My car’s dashboard read 114 degrees as the outside temperature when I parked across the street from the Selma Little League field at about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
It was between games for the Northern California State Tournament of Little League baseball’s Intermediate Division and assistant tournament director Josh Forney was lining the field for the 5 p.m. game. Trying to stay cool, 13-year-old ballplayers and their families milled around in the shade.
Despite the extreme heat, this was a prime time weekend for Selma Little League. According to Selma sports historian Will Goldbeck, only one other time had Selma hosted a regional youth baseball tournament — by the Babe Ruth League in 1991.
But this tournament, which opened on Saturday and runs through Thursday (or Friday, if needed), is significant for more than its historical value. It is also a big part of the 2021 back-toward-normal sports season.
With COVID-19 shutting down most sports in 2020— from youth leagues to the professionals — we must savor every opportunity to retake our courts and fields of play.
That’s just as true for these 13-year-olds as it is for my gang of Pickleball geezers who hang out several days a week across the street at Brentlinger Park.
Forney, Vice President of Selma Little League, said the Intermediate Division State Tournament gave the Selma all-star team a chance to play against the best teams in Northern California.
But it goes beyond that, said Forney, himself a Selma Little Leaguer from 1989-93.
“It is extremely important for kids to be back on the field, competing against other kids,” he said.
We encourage our children and grandchildren to compete in sports because of the lessons taught on the playing field: Teamwork, effort, focus, fitness, determination, sportsmanship, integrity.
The reward for doing all that better than most is to play in a post-season event. This current Intermediate Division tournament at the Selma Little League field is a state tournament, with no further advancement.
Selma Little League had only 10 days to put it all together, and the volunteers mobilized to find sponsors, print schedules, make gift bags for visiting teams and groom their field. The only thing they couldn’t accomplish was bringing decent weather for the visitors from all over Northern California.
Indecent conditions or not, the show must go on. Kudos to the Selma Little League gang for putting together an event on short preparation time and showing off Selma to folks whose only previous experience with our town might have been whizzing past on Freeway 99.
Selma’s team lost its opening game on Saturday. So by the time you read this story, Selma will either be done or still alive in the double-elimination State Tournament.
But no matter the results, the winners are obvious. Our kids.