October has been stamped in my memory since boyhood with the words World Series. Growing up in New York, we had hopes for fall baseball. But there was another World Series I aspired to as a kid – the one held in Williamsport, Penn.
The Little League World Series was played again this year in late August. And oh, the cheers and jeers!
Boy wonder Danny Almonte pitched two no-hitters in the series, one a perfect game. He was so good it made you wonder.
Sports Illustrated wondered enough for all of us (which, next to the annual swimsuit edition, is what they’re there for). They sent a scout to the Dominican Republic to check birth records on the 12-year-old phenom. Turns out he is 14, not 12. Turns out Danny’s father set the whole thing up by falsifying his birth certificate.
More innocence lost. Dear Old Dad has been in the Bronx with his Baby Bomber for more than a year without enrolling his son in school. The boy has been practicing in the shadow of the House that Ruth Built to become a Yankee.
Young Danny may be a Yankee one day, but he’ll have to overcome more than the public humiliation of this episode to become a major-league human being. He’ll have to overcome a family character flaw.
Who doesn’t? Bad and sad as this has been, none of us comes from perfect parents. None of us leaps from the womb fully formed. All of us need time and grace to grow into good characters.
We have to learn to hit the curveballs of family traits that come our way. The job of parents is to straighten out the pitches as much as possible, so the kids can hit for average if not for titles. Life will throw enough breaking balls on its own; we don’t need parents putting us two strikes down in the count by teaching us to lie and cheat our way to success. What success is it anyway to gain the whole world and lose your own soul, as Jesus said? What good is fame or gain if it is ill gotten>
Kids learn character by watching us. Cheating on a spouse, and trying to justify or excuse it rather than confess it. Lying about a child’s age in order to pay less at a movie theater or for a plane ticket. Calling in sick at work when you aren’t. Cheating on taxes and tithes. They know.
My grandfather helped start Little League in Staten Island. He used to say in his opening day speech: In Little League, parents are to be seen and not heard.
The question is: What will our children see in us after they’ve heard it all?