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A Refreshing Knapp – More to it than winning (April 22, 2015 issue)

The professional game of swat started again before the last snowfall. (At least the last snowfall in Boston) Bats are cracking across the nation and that includes Unicoi County. Other than the flowers blooming, trees leafing out, weather warming, and bees buzzing – there’s nothing sweeter in springtime than the sound of the umpire barking: “Batter up! Play ball!”
I hand the news and obits section of The Erwin Record to my wife and head to the sports section where Curtis Carden has laid out in pictures and words how our boys and girls Blue Devils’ teams are faring – and they’re doing quite well this year. The Lady Devils won the Eastman Invitational Softball Tournament in Kingsport earlier this month. It must have been a good feeling to sing, “We are the Champions – We are the Champions!” on the ride back to Erwin. And the boys are well above the 500 mark.
Thanks to a dozen local businesses and service clubs sponsoring little league teams there is always an eager supply of players ready to step up to the plate and take the place of departing seniors. Though the county’s kids are serious about winning, they are taught good sportsmanship from the pee wee league on up, and that someone has to lose and someone always wins – so they are what you would call, “Good Sports.”
I have a grandson on one of the pee wee teams and try to make it to all of his games. I sure give kudos to the coaches of these teams for their patience in mentoring. Of course most of their little chargers have never swung a bat before and though – sometimes, not often, they make some amazing hits, throws, and catches, their mistakes are usually the most memorial and amusing part of the game.
I was paying close attention to one little fellow who swung the bat with might and fury. By some miracle he connected with the ball on the second pitch knocking it all the way out of the infield. He tore around the bases at top speed, beating the ball back to home plate. Unfortunately, he tore “around” the bases without touching any of them. When the ball reached the catcher, he ran over and tagged out the young Babe Ruth who was proudly strolling towards the dugout.
The next inning my grandson’s team was in the outfield and the bases were loaded. The batter of the opposing team hit a grounder that rolled halfway to the fence. Two of the runners made it home and the other was almost to third when, by a stroke of good fortune, my grandson playing second base, caught the ball thrown in from the outfield. He has a good arm and can throw the ball all the way from second to home. Unfortunately the catcher had lost interest in the game at that time and was 10 feet from the plate talking to someone in the dugout of the opposing team. The runner scored.
Yes, I certainly give credit to the coaches for their patience and willingness to work with these little fellows. They are what you would call, “Good Sports” who keep their cool and sense of humor under circumstances like I just described.
Back when my boys were into pee wee and on upward, one of them, Mark I believe, decided that he would make baseball a career. Unfortunately he missed out by not making his high school team. Never quite making a dream come true is part of life. Sometimes your talents lay somewhere other than where you want them to be.
Some years later he was Head Coach for the Acworth, Georgia Tigers. Unfortunately that ‘T’ Ball team went winless that year. Following the final game and final loss, Mark gathered the team and their parents. As they sat on the bleachers, he gave a rousing pep rally, reminding them how close they had come to winning several games, and though they hadn’t won any games they had never given up; which in his book made them all winners. I felt right proud of my son and his team that day.