Kids need opportunities, not Disney movie endings

Posted on August 16, 2006

Nine-year-olds care about winning baseball games. Just ask Peter Smith, Maurice Robinson and Billy Rogers.

Peter has been to many Washington Nationals games this year, and he just recently started keeping track of the team's boxscores. Maurice listens to Baltimore Orioles games and his great-grandfather, who tells tales of John McGraw, Babe Ruth and Frank Robinson. Billy never seems to come inside until after dark, usually because he is in front of his house, playing baseball with the neighborhood friends.

It's difficult for a child to completely understand the recent events surrounding Romney Oaks, a 9-year-old cancer survivor from Bountiful, Utah, who made the final out in a Little League championship game after the opposing coach intentionally walked the player before. But Peter, Maurice and Billy all have the same thoughts.

"I would want to hit," Peter said. "And maybe I could hit a home run."

"It would be fun to play in a game like that," Maurice said. "And it would be great to win."

"Winning the championship would be awesome," Billy said. "I would like to get a trophy too."

There's only a slight difference between Romney and this trio of boys. Peter was paralyzed from the waist down at age 4 after an automobile accident. Maurice was born blind. And Billy has bounced around guardians and has lived in three different households since his parents were placed in jail four years ago.

Now, before you go Oprah on me and try to find these kids in the phonebook or online, you won't. That's because I made up the names and the stories. But let's face it: Are they really made up? Are we spending a little too much time worrying about a kid who has already made it much further than expected, and much further than others in the same (or worse) predicaments?

There's no doubt that Romney is a hero. Doctors found a malignant cranial tumor when Romney was 4. There was a significant chance that he wouldn't make it too much longer.

But here he is, 9 years old and playing baseball. This past season, he had had two hits after receiving a handful of at-bats. Then came the championship game, where it just so happened that he was on deck in the last inning, with two outs and first base open. The batter took a pass, and Romney stepped in and struck out. Now, the opposing team's coach is receiving grief because of his decision to face perhaps the weakest hitter on the team.

I think it's asinine that there's even a question regarding what to do in this situation. If Romney didn't have the ability to compete, why was he summoned to play? If you decide not to walk the batter before, and he hits a home run to win the game, what do you tell your players?

There are lessons that should be learned at an early age. One important one is this: There are no free passes in life. There are numerous sports leagues available for kids now where a score is not even recorded. I understand this philosophy when you are teaching kids how to play; but how do you explain this down the road?

Everyone doesn't "win" when applying for schools, finding jobs and asking out potential dates. However, by applying what you have learned through studies and failure, children can find a way to win and achieve success in a myriad of ways.

Well, not everyone can do this as easily. Some kids have plenty of opportunities that others do not. In this case, Romney not only had a chance to play baseball, he had a chance to win the game. A winning hit would have been a made-for-Disney event. Peter, Maurice and Billy can only dream of being in Romney's situation.

"It sure would be great to really play baseball, instead of just hearing about it," Maurice said.

Sure, I made up the quote ... but it is real, isn't it? Romney is already a winner. He doesn't need a game-winning hit, or an uproar over a single strikeout, to prove otherwise.