COLUMN: Why youth baseball, softball matters

Out on the diamond, kids learn more than just how to catch and throw a ball — they also learn about life.

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  • | 1:48 p.m. June 19, 2019
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Of all the sports in the world, few hit me in the way that baseball does.

As a kid growing up in the ’90s I remember those summer nights where I’d crawl up and onto my dad’s lap to sit and watch the Atlanta Braves play on TBS. 

I don’t remember a lot from my early childhood, but I remember those moments clear as day. I remember my dad teaching me the game and its history, and I remember going out to watch the local Minor League team play — it was everything to me.

And like most folks who have a passion for the game, I played tee-ball when I was a kid. Sure, I’d chase butterflies between outs, and run the wrong way around the bases, but I eventually figured it out and had fun with it.

Though my stint was short — I wasn’t a fan of sweating to death in the North Carolina heat — it, along with my general love for the game, made me appreciate what the sport does for kids.

In a sports world that is dominated by money and egos, it’s the Little League, Babe Ruth and other leagues that truly show what the game should be about — things like community, relationship building and just having fun. It is the sport in its purest form, and it’s why youth baseball and softball are so important.

And I’m not alone in that thinking: cue Dr. Phillips Little League’s newly elected President Rob Clark.

“Little League gives back to the community in so many ways,” Clark said. “It gives an opportunity for young boys and girls to play — arguably — America’s best sport, which is baseball. From the baseball standpoint, and the softball standpoint, these boys and girls and the families can come together as a community and come to a safe space and learn and develop.”

Much like my dad and I, Clark shares his passion for the game with his 10-year-old son, Camden, who has played every year and every season since he was 3 years old. To add to that, outside of one season, Clark has coached Camden.

And if you ask Clark why he has dedicated so much time to DPLL, he’ll tell you that it’s all because of Camden.

“Honestly, I love serving my community and serving my Little League and my extended family, but there is such a special bond between my son and I, that he and I get to share the baseball field together,” Clark said. “It’s something that my dad never did with me …. I’m just blessed that he takes a liking to it and that he loves being out there, and I’m pretty sure he loves dad being out there with him.”

“Little League gives back to the community in so many ways. It gives an opportunity for young boys and girls to play — arguably — America’s best sport, which is baseball."

— Rob Clark

That bond between a parent and their child is something that plays an important role in youth baseball/softball, and it’s one that’s just hard to explain.

For me, my dad and I bond over quite a lot — comic books, old science-fiction/monster movies, music — but there’s just something about baseball that stands out. Now that’s not saying I didn’t have a ball at Heroes Con in Charlotte last weekend — searching through box after box of comics — but baseball is its own, unique animal.

That same connection is one that Lee Liddick and his daughter, Adyson, share out on the softball diamond.

Liddick, who coaches the 12U team that features his daughter, has gotten the chance to watch Adyson grow through the different age divisions. And with the game being one defined by failure —  and the overcoming of failure —  it’s a valuable teacher.

“It’s just an important development place for the girls and it’s a great place for the girls to learn skills — not just about softball, but also about life,” Liddick said. “Failure — that’s the best learning tool. I tell my daughter that all the time — if you don’t learn from failure, you’re not paying attention and you’re going to continue to fail.”

In the sports world, no sport is predicated on the concept of failure like baseball and softball — it’s why it’s the most relatable sport (in my opinion).

A lot of things in life — including our achievements — are byproducts of working through failures, so learning that kind of concept on the field makes baseball and softball important sports for kids.

So, sure, some people may still think of baseball/softball as just a sport, but for us folks who’ve bonded with family and friends over it, and have learned life lessons through it, it means so much more.

It’s the game that’s filled my life with the greatest of memories, and I can’t thank it — or my dad — enough.


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