Summer baseball is a time for Maplewood/South Orange youth baseball enthusiasts to sharpen their skills learned in the spring recreation league while playing in competitive leagues against teams from neighboring towns across northern NJ. There is a competitive two-day tryout after which boys are selected for "Red" and "Black" teams. They play three games a week from mid-June to late July, plus weekend tournaments.
Many times there are more boys than spots on a roster, leaving disappointed baseball players wishing for an opportunity to play summer ball. This was the case for both the 11- and 12-year-old teams this past spring.
In an effort to give as many boys the chance to play summer ball as possible, the Maplewood/ South Orange summer baseball committee decided to combine those boys from the 11- and 12-year-olds who did not make the "Red" or "Black" team into a one team that would play in the 12-year-old league. Thus was born the Maplewood South Orange Cougar Baseball 12U White team. Led by head coach Mike Worth and assistant coaches Marty Winters and Atha Baugh, the team headed into the season with five 12-year-olds and ten 11-year-olds. They would have to play on the more challenging (bigger) 50/70 baseball field, on which none of the 11-year-olds had regularly played before.
From a conventional standpoint, it has been a difficult season. I am not writing to tell you that these boys have won any tournaments or that they are undefeated in the regular season. No, as a matter of fact, three weeks into the season, the boys had their first win Monday night in South Orange after a long string of losses. I am writing to tell you that the parents, coaches and players have learned there is so much winning in losing.
We celebrate moments: a caught ball in the outfield, a strike out, a stolen base, a first home run, an inning where me make three easy outs. In these moments I have seen the boys encourage each other, learn from their past mistakes, handle their frustration with grace, and become not just better baseball players, but better teammates and friends. Even after losing every game in three weeks they show up to the field positive, ready to try their best, and ready to play ball.
They may have had their first winning score Monday night, but there was no big celebration, no whoops and cheers. No, just a group of great and happy boys who love to play baseball looking forward to their next game.
Jenny Winters is the mother of Maxwell Winters, 13-year-old baseball enthusiast.