Yogi Berra, the language-mangling New York Yankee, also once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
What you observe when you watch the boys (and a few girls) take to local Little League diamonds is that this diminutive form of baseball depends as much on the coaching talents of fatherhood as the hitting and fielding skills of the sport.
Take a night game, for example. The fathers arrive fresh from work, some in their suits, others already changed into colorful T-shirts bearing the names of their children’s teams —Thunder, Storm or Raptors, outsized words for such pint-sized players.
Out come the gloves, the bats and the balls. A simple ritual begins. Catch. A child throws. A father catches. Back and forth. Back and forth. Encouragement is given, adjustments made. The moment is timeless, the lessons eternal.
As game time nears, the young players gather around their coach. He makes eye contact, commands attention. A man never seems so large as when he is surrounded by children who look up to him. A good coach, like Eric Dahlke of the Timber Rattlers in the Mill Valley Little League, takes a knee before his team, knowing that little ballplayers need men who are big enough to meet them at their level.