A relative of mine asked for some help with his twelve and under team and I had just enough time to lend a hand for the first half of their season.
The youngsters were a collection of castoffs, cuts, and first timers to the game. As I watched them during their first couple of practices I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guys – their hearts were in it, but not much else was going for them.
Their uniforms were nothing more than a T shirt and cap. A sticking point with the league officials who put a uniform requirement on all players and coaches. And I will admit, when the kids took the field the first time they looked more like a bunch of rag-tags then ball players. A point that didn’t escape the other teams and the adults in attendance on the opposite side of the fence.
Small minded remarks accompanied most every game, about the kids in T shirts and caps, along with a twisting of their hands at the wrist,instead of a handshake at the games end. A game they lost badly, over and over again.
I felt really bad leaving those youngsters, half way through their season. But a letter that I received a few months later restored my faith in how good things can happen to good people.
These kids were having pizza after a game and in walked the team that beat them really badly. The other team was sponsored big time, and they had the best of everything. Right down to matching batting gloves, spikes, tote bags, the works.
One of the T shirt-n-cap kids was coming out of the rest room and met up with a few of the other teams kids and was heckled and called a loser. One of the owners of the pizza shop heard the exchange and broke things up. When he realized what was what – he felt so sorry for the kids in T-shirts-n-caps that he took care of the bill personally. Then he made some phone calls to a few of his friends with the VFW, Sons of Italy, the parish
society that he belonged to .. and on it went. As it turned out, this man’s son got corporate sponsorship in addition to everything else.
I visited these kids at the start of their next season and to my total surprise, they took the field with T shirts, caps and dungarees – again ! What the….?
Here’s what happened. All the sponsorship that these kids got didn’t go towards bats and balls, uniforms or even a new pair of spikes. Instead, every youngster that joined the team got supported with plenty of volunteer coaches ( 8 to be exact) from two local colleges and a school gym during the off season to practice, plus an after school tutor program, and a scholarship fund for college after high school if they stuck to the program.
The team’s name – the pepperonis, was picked out by the owner of the pizza shop that started it all. It turned out to be his favorite topping and he made it himself. And the more I thought about it .. the more I liked it.