As summer heats up and regular season comes to an end, a lot of us have only one thing on our minds … All-Stars! The culmination of a successful season can lead many Little Leaguers to their ultimate goal of playing America’s favorite past time in Little League heaven, or Williamsport, Pennsylvania as most people know it. But to the rest of us who work hard and play hard as either a volunteer, a coach, or a player and don’t make it to All-Stars; simply enjoying the time with our friends and family is all we need to carry us through the summer.
I can remember my Little League days like they were yesterday. It was 1994 and I was 12 years old. Not a care in the world except for getting good grades in school and playing the game that most of us love. I remember the searing summer heat of New Mexico and the occasional downpour of rain that would cool off the days just enough to keep playing one more out, one more inning, or one more game. I always wanted to make the All-star team as a 12 year old and I remember the anticipation, hope, and the disappointment of not making the team time and time again. Yes, I was sad and disappointed, but sometimes I was glad I didn’t make the team because I don’t think I could have dealt with the pressure, stress, and demand that many Little Leaguers go through just to win. Most summers, I just wanted to spend time with my friends and perhaps follow my Leagues’ team to the Western Regional tournament in San Bernardino, California.
Looking back on the summer of 1994 now, I don’t remember much. I don’t remember which of my friends and teammates made the All-Star team, I don’t remember which League won the District tournament or even which team won the Little League World Series. But one thing I do remember was the inspiration, hope, and life of one Albuquerque Little Leaguer. Many people knew him as Ambrose, but the fortunate enough people who got to follow him around like he was a celebrity, just long enough to play a little home run derby on the pee-wee field, had the privilege of calling him ‘Brose.
When Ambrose Alday first came to Albuquerque, he played at Mile High Little League where he excelled at baseball and went on to make the All-Star team. Later, he would move into Road Runner Little League’s boundaries and would shine as both a player and a person as he would continue to make All-Star teams and help win District and State tournaments. But for this young man, his heart and love of the game would take him farther than any Little League World Series and farther in strength and love for his friends and team than most of us will ever go in our lifetime.
In January of 2006, a testament to Ambrose’s strength and love was portrayed in a true-life story, Summer’s Stars by JW Cronican. This inspirational story of Ambrose’s 13, 14, and 15 yr old All-Star season as well as his short High School baseball career reminds us why we really play the game. The story reminds us that Little League isn’t just about making it to Williamsport for the “Big Game” or about the banners or trophies or any amount of fame any one child or coach may see. Ambrose reminds us that baseball (and life) is about friendship, family, the love of the game, and life’s little lessons no matter how hard they may be. He reminds us that our own personal happiness or success isn’t always the most important thing. And he reminds us how personal strength, selflessness, and sacrifice can lead to success in many areas of life.
So before All-Stars start, before the politicking, before you feel the stress of winning District or State or Regional tournaments, before you get so consumed in winning and trying to get to the Little League World Series, and before you forget why you participate in Little League; pick up a copy of Summer’s Stars and discover what the love of the game is really about.
And when All-Stars come and you start to feel the pressure and stress, let us remember Ambrose and the real reasons why we pick up a ball and glove every season.