There’s just something about a Little League ballpark filled with players in their earliest years. Innocence, mixed with invested family members, mixed with the sounds of 200 voices having at least 100 different conversations…carried by the wind on a warm day across the grass, sand and past the concession stands. Being there made my muscles relax. I began craving Sour Punch Straws.
Tee ball is the epitome of cool. And so was the family we met at the Bethel Acres ball park on our “Highway 9” Every Point run.
We met Cody Laughlin, his wife and their two boys on the bleachers waiting for their turn to take the field and warm up. They were watching a cousin, “right there – number five…,” finish her softball game as they spoke with us.
The Laughlin family’s life revolves around baseball.
We play baseball…started last weekend, our whole summer is baseball. That’s all they want to do – they just want to play catch and hit balls…
Cody served as the spokesperson for the family and as the coach for the team on which his two sons played. His wife also served as coach, and several times throughout our conversation he relegated his own role and validated her.
She helps…she makes sure who’s up, make sure they have their bats, gloves, it’s the biggest part. If they get out of order, they’re out…and I can’t coach.
Is she an assistant coach? No, she’s more than that – She’s probably the most important coach – I can tell them to run all day, but if I didn’t have her in there, I – we couldn’t play baseball.
And if they “couldn’t play baseball,” there might be a fairly large space in their lives. Cody played for Dale High School, his team garnering several championships. His father also played for Dale High school, also bringing home State.
And his two sons? He coaches because he wants them to learn to play the right way. To learn the life lessons that come along with the game. He described his high school coach as tough, scary, a stickler for excellence. But he wants his children to enjoy the game, perhaps with a better balance.
I played too much – I’d play a baseball tournament, come home, get a horse, and go to a rodeo. I did too much as a kid – I don’t want them to have that. I just want them to be a kid.
When talking with Laughlin you can tell this “let a child be a child” philosophy is deeply ingrained. We asked him what he wished people understood about children and baseball.
Different kids have different abilities. You shouldn’t PUSH a kid to play a sport – if they’re not good at it, let them try something else. It’s like the parents try to live through the kid. Let them be a kid; live their own life.
[Parents] don’t understand athletic abilities are different in different kids…there are kids out there that are unhappy, they don’t want to be there.
Cody didn’t mince words. It might have been the first conversation I talked more than our participant. I asked him if he could share a “funny tee ball” story. He said,
I have a kid that’s four on my team, and he will go out there in the outfield, sit down and pick flowers.
Who’s he give them to?
He throws them in the air…
Do you have a favorite ump?
I don’t like any of them.
While we were still laughing at his umpire stories and all the tee ball rules issues, their field cleared and they began to pack their things.
As we took a different position to watch his team play catch I noticed Cody’s wife quietly set up the dugout. Under the bench she placed a plastic container with each player’s name. Inside was their equipment, perhaps a snack, and other items. By the time we headed to the car the dugout was more organized than my kitchen and ready for the game to begin.
I’m not sure if Cody’s two boys will continue the legacy of another State Championship run at their own school, but I am sure of one thing: their parents will support them, regardless if they like baseball or choose another path.
Field notes – We’re picking up Rachel’s first set of 4×5 large format processed negatives and scans from a shop in Norman next week. Can’t wait to see them. April is living and breathing wedding season videos right now. And Kelly is celebrating the formation of a non-profit corporation…she has hopes of eventually spreading the expenses of this project around to a few other places than just her own checking account.