It has been said that baseball is a lot like life. For the Mifflin County Babe Ruth 13, 14 and 15-year-old All-Stars, the experiences during the recent state tournaments can attest to that fact.
The 15-year-olds learned about perseverance. For the past two years, the nucleus of the Mifflin County team finished second, losing in the state finals each year. This year, the team could have fallen apart, but to the credit of the players, parents and coaches, it stuck together to see if the team could finally get over the top.
For the most part, the team that took the field in 2006 saw years of frustration come to an end when the announcer after the state final introduced the 2008 15-year-old Pennsylvania state champions, Mifflin County.
In fact, to see how much things have changed, in the two previous years, Mifflin County lost in the state finals by eight runs each time, 9-1 and 12-4. In 2008, Mifflin County won by that same margin, 11-3.
The 14-year-olds learned that success in life doesn't always come easy. As 13-year-olds in 2007, when Mifflin County won the state title, it seemed as if everything just fell into place.
Mifflin County came from behind to beat Wayne County, 4-3, survived Broomall-Newtown, 6-5 - and then who can ever forget "The Rally," when Mifflin County was down to its last two strikes in the top of the seventh against Broomall-Newtown, losing 2-0, and won 4-2.
But, there were more obstacles in the road this time, especially the host team, West End of Williamsport. The West Enders shut out Mifflin County in the first game in pool play, 8-0, and then came from behind to eliminate the local All-Stars, 10-9, in the semifinals. And this time it was West End that won the state championship.
Things that worked in 2007 went awry in 2008. But, every day in life isn't a win and a home run. Sometimes there are a lot of dropped balls and strikeouts.
The good news for the 14-year-olds is, they have a year to regroup and try it again in 2009.
I'm not a parent, but one of the joys of parenting, from what I have been told, is watching your child grow up to be a productive adult.
The Mifflin County 13-year-old team was much like that experience. It blossomed right in front of the eyes of the coaches and the parents.
The lesson here was, hard work pays off. The coaching staff did everything in its ability to mold this team into a winning one.
The team took extra batting practice. It went over fundamentals hour after hour. The coaching staff got extra instruction for the pitching staff. Before each game, the team met for a lunch for team unity.
When the 13-year-old team was picked at the end of June, it was just that - a group of 13-year-old players from different teams coming together to play baseball. When the tournament ended and Mifflin County was edged by State College in the state finals by a run in extra innings, they walked off the field as a team of young men.
So, what did we learn from the Mifflin County Babe Ruth All-Stars during the past three weeks of the tournament trail? That if you persevere long enough, something good might happen to you, that life isn't always full of the things going the way that you think they should, and there are going to be plenty of ups and downs. And, if you work hard enough, it pays off in the end.
Not bad lessons from a game played by 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds.