by Paula M. Riley
When the Red Barons lost to the Sky Chiefs in Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club’s (CHYSC) playoff game, last Saturday, June 22, tears were shed. And not only by young players on the losing team. As a parent of two Red Barons, I too had misty eyes.
It wasn’t this minor league team’s one-run loss and their elimination from the playoffs that caused my tears, rather that bittersweet feeling parents experience as they witness the joy and pain their children endure.
The Barons wanted to triumph and, after a long season of rain postponements and batting practice, they weren’t ready for it all to end.
Ours was one of those seasons you think you’ll never forget, even though you know the details will fade. Leading the kids was Brien Tilley, one of the most positive and encouraging coaches I’ve ever met. For the first, and probably only time, my daughter and son played on the same baseball team. In the final game, playing at shortstop and second base, they pulled off a force out at second. Forget any ESPN “Play of the Day” – this was by far the best moment in baseball history.
As they high-fived each other, the stands erupted. Parents beside me were as excited for the sibling pair as I was. I wanted to pinch myself.
“This is what it’s all about,” I thought.
CHYSC (formerly known as Fathers Club), brings families and communities together in a way unlike other experiences. Sitting in those stands were families we met at our first tee ball game years ago, friends from school and neighbors; previously just familiar faces we now call friends.
All of us were brought together the same way CHSYC has been uniting families since its inception in 1962. Sharing the ups and downs of six innings, we also shared many laughs and conversations, and week after week, built relationships. My kids now spend afternoons with their new buddy, the Barons’ catcher who lives just around the corner and our weekends include cookouts with teeball friends.
In a community where kids attend multiple schools, CHYSC offers an opportunity for new friendships and stronger neighborhoods. Since ours is a small pedestrian village, we encounter friends made at CHYSC long after the final out. Our family has formed great bonds with families we never would have known otherwise. We are thankful for these friendships and hope that next season, even more families will join CHYSC baseball.
Some may find the game of baseball too slow, not athletic enough or simply boring. I appreciate these sentiments as I once felt the same way. A closer look and five years at the sidelines have taught me differently. Baseball is the fine balance between team and individual challenges.
I am now convinced that standing at the plate with a full count, two outs and down one run in the last inning will better prepare my kids for a boardroom presentation than any class they’ll take in school.
Whether bunting to advance the runner or letting another player catch the fly ball, players learn critical lessons about relying on others and putting team above self. When my children console each other after a strikeout or jump on one another when they cross home plate, I feel overwhelming gratitude that I have healthy kids who can play ball together and share it all with such a great community.
There is so much that goes into creating these memories and as this season ends I am thankful for volunteer coaches, Joe Pie’s daily attention to the Water Tower fields, volunteers selling treats at the snack bar, sponsors, patient tee ball parent coaches and everyone else working behind the scenes. Sure, sometimes I complain about the organizational issues and kinks in the CHYSC system. Ultimately though, when Saturday morning comes around whether I’m watching my teeball player’s proud face after a ‘hit’ or walking home from a victory at the Water Tower, I count CHYSC as one of the reasons Chestnut Hill is such a great place to live.