A Love Letter to Alicia Abbadessa

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I see you Alicia. I love, love, love your team-matching blue nail polish and how your hair is just slightly starting to frizz in the August heat of Williamsport, PA. I feel a sisterhood with you. How you put your head down and plug your ears as your son Jude Abedessa, one of the stars of the Maine-Endwell Little League team in this year’s Little League World Series, takes the mound. This is no regular day at the field. ESPN is here. A lot of people are watching.

We baseball moms can appreciate what it must have taken to get you and your son to this place. The years of practices, the driving, the piles of muddy baseball uniforms, the meal planning, the schedule juggling, the wins, the losses, the physical and emotional toll. You are every one of us.

I  admire how you seek to protect your own peace. In an interview with your local WBNG TV station you said:”Honestly, that’s what I always do when Jude takes the mound. I think I feel more pressure than he does.” Of course you do. You know that no matter his age or his talent, to you, that’s still a tiny tee-baller out there.

I know where you come from because I come from the same place.  A sleepy little Upstate New York town near where a little company called IBM started and changed the world. As you well know, most of IBM and many of the jobs are gone from that area now. So are most of my friends who like me, have long since moved on to bigger cities like Baltimore, Washington and New York. I think you have to be from there to understand just what it means to bring this kind of an honor to that area. How sometimes Endwell seems forgotten or past its prime. How much of a joy it is to see that from an ordinary place, come such extraordinary kids and parents.

It has to be more than just pure baseball talent that brought your son’s team to the Little League World Series. They had to have been taught to work as a brotherhood. To respect the game. To dedicate themselves. They must have learned that from parents like you.

My son’s grandmother lives just up the street from your son’s home field. Every time we drive by he says “There’s the sign, Mom. Home of Maine-Endwell Little League. New York State Little League Champions.” As a baseball brother, he always pauses with reverence and looks at the silent field saying, “I bet they dominate out there.”

Today the rest of the world got to see what your son’s team does as they became the 2016 United States Little League Champions. You know it is their victory, but it is yours too – and certainly a victory for everyone in Maine-Endwell.

Baseball can do that.

We can’t wait for the next time we drive by that sign and it reads:

“Maine-Endwell Little League. World Champions.”

But, like you said in the interview with WBNG-TV

“Win or lose, as long as they play their game, and they know they played their game and they stick together like they have, it’s a victory no matter what the outcome is. They’re winners in everyone’s eyes.”

In the meantime, I’m glad I got to know you, Alicia, if only vicariously. I felt like I was sitting next to you in those bleachers. You know us baseball moms are rooting for you. Thanks for doing us proud.

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Watching the Little League World Series

I always feel slightly guilty watching the Little League World Series, thinking that subjecting 12 year olds to playing baseball in front of a crowd that rivals that of a major league game is ultimately some type of exploitation. While I love seeing the players’ pure passion and fresh, determined faces that remind me so much of the kids I know, it just seems strange that it is through the lens of international television coverage on ESPN. While it is thrilling to see a young player make an amazing play, it can be just gut-wrenching to see one strike out, or make a costly mistake.

I see their cheering parents in the stands and feel a kinship, but imagine how exposed they must feel. I know I do when my son plays, and the crowd is much, much smaller. It must be simultaneously thrilling and terrifying to see one’s child playing such a challenging sport on such a large stage.

In a Baltimore Sun article by Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press, the Texas team’s pitcher-first baseman Zack Mack described the Pennsylvania team’s fans: “They’re mean – they were really rude. They complained a lot,” he said. In the same article, Kaden Peifer of the Pennsylvania team was quoted as saying, “At some points, I think it can be a little harder on us, because the fans expect us to beat everybody. But we’re not going to mercy-rule every team.”

Lets recognize that these players are not just kids out to only “have fun.” They are elite youth athletes who have dedicated themselves to playing the game at the highest levels against the best competition in the world. Like it or not, this type of pressure just goes with the territory.

But given the high stakes involved, can the fans try to understand that these are 12 year olds and at least not be mean, rude or expect them to beat everybody? Save that for the big league millionaires.  Or – maybe not -because not long ago, they were probably just Little Leaguers themselves.

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(Player’s parking lot – Wrigley Field, Chicago – July 2011)