Veteran TSLL coach reflects on how baseball teaches kids lifelong lessons

Tempe South Little League coach Tom Brown pitches a few tips to baseball up-and-comers. — Photo courtesy Tempe South Little League

Spring is here, and with it come the familiar smell of hot dogs and peanuts, plus the crack of the bat that says “play ball.”

Yes, it’s baseball season, and Tempe South Little League got started with its likewise familiar opening day traditions.

One of the things that makes Little League and the community around it so powerful are the families and parents who get involved.

Tom Brown, a member of the TSLL board of directors, is no exception. He has served at various levels of Tempe South for 18 years and counting.

“I had volunteered to coach a YMCA winter season baseball team for my older son, who was then 7. It was fun, so we signed him up for traditional Little League in the spring and I volunteered to be an assistant coach.”

The rest, it turns out, is now cast to history.

Coach Brown has long been involved in aspects of the Tempe South community, at every level from tee ball to the ever-popular junior division.

“I was an assistant coach for five years in tee ball and the farm divisions; I started as a manager when TSLL needed one more person to step up for an unexpected team in the minors, then I managed for four more years and assisted when my son was in juniors at ages 13 and 14.

“I started serving on the board somewhere in there and was glad to start running the spring player showcase for the 9- to 12-year-olds in 2010.”

Brown’s kids have been out of the league for a while now, but he continues to stay involved and helpful for the league.

Asked why he continues to stay active, he says “it’s a good reason to get out of the house, stay in touch with a wider range of neighbors and develop new friendships…”

In the true nature of baseball, memories of great times and good wins can last a lifetime. What is taken away from those years of watching the tee ball kids grow into advanced-level players hitting home runs and throwing fastballs.

Added Brown:

“Many little things add up to a wall of warm memories . The tears in the parents’ eyes when their timid player gets his first hit after the season is half over makes everyone glad he or she is playing baseball. They play at 99.9%, just having a lot of fun.

“This is a Tempe we can all share, regardless of how well our children play or how many games they win or lose.” It is the foundation on which Little League is built, says Brown.

“Little League is all about developing every player, teaching them the wonderful clichés and metaphors that have blended into our language and our national identity, and teaching them to win without grabbing credit and lose with grace. These are good life lessons we can all absorb.”

Brown points out that, when the dust finally settles, the last home run is hit and the concession stands roll out of Tempe Sports Complex, every coach, parent and board member will smile with the knowledge that what they did will have a lasting impact on children that only helps grow and strengthen the community.

“It is seeing the players, as well as my own children, grow up from Tee Ball tots to secondary school and college-age young adults.

“After this many years it is all but impossible to step into a grocery store or attend an Arizona Diamondbacks game without someone from TSLL saying hello.

“Baseball teaches tolerance and makes me healthy and generally sane in this crazy world.”

So, advises Brown, go out this spring, see a game and cheer on a youngster. Eat a hotdog and let it take you back to simpler times. “It’s not perfect but what we do is good and lets those kids get away from their video games.”

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