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The Joy of the Draft

When my oldest son entered the Caps draft four years ago I was appalled — the idea of grading and assessing 7-year-olds to see who got picked first second third etc. seemed demeaning.  It was also my first year as a caps manager  and I would be the one placing judgement and picking players. After I was done I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for judging 7, 8 and 9 year-olds — I felt triumphant. It was agonizing watching kids face their fears (you only have to watch one struggle, I had to watch 100’s). Even the best players weren’t immune to nerves. The religious parents were teaching kids how to pray at the plate, the humanists were teaching positive thinking, and then there were a few dishing out “tough love.” I had never seen such a herculean effort to overcome two ground balls and four swings at the plate. It was glorious!! Watching from that perspective I had fallen in love all over again with this beautiful — terrorizing sport.
My son cried he was so scared. We assured him with all the parental nourishment and admonition we could muster — and then it was over. The relief was unbelievable and the celebratory Slurpee never tasted so good.
You see — you cannot know the joy of baseball until you’ve known it’s bitterness. Until you’ve felt the agony of strike three you will never understand the elation of rounding first. How can you “live life like a 3-1 count” if you’ve never been at the plate with 3 balls and 1 strike? In baseball you can do everything right and get out. You can do everything wrong and get on. That’s baseball — and guess what — that’s life. Baseball is a Shakespearean tragedy re-written every year in the lives of our precious children.
If you were part of that tragedy last year and you’re back again, it means that you found joy in the journey and you’re hungry for more — and we saw a lot of hunger this year. It was an impressive tryout and we look forward to the season in all divisions.

In the next few weeks we will draft the teams for the different divisions. I want to educate the parents so that they can be prepared to educate their favorite player about how they were selected by their coach.

I never thought #9 would ever be as big as #14 . . . never say never.

There is no age restriction on any of the divisions but Caps and Majors. Little League is not insured to send a League Age 6-Year-old up to bat against another kid pitching. Thus, all League Age 6’s will play Rookies or T-Ball. If a League Age 7 child was big enough, strong enough, and skilled enough he could play in Minors but not Majors (see page 12-13 of the 2019 LL Rule Book aka The Green Book). Majors is a 9-12 year-old division created to express the full abilities of the players. In a more advanced display of baseball, players will be assigned certain positions rather than rotating to different ones.  While a big emphasis will be placed on skill development, positions and batting ordered will be assigned by merit.  A slightly more regimented routine will be utilized to help the players play as a team, and unfortunately, the end of nachos in the dugout : )  For some of our Majors players the velocity of pitching is sever and the exit velocity off the bat is tremendous. Because of the high velocities at the Major level, some League Age 12’s are permitted to play Minors because they lack the skill sets necessary to protect themselves from harm.

At FHLL we have created the Caps and Minors division to develop certain skill sets in the players. In Caps we work the fundamentals of throwing, catching and hitting. There are some elements of competition, but Caps is a time dedicated to give all players a chance to play all positions. At FHLL we mandate that every Caps player play the infield for a minimum of one inning. In Minors we continue to work fundamentals and begin developing the competitive instincts of players. There is a higher level of competition with a chance at post season play — the Division Champion enters the District 41 tournament. Minors does not mandate players play the infield, however coaches at the Minors level are encouraged to let players play different positions.

Players will be drafted by ability, not by age or tenure in the league. This can be a challenge for families and players. No one is cut from FHLL. But some players may not make the division they desire. Everyone will play in the division that will bring them the greatest joy. But the joy may not come immediately when you discover that you will not be in the same division as your friend.

1990 11 Year-old in Minors

2017 Father/Coach

I was a mediocre Little Leaguer and cut from my Freshman Baseball team. Baseball has always been something I loved but was never very good at (I like to think that I was surrounded by exceptional players ; ). I was the 11 year-old that played Minors, never made an All-Star team, and spent a whole caps season in the dugout sobbing because I struck out every at-bat. But that didn’t destroy or degrade the game I still love. I teach it to my children and study it as a fan. I feel like my baseball inadequacy has made me a more compassionate father and coach. I appreciate the exceptional player and relate to the mediocre. If you don’t like the results of the draft this year, please let it help you teach (or perhaps learn) this one lesson,

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

[The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” 

 “Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973

Don’t let this season be a missed opportunity to be grateful for these beautiful fields, great friends, dedicated volunteers and wonderful game. Being successful is not determined by where you are placed, but by how you play in that place where you stand – baseball ready! If you play with heart, conviction, and gratitude — I guarantee, you will find joy.

Sincerely,

Matt Mackay

FHLL Player Agent