SBJ/Aug. 4-10, 2014/In Depth

Little League memories

We asked sports executives to share their favorite Little League memories, either as a player or as a coach. Here are highlights of what they had to say:

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BOB IGER
Chairman, CEO, The Walt Disney Co.
Photo by: Getty Images


“I played Little League in Oceanside, N.Y., and while I didn’t really stand out as a player, the entire experience created indelible and very special memories for me. They are memories of friends, coaches and families, all gathered together on baseball fields at schools throughout my hometown. These were special experiences during special times. … Playing taught me a lot of things — from sportsmanship, to teamwork, to resilience. You had to learn how to enjoy victories, and how to absorb defeats.

“I always appreciated the commitment of both my parents. They set such a great example for me, as I attend numerous sporting events involving my two sons. It is my hope that my boys pass on the ability to keep life in perspective, and to spend time with their children.”



JONATHAN MARINER
Executive vice president, CFO, MLB

“The memories that I have are each son starting off in tee-ball and I think every father probably thinks about their kid playing tee-ball. It’s such an early stage for them, you’re just wondering about how they’re going to develop as players. I have three boys. They’re all out of college now, but my youngest son then and now is probably the most active. … I remember particularly him playing tee-ball. I’ve got videos of him doing it and so the memories I have are kind of the classic father-son, kid growing up, playing tee-ball, got the video of him playing tee-ball, getting a hit, running around the bases and those very poignant moments. …

“I think there is this connection that parents have watching a kid play baseball. There is something calming and pastoral about it. … I played baseball. There was an organized league, but I did the classic sandlot ball. I think every father who gets off work, myself included, to go see your son play, you just have visions of your kid coming up to bat — we all do this — and the bases are loaded and it’s an important run, or your kid is pitching and he’s got to make the right pitch. We all lived that.”



JOE SIMS
Vice president, operations, Delaware North Cos. Sportservice

(One of Sims’ accounts is Little League so he attends the annual World Series.)


“I wish I knew the name of the team, but they were from Louisiana. It was a small parish from Louisiana that their team had made it to the Little League [Baseball World Series] so the mayor and city council and everyone came up to root their team on. They brought a lot of Cajun food with them and had no place to heat it up. They got in touch with me and asked me if I could heat their food up for them. I took it into the kitchen and the mayor was actually in the kitchen warming the food up for his staff. They had a nice little picnic area out there and they invited me over to participate with them and I just thought that was so nice that someone who I’d never met before invited me to be an honorary member of their group. I thought that was pretty cool.”



TIM BROSNAN
Executive vice president, business, MLB

“I remember playing coach pitch and we had minors, majors and seniors. I can remember playing minors and I
Brosnan grew up playing Little League in New York City.
Photo by: Major League Baseball
think the first team I played on, and this is no phony baloney, was the Gristedes Comets … Even when we were little you got a shirt, a hat and a pair of stirrups. Again, the Gristedes Comets and then you went to play in the majors when you were 10 or 11 and I played a lot of baseball so I went to the majors when I was 10. I played I think for the Lenz Royals. Lenz was a delicatessen in our neighborhood. Then I distinctly remember playing for the D’Agostino Cardinals. Gristedes and D’Agostino are both grocery stores in New York. …

“Little League is what the community gathered around. Literally, Saturday was Little League from the crack of dawn until dusk until you couldn’t play anymore. Then Wednesday was the night games and then there was a designated practice day, so what Little League did then was it galvanized the community. It was what the community did from the beginning of spring until summer vacation. … Besides your religious worship, which was an appointed time, the other appointed time from April to June was your Little League schedule for parents, family, friends, everybody.

“I played Little League in New York City. I played on Con Ed Field on Avenue C and 16th Street. I grew up in a project and that was our field of dreams for sure. I was a pitcher and I spent a lot of time pitching with my dad and we didn’t even pitch in the project. We would walk over to the Little League field to do our pitching practice because that was the place where you did it. I played baseball seven days a week with my guys and played stickball and kickball and boxball and every other kind of stick and ball game, but when I was practicing for my games I practiced at the Little League field.”



MARK SHAPIRO
President, Cleveland Indians
Shapiro enjoys the bond.


(Shapiro has coached his 11-year-old son Caden for three years.)

“Some of the greatest memories I have and the bond that I have with baseball was built largely around the bond with my dad and his love of the game. For me, being able to take my life’s work and say here is this incredible game and here is a way for my son and I to build our own experiences around it instead of just through our Major League team, that is what youth baseball has offered me in my experience with my son.

“I remember he’s had a lot of really good games and the team has done a lot of great things, but the first time he walked the bases loaded and battled out of that jam … that for me kind of is the epitome of what baseball has to offer developmentally to kids. You’re alone in that situation. You’re either going to be able to find a way to handle adversity, setbacks and challenges and use them as moments to get better and develop as a person, not just a player, or you give in to it. I was so proud of him more for that than any other accomplishment that I remember that first year.”



