Back in 1983 the big plan was to have a ball team.
I dreamed, wanted to sponsor a Houlton Maine little league team. But the slots were taken, had all the sponsors they needed. Until Shop and Save’s management adopted a policy that the players needed to raise the membership fee to sponsor a team individually. So they gave up their team. I lucked out as a proud new sponsor. What a little league team to inherit, to have fall in my lap too.
Many kids that play little league baseball are struggling with enough money to just buy a glove.
Lacking the support behind them to get to the ball diamond for games and practices. And in a small town like Houlton Maine in Aroostook County, the entire village pitches in to help each boy or girl have the experience of being on a team. The structure and discipline of what it takes to work as a team. To earn a victory, suffer through a lean building season. How to win and lose as a team. Which happens a lot in life right? Losses are lessons. Victory is sweeter when it is not a given.
To learn the skills to win little league games and improve the goal.
To lose gracefully but maybe make the playoffs. Get a second chance to come from behind as skills get honed later in the season. I have enjoyed the little league teams over the years as much as the kids running and defending the bases. My oldest daughter and two sons were on our team and had a step daughter that was fun to watch at Community Park. In all their games as pretty talented athletes. The exercise, the “good game good game” chant down the line at the end. Welcome to small town living in Houlton Maine.
The first year’s team I went all out. Investing a thousand dollars in to pin stripe uniforms that were sharp, professional. Did actually look like the New York Yankees in Red Sox Nation though. An expense account set up at the local Houlton Farms Dairy Bar for after hard fought games. Win or lose when everyone gets a treat. When you step up to the window and let the lady know what you want for a size and ice cream flavor.
Today the star pitcher who called me today out of the blue reminded me of the experience he went through. He was a very dedicated player, very good and tough on himself, others on the team. An inspiration but I did not know the whole story why. But heard painful bits and pieces of it that I suspected but did not know the who, what and where about of the background details.
I remember the catcher Danny Erikson saying Luke Barnard was all over him if he bobbled the pop fly, missed the cut off throw.
But Danny’s mom reminded him “Danny, Luke is no harder on you then he is himself.” She was right. Luke was playing for greater stakes than the town championship that he was able to secure for the team as the heart, soul of the “red machine”. It was more than just a Houlton Maine little league game to Luke. Not just a plastic gold trophy and being hoisted high on his team players’ shoulders for making it happen. Or the star in the parade float we pull behind our jeep each year in the 4th of July parade.
He was living in the shadow of his older brother Ryan who was equally talented, gifted. And came before him. Set the stage, records to break. Was the benchmark to meet and surpass if he could to find his own place in the sunshine of his Dad’s approval, acceptance.
Wanting his Dad’s admiration and needing to prove something to gain his love and affection. We all want to make our parents proud. But this is not a healthy application of that desire.
Coming out on top in the game was not just a try your best and you get an ice cream win or lose situation.
Luke had to win. Driven by more than sheer athletic prowess. And did one heck of a job on the mound and as a utility infielder all in one. He was everywhere on the little league ball diamond getting the plays under control to notch another win.
Today I got a call from the kid that was the heart and soul of my first little league team and he was looking for housing. We had the best conversation about what he went through, where he is today and he turned out to be a nice young man. And will be a heck of a Dad.
I will help Luke anyway I can and am amazed at what he shared with me. How great he became despite all the setbacks and growing up so early. Rescuing other family members in the process.
My childhood on the Maine farm was tame in comparison to the story Luke spun.
It can make you naive and blind to bad things that do happen to good people, especially kids that are not fair. Make whatever happens to you somehow allow you to land on your feet. And be better for it.
And when you hear someone crying out, that is broken, needing help, be there for them. Return the favor that someone extended you when you needed a friend or maybe did not deserve one as you worked on dark issues, hurt in your heart that made you less than a happy, grateful camper. Maine is famous for places to heal, special hidden areas to get away from people and open up your heart to improve.
Maine, get here quick as you can. Come for a day, stay a lifetime. Consider the move to become a coach and build a little league team. We need your talents and everyone contributes something in a small Maine town.
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MOOERS REALTY 69 North ST Houlton ME 04730 USA