June 19: Lombardi was only half right.
The following are my thoughts as inspired by the First Flight High School varsity baseball team following today’s loss during round 3 of the NC state playoffs. The season of shooting local sports has ended. So get in a comfy chair and grab your favorite beverage as this is a long post.
Everybody likes to win. Vince Lombardi said even more emphatically – “winning is everything.” While that “may” be true, the important thing is to win at what? The First Flight varsity baseball’s 2021 season ended today with a loss to Randleman 10-1, but they only lost a game. A baseball game that Randleman clearly won. They are truly a talented and well-coached team.
But to me, First Flight scored a major win by showing a lot of class and great sportsmanship before, during, and after the game. The elements of how to win at the more important game of life.
As you’ve seen by my posts – “I’ve been around, you see.” I’ve spent a zillion hours at ball fields and spent a lot of time in countless dugouts. Let’s just say that I’ve heard a lot, seen a lot, and yes, even smelled a lot. So I think that I have a good yardstick by which to judge the character of a team, and perhaps the character the parents – winning or loosing.
Let me cut to the chase – I have NEVER witnessed more class, sportsmanship and civility than I did tonight while shooting in and about the First Flight’s dugout. After all these many, many years I was impressed. Damn, I was (am) proud that they are from my home town.
Now don’t get me wrong, I did hear some locker room talk, naturally, and coaches “questioning” some calls, but those comments were short-lived and quickly replaced by shouts of encouragement for their teammates.
There were even complements directed at the other team! “Nice stop catcher.” “Now, that was a good pitch.” This made me smile. I spent a lot of time near the First Flight dugout after the 3rd inning. True, it was in-part due to the light (I am a photographer ya know), but it was also because the other team had several players that constantly, and loudly, made the baaing sound of sheep (I assume that it was to mean that their opponents were sheep lead to the slaughter). Let’s just say that I found it a “distraction” to my efforts to shoot the game. So I moved.
I had to laugh when I heard several First Flight players remark about the farmyard sounds. There was no “chirping” back at the other team as I have heard in countless dugouts but rather comments like – “well, dude, it really is a good imitation.” This and several other instances impressed me. I thought class. Again, don’t get me wrong – the team was fired-up and wanted to WIN the ballgame.
Just like the saying that good and respectful children reflect their upbringing and their parents, I learned tonight that the players and their class is also a product of the First Flight coaching staff. Now I don’t know coach Saunders very well even though I’ve been on the field many, many times. I thought that he was just unfriendly. But over the past week I must admit I was wrong. The coach is just very very focused and from the things that I’ve recently seen and heard, he’s a great coach and educator of young men. I heard him speak of what’s important and life lessons. I hear the word “son”several times. There’s a genuine fondness in his words and actions around his players. To that I say RESPECT coach. The team, school and community are lucky to have you.
It’s been a crazy year. So much has happened in the world that would make anyone worry about the future. I feel a little-less uneasy about things because I witnessed that there are still a lot of fine young men waiting in the wings.
Congratulations to the First Flight 2021 baseball team, I recorded a big W for their effort tonight.
Until next post, be kind, be safe and now I look forward to next season with the First Flight baseball team. They’ve taught me a lot.
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