Memories linger after baseball season’s final out

It was that time of year again. Spring had just about left us and for most boys in Freehold, it meant that baseball would as well.

The Little League season had come to an end and as most of its players left Michael J. Tighe Park after the last game of the season, you couldn’t help but notice the longing in their eyes. The longing for just one more game, one more big hit or one more diving catch to add to their legacy.

For those ballplayers the longing would have to wait until next season, but for a select few a second chance was on its way. As the younger counterparts in the Majors Division of Freehold Township Little League, these 11-year-old athletes were now representing the Freehold Nationals in the District 19 tournament.

Most were opponents during the rec season and most went to different schools or were in different grades. Some played baseball together in the fall or basketball together in the winter and yet some wouldn’t cross paths for months. All that was now irrelevant.

For the past three years, most of these boys spent their summers together, sweating and laughing, listening and learning and developing into so much more than athletes and teammates. Their time together was so intense that they would always share a special bond.

With each game they played their connection grew and without premeditation so did their friendship. As parents we like to believe we know our kids best, but on the field those boys have come to know and trust each other in a way that should be admired and respected by all who have watched from the sidelines.

On that diamond our sons seemed so much more like young men than boys — partly for their relentless efforts, but just as much for their composure and sportsmanship.

They won with grace and lost with dignity, which make them victorious both as players and people. So in the end when we left the field after the championship game and the win eluded us, our boys took to the bleachers and although they were understandably disappointed, held their heads high and rightly so.

As the coach — whose mentoring has taught the boys more valuable life lessons than he is aware of — recapped the games of this season and the years prior, the boys began to reminisce. They had turned their longings into unforgettable memories.

For Chris, Sam and Jose, home runs were in the air and as the ball sailed over the fence their longing was over; the hits don’t get bigger than that.

Michael not only had his share of hits, but also owned the mound – he got his one more strikeout. Dean and Brandon held the opposing runners by grabbing anything that was pitched to them and used their smarts and speed to run the bases like pros. Jaiman also came up big in the hitting department and fielded like a natural.

As for catches, Justin made memorable diving ones in the outfield, as his radar tracked anything in sight. Steven also had his one more amazing catch and followed it with a hit that he will not soon forget. Nick, who demonstrated that he undoubtedly has a future in coaching, also had his one more key catch.

And finally, Louis, whose glove at second was golden, taught us never to underestimate the power of a bunt, especially when he is laying it down.

As the reminiscing drew to an end, I’d be lying if I told you that winning the game wouldn’t have been awesome. But as all the boys headed to their cars and the last field light shut, talk of winning next year ensued and I realized that even if we didn’t win, that sometimes if you’re lucky, the journey is even better than the final destination.

I am confident that whatever paths these boys take in life, talks of each other and the games they played together, first as teammates but foremost as friends, will stay with them all the days of their lives.

By the time all the boys arrived at the ice cream parlor for a well-deserved celebration, their tears had been replaced with smiles and as they carried on, eating and laughing, it became apparent that while winning the game was important to them, playing it together meant more than the final score. After all, they are the boys of summer and dare I say it, what they share is bigger than baseball.
Maria Rondinella
Freehold Township