Pearls of Wisdom from the Diamond

July 1, 2024

by Rebecca Stewart | Photos by Vanessa Phillips

It’s July, and though Little League has mostly wrapped up for the summer, America’s favorite pastime is still in full swing. Though the tees have likely been tucked away, the big kids are in full travel mode, heading to one tournament after another. This world of baseball and softball begins young, is highly competitive, and is a bit unique compared to other sports with its slower pace and largely unknown length of games (all innings are simply not created equal), so we turned to the teens for some from-the-dugouts words of wisdom for our younger athletes, coming up the ranks.

On the baseball side, we gained perspective from Kyle Berube and Ryan Denowh, with Charley McLean and Josie Benson on the softball side. The questions were simple:


How long have you played, and what position(s)?

What advice would they give to their younger selves, just starting out?

What’s your essential gear? (And please don’t skip the snacks and hydration.)

Tips for surviving tourneys/double-header days.

Tips for being a good teammate.

What does being coachable mean to you?

What’s your best baseball memory? 

As is typical of this sport, our teens all started the game young, around age 4 or 5. We ended up with a pitcher/2nd baseman, a catcher, a centerfielder, and an infielder whose heart belongs to 2nd base. Young ones, know that it’s totally normal to play a variety of positions as you’re coming up in the game – be open to each opportunity; with only nine positions available, versatility is an important trait to possess.

Aspiring catchers, Ryan also offered this pearl from behind home plate: “Enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure when playing the position, [but] you play best when you don’t let it get to you. You’re gonna be sore; you’re gonna be tired…Just let your body take over and have fun.” Also, in terms of gear, he adds that the cool factor played a major role when he was younger, but he now recognizes the value of function over aesthetics. 

Dear younger me…

The short of our athlete’s advice to younger self is:

 

Don’t stop working. -KB

Be self-forgiving. -RD

Practice makes perfect. -JB

Believe in yourself and your abilities. -KB

Be confident – even when things aren’t going your way. -CMc


To elaborate, Ryan admits that attitude was an issue when he was younger, “[I] couldn’t deal with failure very well.” Mostly, he reflects because he was putting too much pressure on himself. “Having a bad day isn’t the end of the world, and getting good at something is a process full of failure and patience.” 

Adding to that, Josie notes that “Softball is a sport that expects failure over success, so don’t be too hard on yourself!” Sure, you want to take the game seriously, she says, “but remember that you’re out there playing to have fun in a sport you love.” 

Fun in the sun/wind/rain/snow…

Listen, it’s Montana, so the weather is what it is — layers are important. Beyond that, we need gloves, bats, helmets, face masks (softball), and cleats, so what do the kids rely on to get through those long days in the ballpark and on the field?

Each of our teens highlights the importance of hydrating and fueling your body throughout the game and day – keep plenty of water and Gatorade/Gatorlyte (sports drinks) on hand. For Ryan, it’s all about making sure he has gum, as it gives him something to focus on while playing — keeping him out of his head. Charley seconds the gum but also needs sunflower seeds and snacks that help calm her nerves during the game. Josie’s pregame routine requires a stick of jerky and chocolate milk, oh, and a good attitude.

Beyond fueling the body, managing your head space is also important. Kyle notes the importance of listening to your coaches and applying their corrections. To that end, both Josie and Ryan share the need to take things one moment, one game at a time. “Take everything one moment at a time,” says Ryan, and “you’ll not only perform better, but the day will fly by.” 

Playing to your potential…

Across the board, our teens said that being coachable means being open to coaching and willing to apply corrections given. It’s “coming to practice and games with a ready-to-work attitude,” adds Charley. Not only that, says Ryan, but it’s also being able to have a dialogue with your coaches that allows both sides of the equation to gain clarity while figuring out how to communicate with each other, opening the door for growth.

Finally, how do we be a good teammate in this team sport? For Kyle, it’s about picking your teammates up and not shutting down if you (or they) are struggling. Be willing to give and receive advice. Charley encourages athletes to recognize each other’s talents and contributions to the team, keeping an open mind to each other’s differences and how they play the game. For Josie, it’s all about the (positive) chatter on the field and in the dugout, remembering that mistakes happen. While Ryan offers this gem: “If you can’t change something, forget about it and move on, and do the same [for] your teammates.” SLM

Originally printed in the July 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

Check this article out in the digital issue of Simply Local here!

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