At the Bronco Division Championship Game, players were announced, the national anthem rang as participants oriented themselves to the star-spangled banner and sang along, and then a ceremonial first pitch was thrown! Somewhere in the world where spirits live on, Ed Davis (one of the league founders) cheered as his daughter’s throw crossed home plate and landed in the ready glove of 12-year old Noah Hanes. No doubt he then shouted, “PLAY BALL!” As a child, Dianne Whiting listened in on the very first board meetings held in her family’s living room. She proofread game reports written up by her brother for print in the local newspaper. She spent Saturdays on ball fields and in dugouts. She ultimately raised two boys who both played in LCJBA. And she was there on Saturday night to throw the ceremonial first pitch commemorating 60 years from when her dad, Gilbert “Smitty” Smith, and others put together a league to enable MORE KIDS TO PLAY MORE BALL! As she read the words on the plaque given to her by LCBSA, tears formed in her eyes and she invited the fans gathered at the field to help the legacy forward for another 60 years!
Dianne Whiting, daughter of league founder, Ed Davis, threw the Opening Pitch
Noah Hanes (Bronco Division catcher), Dianne Whiting, Todd Whiting (grandson of Ed Davis and former LCJBA player), Todd Reynolds
Also as part of the pre-game ceremony, Kevin Callahan received the Sam Maya award. Every year the Shetland managers vote on which manager best exemplified the spirit of teaching in the Shetland program. To engage a handful of five and six year olds is no small feat. To do it with a positive and constructive attitude is challenging. To do it with that kind of attitude AND find a way to teach them basic fundamentals of baseball is simply amazing! Let’s take in to another level. Kevin did all that WHILE coaching two other teams (yes, three teams at once). And let us take it one step further. Kevin did it AND found a way to win two championships with his non-Shetland teams. No one would have thought two championships AND the Sam Maya award were possible in a single season. In 2014, Kevin Callahan did it! No one has ever questioned Kevin’s bark when it sounds. No one has ever wondered if he enjoys the competitive nature of a baseball game. As for me, having watched him coach dozens and dozens of players over the years, it was my honor and genuine privilege to present him with this award and recognize his unique ability to teach and mentor and encourage young kids as they start their baseball experience.
2014 Shetland Manager Kevin Callahan receives esteemed Sam Maya Award
As another season comes to a close, I feel it appropriate to share a few thoughts:
First, our treasure is truly where our hearts are.
And our hearts are many times where our time is spent. Once again, I see in the faces of many coaches and managers a love and respect for their little players. That endearment is borne out of sacrifice and commitment and a willingness to serve those young people. As parent volunteers sacrifice time, energy, emotion, and resources for their team, they become emotionally invested in those little guys and each other. And it is a joy to see that process occur for so many people! As more and more parents share their time and efforts in community endeavors, the very fabric of our community becomes stronger and our children will be the beneficiaries. Shauna and I have made some of our closest friendships on ball fields (and have felt some of our toughest stresses on those same fields). Like other sports programs, LCBSA is a wonderful context for community-building. A HUGE thank you to the many, many volunteers who helped make the 2015 season a success for over 700 of our community children!
Second, we have some changes at the league level this year.
A) Beth Huston has served as our league Treasurer over the past two years. She has organized information that has helped us make more precise and productive decisions. She has tracked every penny to ensure that funds are used for appropriate purposes. And she has participated in just about every single board meeting, offering insights representing both softball and baseball interests. Thank you, Beth, for your time and diligence and candor!
B) Tom Higa will be taking on a different role on the board for the 2016 season, stepping down as VP Baseball. (Is it possible to get emotional writing an email? Apparently so.) Tom has given more time and sleepless nights than anyone I’ve known in my years in LCBSA. As a project manager by trade, he is used to knowing everything going on in every area of every aspect of the organization and helping move the whole process forward. That is precisely what he did for two years for La Canada baseball. As VP Baseball, Tom Higa was the brain behind everything in that program. Not only did he take personal responsibility for divisional and team experiences, he took emotional ownership of 500+ children having a positive and uplifting experience. We spent countless hours discussing how to turn a negative experience brought on by the adults into a positive one for the children. I think he typed a few volumes worth of emails to coaches and parents about the league’s philosophy of “life lessons and positive experiences for players.” Everything he did was founded in our primary question: “Does it get more kids playing more baseball?” Under his leadership, league officials changed the Shetland program to fewer players per team (even though it meant more work for him and the divisional GM) and adjusted the playing rules so that more kids got to hit more often and more kids got to field more often. He personally walked baseball fields several times each season to see if there was anything in need of repair or dangerous to players. He helped revise tournament team guidelines, divisional playing rules, and protocols for GMs. He spent many evenings at games that weren’t his own, observing managers and getting to know players so that he was educated when issues would arise. He coached his own son’s teams while running the program, which is not easy. And he made many, many decisions that weren’t always popular with every single player or parent, but were the right decisions to make. My heartfelt appreciation goes out to Tom for the thousands (literally) of hours he gave and thousands of pounds of emotional weight he carried and the friendship and support he offered to me over the past two years. And he did it simply because he was asked to and knew it needed to be done. He had no desire to take on this role and put his family and his career and his time with his children on the line. But he did it anyway. For that, Tom has my profound thanks and personal esteem, especially as two of my own kids benefitted from his and his family’s sacrifices. If you see Tom walking with an extra skip in his step after the season is over, you now know why.
C) George Chumo will be taking Tom’s place for the 2016 season. George has been a divisional General Manager for the past couple of years, he serves on the LCBSA Board, and he was our Fields Coordinator for the 2015 season. George has exhibited an uncanny ability to show up precisely when he’s needed (preparing a field after a rain, fixing a dugout filled with rocks, managing a parent situation in one of his divisions, etc.). He is anxious for his players and his own children to learn important life lessons while playing sports. And like Tom, George is willing to run baseball simply because we asked him to and it needs to be done. His philosophy for rec league baseball is in perfect alignment with that of the founders and recent league leadership. And we’re thrilled that George will bring a whole new personality to this role and find a way to build on what Tom and his predecessors have done for the children of La Canada Baseball and Softball.
Third, we all make mistakes.
This season was particularly challenging for me. I made some mistakes in meetings, in games, in decision-making. I also may have sent an unnecessarily harsh email about parking in the Community Center lot (maybe not harsh enough?). I may have hurt feelings somewhere along the way, unknowingly or unintentionally, and I didn’t have a chance to apologize. I am so grateful to those who have forgiven me . . . or have forgiven Tom . . . or Chip . . . or their coach or GM or parent or player or teammate. It’s not an easy thing to admit wrong-doing (intentional or not). It’s even more difficult to forgive it. Shauna continues to help me learn how to admit when I’ve made mistakes. :) And so many of YOU are teaching me, by your examples, how to forgive when someone hurts my feelings. There are so many wonderful people in our community! There are so many wonderful kids! We all get a little crazy over silly things every once in a while. If there is one thing I’m learning it is that most everyone is trying their best to serve others. In doing so, we simply will bump noses with our neighbor every once in a while. Let’s build friendships made of forgiveness and not fences made of hurt feelings. I can say without reservation that we have an extremely hard-working group of parent volunteers and we all truly appreciate your patience and forgiveness, and we know that you often offer us both. Thank you. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2016!