John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It was a major league moment in a minor league baseball game at the Little League state tournament.
It was a moment 10-year-old Kevin Kaster was prepared for and had been waiting for since the first pitch of the ball game. When he heard the ringing sound of the bat hitting the ball, his eyes grew as big as the hub caps on a 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. He never lost sight of the baseball as it flew toward him bouncing along the ground. But as he made his move to get into position to field the hot grounder, the unthinkable happened.
His feet lost their grip on the soft dirt of the infield, his knee slipped to the ground and it looked as though this moment would bounce past him and into the outfield, crushing the heart of a child who dreams of someday becoming the next major league baseball star.
But while the fans sitting in the stands held their breath, this young player never lost sight of the ball.
He kept his cool, somehow made the catch and came away with the stop. He didn’t get the out, but his effort saved a run and should be applauded.
After the play, he stood in the infield with a smile plastered across his face and reminded me why youth baseball is so much fun.
It’s not about the outs, it’s not about the hits and it’s not even about who ends up winning the game at the end of the day.
Baseball represents all that is great about summer. It’s about heading to the field with your friends and making sure that by the end of the game, your mom needs to wash your uniform.
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Denver, I learned to love the game, and baseball was a big reason that my summers bring back such warm memories. I don’t think I ever spent a day, or even a daylight hour, watching television or looking at a computer screen (we didn’t have a computer). I was never inside my parents' house from the day school got out in the spring until the teachers dragged us back to the classroom in the fall. In the summer, I had my baseball glove on my hand for so many hours that I had a tan line on my wrist. The only time I took it off was when it was my turn to bat.
To be honest, I probably did some other things in the summer, but my best memories come from playing a pickup game with my friends at one of the fields near my parents' house. I played organized baseball on a Little League team, but it was the game that truly stole my heart. It didn’t matter if the game was organized or if it was a bunch of school-age kids making the call at home plate.
It was the moment, it was the game and it was the memories we made that really mattered.
To reach John F. Russell call, 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com