I’m not sure who called the Mill Valley police during the
baseball game, but everyone was glad they arrived. We were
the Bad News Bears team that year, in last place, playing the
second-place team, with the winner going to the La Ginestra
championship game. It was the fourth inning when the
mildly concerned wife of one of our coaches realized that
their 7-year-old son, Blake, was missing.
Fifth inning, score 10-6, we’re losing, no Blake. Sixth
and final inning (there are only six innings in Little League
unless a tie needs to be settled), score still 10-6, no Blake,
and a whole lot of concerned coaches and parents at this
point. Since it’s the final inning with the outcome almost
certain, we decide to continue the game while everyone not
playing searches for Blake. That’s when things get … surreal.
Blake’s older brother Chris, our best player on the team,
walks up to the plate with bases loaded and proceeds to
crush the second pitch to left field — a grand slam home run
to tie the game, and our first home run of the entire season.
His coach/father is having an emotional crisis at this point.
One son is very missing, and the other just experienced the
greatest sporting moment of his life.
The Mill Valley Police have arrived by now and are driving along the bike path, our search and rescue mission at
full tilt. It’s starting to get dark. A second team meeting,
with the decision to continue playing while everyone else
continues the search. It isn’t until the eighth inning, score
still 10-10, that we find Blake, who’s been under the stands,
playing with his iPad (“It’s darker down here. I can see the
screen better”), blissfully unaware of the turmoil above.
In the ninth inning we scrape together a single run.
Game over. The last-place Mill Valley Tigers are headed to
the La Ginestra championship game the next day.
I could fill a book about the joys of coaching Little League,
of teaching kids how and why to love the game of baseball,
of working together as a team to achieve a common goal, and
of the core values team sports can teach us about winning,
losing and camaraderie.
In our clan, Mill Valley Little League baseball is a cherished
family affair. It’s given me the unique and once-in-a-lifetime
experience of co-managing a team along with my brother
Peter while coaching both my daughter Carson and Peter’s
son Colin. My father coached Mill Valley Little League, my
mother went to every game to cheer us on, my two brothers
and I went on to play college ball, and today we coach our son,
daughter, and the kids we used to be. Full circle.
Spring season just started for Little League teams all
over the country, and soon there will be kids playing Little
League baseball at a field near you. I implore you: at least
once this season, go see a game, sit in the bleachers and
cheer the kids on. I think you’ll find it as rewarding as I do,
a shared community experience that brings excitement and
joy to kids and adults alike. m
SOME TIMES WHAT YOU’RE SEARCHING
FOR IS RIGH T UNDER YOUR NOSE
Game over. The last-place
Mill Valley Tigers are headed to
the La Ginestra championship
game the next day.”