By Don Lindsey
Last Sunday, I was sitting, watching the Little League World Series championship game on television when I heard about the shopping mall shooting in Jacksonville. My first reaction, as it always is with these situations, was of frustration and concern for all the violence we’re seeing these days. Prayers for the victims, their families while being bewildered as to how someone could so easily snuff out two lives and injure many others swirled around in my mind until my attention was finally drawn back to the game I had been watching.
For a couple of weeks leading up to the final game of the series, I had been watching every regional qualifier that I could and learned as much as possible about the international teams. I’ve been a fan of little league baseball ever since I was eight years old, the same age coincidentally, that I started playing it myself. As a matter of fact, it has become one of my favorite sporting events alongside the NCAA basketball tournaments, and the Major League baseball playoffs. I’ve been drawn to these because of my fandom of competition but realized this year that the reason I watch the Little League series is because of sportsmanship.
The night before the final game, the American championship was on. The international game had already been played and now all eyes were on the teams from Peachtree, Georgia and Honolulu, Hawaii. Early in the game, the kids from both sides battled, making big plays to keep the game close before Hawaii was finally able to secure a 3-0 win, but the way that they “battled” is what stood out to me the most. When one of the kids did something well you would see a player from the opposing side congratulate him. When they were around each other, you would see smiles and friendships that had developed over the tournament process between the boys from the different teams.
When the final out was made, the 12-year-old inside of me went crazy. Partly due to happiness for the Honolulu club for advancing to the championship and also sadness for the Georgia kids who were visibly and understandably upset. When the boys lined up for the traditional “good game” handshake, the adult in me was moved to tears as the kids from Hawaii hugged and at times seemed to console their Georgia counterparts. The following day was no different with the exception of it being the South Korean team playing the Georgia role in another 3-0 win for Honolulu. Through the duration of the game, the announcers spoke of the possible hurricane bearing down on Hawaii and how their little league team was doing everything that they could to represent their state in the best way possible. They went on to tell a story about how the team was in the cafeteria one evening after an extra-inning game when they saw the staff getting ready to clean up the dining room. Without hesitation, the kids sprung up, cleaned their area and then went on to help clear the rest of the room.
When I heard about the Jacksonville shooting last weekend, I immediately went into the familiar mindset of anger and frustration for our species’ lack of respect for human life. As I watched the Little League World Series broadcast, I was reminded that we still have hope for our future. Seeing these children from all over the world play their hearts out for such a big prize on such a huge stage and still put sportsmanship and kindness above all else is beyond inspiring. Couple that with the three kids I have in my own home and seeing them grow into caring young adults also helps with calming my concern for our future.
The world can be full of ugly events but it’s also full of love and compassion. We see that in children. They don’t gravitate towards hate, they don’t understand discrimination and we as a society should take a couple of pages from the book that our kids are writing. I learned that in droves while watching this year’s Little League World Series. To put a new take on an old saying: “and a little leaguer shall lead them.”
Don Lindsey is a follower of Christ, son, husband, father, and a survivor. Originally from Dayton Ohio, and resident of Apopka for six years, Don sees his life as a dedication to his wife, parents, children, and community.