Sunday, November 23, 2014

Babe Ruth politics

6/28/2013

I received an email from the Ottawa Recreation Commission about the coming 10U Babe Ruth tournament in Ottawa, which is great and I am excited about it. Except for one small thing ... our kids don’t get to play in it.

At the beginning of the 2013 baseball season — ORC Baseball, that is — I signed up my son to play because he was now at the age where they are a part of the Babe Ruth League, there is the possibility of making All-Stars and getting to travel around Kansas. Babe Ruth League is a tradition that he has long awaited to be a part of. It’s fun for all kids, they get to play a game they love, make new friends, memories, etc. ... not to mention the money is for a worthy cause, and we live in a small town where baseball is, excuse the cliché, a way of life. We are a baseball community.

I received an email from the Ottawa Recreation Commission about the coming 10U Babe Ruth tournament in Ottawa, which is great and I am excited about it. Except for one small thing ... our kids don’t get to play in it.

At the beginning of the 2013 baseball season — ORC Baseball, that is — I signed up my son to play because he was now at the age where they are a part of the Babe Ruth League, there is the possibility of making All-Stars and getting to travel around Kansas. Babe Ruth League is a tradition that he has long awaited to be a part of. It’s fun for all kids, they get to play a game they love, make new friends, memories, etc. ... not to mention the money is for a worthy cause, and we live in a small town where baseball is, excuse the cliché, a way of life. We are a baseball community.

Then I learned that the Ottawa Babe Ruth League has disbanded because of arguments, mainly matters with the district boundaries, and I’m sure other topics. I understand that rules are rules; therefore they need to be abided by. However, the decision to appeal or fight for a change of the district lines or request an “exception” if you will, from the Babe Ruth commissioner to allow kids who attended school in the Ottawa school district to play baseball in Ottawa (since they go to school there, parents pay taxes there, live closer to the town of Ottawa than to their official district) was never made and fought for. Instead, the vote was made 8-4 to disband and end a 43-year tradition: to dissolve Ottawa Babe Ruth League Baseball.

The result of these politics, of a decision driven by political sentiments is a sad one ... “Sorry kids, you can play a little more than eight weeks of baseball, but after that, unless you can play on a tournament team, the season is over.” No tournaments. No All-Stars. No more tradition.

Baseball is not about the parents. It’s not about the adults who don’t have the time or drive to fight for a 43-year long tradition that brought money for our town, for the ORC (excuse my sarcasm).

Baseball is about the kids. The kids who love to play the game, who look forward to sunburns, cheers from a crowd of parents, family and friends, hitting their first double, getting that RBI, trying so hard for a home run, excited about the bag of sunflower seeds and ice-cold Gatorade waiting for them at the concession stand, cheers from teammates in the dugout as they round third base heading for home plate, working hard all season in the heat and loving every minute of it, that glimmer of hope at making the All-Star team and being excited to watch friends play even when that opportunity is missed, the friendships, the memories that last a lifetime (I know these memories well, I hear them from men reminiscing with one another at every ballpark, at every game). Baseball is so much more than we adults sometimes realize. Dissolving the Babe Ruth League in Ottawa not only saddened a number of adults in our community, it undoubtedly removed a tradition of memories — memories of an experience our kids will never know.

I could go on and on about this subject ... Yes, I know that signups were lower than previous years and some blame the tournament leagues; I say to that — get creative folks, hold an ORC league tournament to raise awareness and money, have a used baseball equipment drive and use the money to sponsor kids whose parents can’t quite afford the fee plus equipment; hold a coaches tournament or game and make it funny (have a slip-n-slide at second base, run backward, water balloon the guy running to first, etc.).

I can think of a million excuses of why it’s “easier” not to have an Ottawa Babe Ruth Baseball League. But there is only one good reason of why we should: our kiddos.

 

— Megan Vague,

Ottawa

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