame.

What could be a more memorable trip for a group of young baseball players than to travel as a team to a town that some people consider a shrine in the baseball pantheon? Knowing they have put in hundreds of hours of hard work, not only playing baseball, but raising the money to achieve their dream, will make it all the more enjoyable.

Coaches Michael Zayac, Ed Wardell and Steve Spino can take pride in the effort put forth by the youngsters they have guided. Zayac put it best when he said going to Cooperstown "is something these kids will never forget."

This is the kind of story that makes a community sit up and take notice of its young people doing the right thing.

A similar scene was played out a decade ago in Howell, when a group of youngsters from the Howell Central Little League put together a run of winning baseball that carried them all the way to the Little League Senior League World Series in Kissim-mee, Fla.

The story of the Howell Central all-stars is told in a page 3 article today, and judging by the comments made by some of the members of that team who reunited recently, the summer of ’92 left a lasting impression on their lives.

Although the players didn’t realize it at the time — they were, after all, just trying to win baseball games — they have come to understand that the lessons they were learning on the diamond have carried through to their lives as young adults.

"I can’t believe it’s been 10 years," said Joe Aragona, the team’s outstanding pitcher. "It went by so quick. We didn’t realize what we were actually doing. You’re a kid, playing baseball each day and having fun winning."

"Friendships" was what Aragona said he learned the most about. "We stayed together that whole summer. We were close. Every time I look back it becomes more and more important that you have to be close to do what we did. We share a lot besides baseball."

"We were a scrappy team," Stu Holloway added. "No one was going to do it by himself. We were 15 guys on the same page."

If these comments and stories don’t say something about what is right with youth sports, then nothing ever will.

While obnoxious parents and spotlight-seeking superstar wannabees sometimes — unfairly — grab the headlines, these two teams have shown their communities that there are good times to be had and valuable lessons to be learned and retained as a member of a team.