One of the things I miss most about watching youth sports regularly is the innocence of the game.
There are no huge salaries, few hidden agendas and not many over-inflated egos. It’s young people and the games they love to play, with precious little to spoil their passion for competition.
If you live anywhere near Bangor, this week is the perfect opportunity to experience the beauty and simplicity of amateur baseball.
Slap on some sunscreen, throw on a hat and head over to Mansfield Stadium in Bangor to take in some of the Senior League World Series.
There, you will find enthusiastic and talented baseball players from around the United States, and the world, who have gathered out behind author Stephen King’s house to play ball in pursuit of a world championship.
For the 15th consecutive summer, a city with tremendous baseball tradition and pride has rolled out the red carpet — and the green grass — for the SLWS.
For years, tournament organizers have hyped the event by pointing to the participation of some former major league standouts, including Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who played for Aruba in the 2009 SLWS.
Yes, there is some impressive talent on the field in many of the games and it should be celebrated. But what stands out to me are some other dynamics.
It is a treat to witness the love for the game exhibited by the players. For some, especially those on some the international teams, competing in front of even a modest yet appreciative SLWS crowd is special.
Clutch hits, timely pitches and defensive gems elicit smiles, high-fives and exuberance all around.
Yet what shines through the simple plays on the diamond is the sense of camaraderie the teenagers have developed in their extended quest to make it to Bangor in the first place.
Their bond is one that is likely to extend well beyond the SLWS, which will have helped them create lasting memories of what they don’t yet realize is a fleeting moment in their lives.
Having the opportunity to watch the tournament serves as a reminder about the joy that can be derived from sports. Even those of us who haven’t wielded a bat or worn a glove in decades can remember for a few moments how exhilarating it can be to play on the same field with our friends chasing common goals while enjoying a hot summer afternoon or a cool evening.
When I was growing up, we dreamed of playing baseball on a big stage — maybe even in our wildest dreams at Fenway Park in Boston. Before we knew it, our youth was gone.
That’s why it’s so much fun to visit Mansfield Stadium during the Senior League World Series. It’s good, pure, old-fashioned fun that rekindles memories of diamond days gone by.