The 12U Jupiter Hammerheads are back from a road trip that made lifetime memories for everyone involved. Like all things in life, some memories are good, and some… not so much.
What everyone will remember is rain. Soaking, wind-driven rain that turned every one of the 23 fields into a re-creation of the rainout scene in Bull Durham. Sloppy, sticky clay stuck to everything, and the overnight lows in the 40’s ensured that nothing dried out over night. The unheated barracks huts turned into cold, damp hells with gritty concrete floors that smelled of wet dogs and feet. Of the six days of baseball activities, the sun peeked through on two of the days. Two of the pool games were eliminated in order to play a complete elimination schedule. Ultimately, the championship game finished at 3:30 AM on Wednesday, as the forecast for the final day (Thursday) called for better than 90% probability of rain. Even the closing ceremonies were rained out.
The boys will also remember the most valuable lessons taught by youth sports. They learned how to pick each other up and they learned that eleven talented athletes can become better than the sum of the individuals by force of will and shared determination. They will remember a defense that committed only four errors across six games in the worst conditions under which baseball could be played. They will remember being on the team that threw the only two-pitcher no-hitter of the entire week. They will remember the kid with no bat finally connecting for an RBI double down the right field line. They will remember the second baseman doing a faceplant in the mud to snag an inning-ending bloop that prevented a run. They will remember seeing themselves in second place into the third day of pool play.
More than baseball, they will remember living together as a team. They will remember the silly one-liners that became a “thing” for the team for the week. They will remember that one of the coaches made (and enforced) a rule that bad behavior was rewarded with an upside-down visit to the barracks trash can. They will remember that an audible fart was punishable by 10 burpees. They learned how to subordinate their individual wants to the greater need of the team, and they learned how to be good roommates under adverse conditions. As twelve-year-old boys, they had their first real taste of how to live as grown men.
Even the humble beat writer covering the team had a lifetime memory formed. I got to watch as my son toured the Hall of Fame with his coach, a former pro player with the Marlins. The most memorable moment for me was when they stopped and spent ten minutes at a display that examined the various ways a young man could draw the attention of the scouts, and how that attention could become a pro contract. A good listener could hear the dreams coalescing in my son’s head.
Baseball-wise, the Hammerheads did very well. They finished in the top 25% of the 104 teams that played. As a region, South Florida was on both sides of the field for the championship, and held five of the top ten spots.
All in all, a very good week. Except for the ever-loving, damnable, persistent, misbegotten, crappy weather.