I recently attended one of the first games to start the Conejo Valley Little League’s 2022 season at the Alex Fiore Ball Fields, one of many Conejo Recreation and Park District facilities. My current favorite baseball player is my oldest grandchild, who was playing in his very first baseball game. This was not to be missed! First game jitters and blustery, cold winds aside, he had fun, racked up a couple of base hits and enjoyed spending time with his team. Getting to eat an In-N-Out Burger after the game topped the morning off!
Watching the game brought a flood of childhood memories to the forefront of my mind — spending quality time with my dad as the coach, developing a real passion for the game of baseball, playing catch and pick-up games with my younger brother and friends after school, and riding my bike to the park for baseball practice with my glove hanging from the handlebars.
LITTLE LEAGUERS HAVE BEEN RECITING THIS PLEDGE SINCE IT WAS FIRST WRITTEN IN 1954 BY PETER J. MCGOVERN…. IT IS A SIMPLE YET RATHER PROFOUND STATEMENT.
Traditions abound in baseball. Before my grandson’s game began, the players lined up on the baselines, faced home plate and the American flag and removed their ball caps as the national anthem was played. All the young players stood respectfully and quietly. At the conclusion of the song, the obligatory “Play Ball!” was shouted, and the game began. I was pleased to see that these meaningful traditions have remained after so many years.
There was one more, too.
Following the game, the team once again lined up, and this time, they congratulated each other with high fives up and down the baseline. Players, coaches and parents started collecting baseball gear, jackets, bags and water bottles and headed over toward the main ball field where the opening ceremony was to take place. Teams in uniforms of all colors and with a variety of names gathered behind their banners to participate in the parade over to the field.
When teams were in their designated positions, the ceremony began. Once again, the national anthem was played while all players, coaches and others stood quietly and respectfully. Afterward, there were the appropriate welcoming remarks and recognitions, but there was another element that caused me to reflect again on my childhood baseball years: the recital of the Little League Pledge. A player was introduced to lead the players in the Pledge:
“I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”
“I TRUST IN GOD. I LOVE MY COUNTRY AND WILL RESPECT ITS LAWS. I WILL PLAY FAIR AND STRIVE TO WIN. BUT WIN OR LOSE, I WILL ALWAYS DO MY BEST.”
Little Leaguers have been reciting this pledge since it was first written in 1954 by Peter J. McGovern. It was drafted to give leagues a way to honor the sentiments of the Pledge of Allegiance while adding references to sportsmanship and the desire to excel. It is a simple yet rather profound statement.
Baseball is often referred to as America’s great pastime. The Little League Pledge has withstood the test of time. Perhaps with his family’s support and the dedication of others, my grandson will remember the Pledge’s words well beyond his first year of baseball, like I have. With his dad as a coach and several other dedicated parents involved, it’s sure to be a memorable season. Let the traditions continue.
By Doug Nickles
Previously published by The Conejo Guardian Independent Community News
(Republished with consent of the author.)
Doug Nickles is a director/board member for the Conejo Recreation and Park District, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and the California Association of Recreation and Park Districts. The views expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of the district, agency or the respective boards.