DOUG PERLMAN
Founder, Sports Media Advisors

“I had a really neat experience last summer that sort of combined my past as a Little League participant with my
The Perlman brothers
family’s. My boys all play baseball. Unfortunately, our town is not a Little League town. They don’t play Little League but they play a lot of baseball and last summer Little League was kind enough to invite us down to the Little League World Series. … My boys at the time were 8, 10 and 12, and we had an incredible time. The Little League folks would let the boys take batting practice on the field, and then, as luck would have it, the Little League All-Star team that I had played for 30 years ago made the Little League World Series. … My boys got to see them play an incredible game in which they had a big comeback and a very exciting win. That was an incredible Little League experience that kind of intertwined a little bit of my past for the Westport, Conn., team with my kids’ current love of the game and we just had an amazing weekend.”



ROBERT HACKER
Vice president, business and legal affairs, Fox Sports

“In 1999, after years of my sons being on different teams, I coached both of them on the same team for the first time (Westchester, Calif., Little League). My older son, Max, was a 12-year-old and his brother, Charlie, a 10-year-old. Max was our best pitcher and Charlie was the starting second baseman and our leadoff hitter. The boys were, as brothers often are, just as likely to battle (big brother terrorizing little brother) as to hang out and have a catch. In one game, Max was particularly dominant, and as he struck out the last batter of the game to complete his no-hitter (one walk, 15 strikeouts), the first thing he did was to turn toward second base, do the then in-vogue Jordan fist pump and look at his brother, who raced to the mound to be the first one to embrace him. Clearly, it remains one of the happiest days as a father, a coach and a lover of baseball.”



SCOTT WARFIELD
Senior director, social media, broadcast communications, NASCAR
Warfield gets mobbed.


“Here is probably my most memorable experience from my 10 years coaching Little League baseball here in Charlotte. Attaching a picture of our celebration as it captures the moment beautifully. Yes, that’s what a walk-off home run to win the league’s first-ever state championship looks like! And yes, that’s me on my back after getting tackled by 12 11-year-olds!

“5 to 1, bottom of the sixth, 7, 8 and 9 hitters coming up. Rip to left. Chopper over 1st. Seeing-eye single to right. All of a sudden Myers Park Trinity Little League had life in the rubber match of the 2013 State Little League Championship. Not one 11-year-old in the first-base dugout was thinking about making history but instead was simply focused on making memories for a lifetime. A double, fielder’s choice and two-run opposite field home run later and MPTLL had its first state championship in the league’s 60-plus-year history.”



NORBY WILLIAMSON
Executive vice president, production, program scheduling and development, ESPN

“The best thing that stands out to me is the opportunity to coach both of my boys in Little League. They were two years apart, so there was some overlap and I got to coach them all the way through. One amazing memory was watching how the kids are able to deal with adversity at that level and lessons we can all learn from them. One year, our team had many injuries and we ended up losing every game we played, including 11 losses in one-run games. The kids are so resilient it’s incredible and, believe it or not, that year was the most fun we had. As you watch the kids, they teach everyone a great lesson. No matter how difficult the losses were, 15 minutes after the game, the kids would be out having pizza together enjoying life.”



ZACK SMITH
Director, consumer engagement, Taylor
Lesson learned for Smith: Don’t feel sorry for yourself.


“My key learning from Little League, one that has served me to this day: I was beaned in my first at-bat, sat there crying at home plate. My coach came out — and I was expecting a kind face, an ‘It’s OK’ chat. Instead he told me I better get down to first base quick, or he’d be pulling me out of the game. The life lesson: don’t feel sorry for yourself, don’t play the victim. Always be moving forward. The best way to feel better — at least it was in my case — is to steal second. (Rickey Henderson was my favorite player then.)”









MICHAEL GALANTE
Senior director, marketing solutions – international, NBA

“I played in central New Jersey. I remember everyone caring so much when uniforms were handed out to see what our team sponsor would be. Palumbo’s Pizza, Rocket Construction, Quality Fence, Rt. 18 Sports and others were all local businesses that sponsored our teams. They had their names on our hats (super high, mesh-back hats) and painted wooden signs on the fences. Everyone always hoped to get ‘a good name,’ whatever that meant. When I think back on that, it’s funny to me that I now work in the sports sponsorship business having no idea what went into it then.”



MATT BOYER
Vice president, client services, rEvolution

(Boyer coaches his son’s Little League team in Chicago)
Boyer, second from left, enjoys coaching.


“These kids have a lot of pride for their park. The competition with other Little League parks and teams is intense.
“You try to teach skills to those kids at that age and you teach winning. The thing is, though, you know you aren’t always going to win. When your team does lose, you want the kids to understand why they lost. The key is instilling with them that the loss should not come from a lack of hustle or from not listening to their coaches and teammates. It’s important for them to know that it doesn’t take skill to hustle and listen. These are important to life in the long run. Working hard and being a good listener will go a long way.”

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