As a young, tall kid in Duncan I played pick up basketball games, sandlot football games and makeshift baseball games with whatever we could find.
I remember playing in the Brooks Elementary school yard with a stick and a tennis ball with wood and crushed water jugs for bases as my friends and I pretended to be Babe Ruth, calling our shot over the center field fence, knowing full well there was no way that ball wasn't going any further than the skinny kid playing shortstop.
At that age the innocence and purity of the game was amazing. Our passion for competing and having fun while doing it was what made sports for us so awesome.
Like most of the small communities around us, we didn’t have a park commission; we didn’t have coaches teaching us the fine points of the game or breaking down the fundamentals of throwing, catching, shooting, fielding, batting, defense, tackling, etc. but, we had each other and as far as I was concerned that was enough.
Memories of my childhood sports exploits came to mind recently as I watched seven and eight year old boys compete in the Dixie Youth District 1 seven and eight year old Coach Pitch Tournaments hosted by the Cleveland Park Commission.
The tournaments were exciting, intense, fun, humorous and oh yeah very hot!!!
Despite the scorching temperatures these young guys got after it. They laid it all on the line in hopes of reaching the state tournament.
That love for the game came out full force when I witnessed a kid from one of the seven-year old teams crying because his team was losing and he had just struck out.
The father in me wanted to put my arm around the kid and encourage him that it was going to be all right and that he would do better the next time out.
At about that time I watched as a short kid that looked to be about the height of your average toddler, with shoes untied and a hat too big for his head say to his teammate with a big smile and missing teeth, "Hey man, don’t cry. We gonna play tomorrow and you can hit the ball then."
In that moment I thought that was the best advice I had ever heard. One player clearly upset and the other player with enough understanding to know that it's just a game and you always have a second chance to do better.
For me, witnessing that verbal exchange meant more than the game itself. What that did was bring out the fact that sports teach us so many lessons. When that young man tried to cheer his teammate up it shined a light on togetherness and love.
In this day in age with all the troubles surrounding professional athletes; with all the selfishness that many of them display; it’s simply amazing to think that they once were just like these two little guys or even like a tall, skinny kid in Duncan in the 1980s who simply played sports for the love of it.
Donell Maxie is a staff writer for The Bolivar Commercial. He can be reached at 843-4241 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.