COLUMN: Enjoy moment with our 11s

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By John Herndon

So many times during last basketball season, John Calipari admonished Kentucky Wildcat fans to enjoy the moment.

Have fun. Savor the good times. Remember that we are talking about games.

Games, in this instance, played by boys.

Boys who, for the time being, dream of hitting the walk-off home run in the seventh game of the World Series. Boys whose voices have not deepened and who probably should not be throwing curve balls.

Boys who know they have accomplished a big – no let’s make that REALLY BIG – deal. So big, of course, that no one in the history of Anderson County baseball – any league, any level – has done more in the past than the current group of Little League All-Stars has been able to accomplish in the present.

That present is the key to all that has happened with the Anderson 11’s.

Deadlines dictated that this column would go to press before the Anderson team would be playing in the state semi-finals on Tuesday night at Corbin. The Anderson team’s quest for a state championship – the highest honor this team can achieve – could have ended Tuesday night.

But the way this team has been pounding the ball – they won their first three games at the state by a combined score of 42-16 – it would have to have been a bit of an upset if they are not playing for the big prize Wednesday night.

This team is good. Very good. One that could be capable of great things down the road.

“We don’t care who we play,” Anderson coach and Little League president Bart Lewis said in an e-mail last week, following the team’s district championship. “Our team is flat hitting the ball – 10 home runs in six games – and our pitching and defense is very sound.”

Lewis said that Anderson committed four errors in six games through the district tournament.

With potential like that, it is easy to get carried away counting championships in our heads. That’s human nature.

But in the cesspool called college basketball recruiting, there are websites identifying supposedly the best sixth-grade basketball players in the nation. Or kids about the same age as the Anderson 11-year-old all-stars.

Sometimes, however, the greatest lessons in sport are those learned from kids who have a drive to win and a hatred of losing. All the while, they get over either result quickly and rarely think about what might be down the road.

We never know, whether in baseball or real life. Circumstances change. Life’s twists and turns render the plans we make obsolete.

Back in 2002, the Anderson Little League’s 9- and 10-year-old team made the state final four. Some of us were predicting a dynasty. Make no mistake, that group remained very good, going to the state high school tournament twice. But some decided to give up baseball for other sports. Injuries intervened. Others relocated.

That same year, the 12-year-old team from Valley Sports in Louisville won the Little League World Series. By the time they had finished high school some – think Zach Osborne – were highly sought-after talents. Others, we never heard from again.

That is what makes this moment so special. Chances are that this exact group of young men will not play baseball together again after the summer is over.

Oh, they will play but doing so as an exact group pounding everyone in sight might never happen again. As coaches like to say, every team is different.

It is said that when Rick Pitino coached basketball at Kentucky, he gathered his charges so he could read the parable of The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson.

In the story, a man learns the gift of The Precious Present. “The man chose NOW!” the parable says. “And now the man was happy. He felt at peace with himself. He agreed to savor each moment in his life…. The apparently good and the apparently bad…. Even if he didn’t understand. For the first time in his life, it didn’t matter. He accepted each of his precious moments on this planet as a gift.”

No matter what happens with the Anderson 11s, they have achieved an incredible accomplishment.

Enjoy the moment.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.