Baseball can provide wonderful backdrop for life lessons

Adults should set the tone, lead by example on and off the diamond

Baseball can provide wonderful backdrop for life lessons

A wrong can sometimes be the best way to point out the right.

Let me explain. And note, I come not to preach or finger-point, but when I sat down to write this piece about the importance of youth-based initiatives around the country meant to inspire and spark early interest in our national pastime, which is still my intention here, I decided I couldn't help but write for a moment about something that pertains to the aforementioned subject -- so please forgive my diversion.

Recently, I was struck by the revelations that after much investigation, it was determined that the Little league champs of 2014 from Jackie Robinson West in Chicago had been dishonest in their title quest by using ineligible players, permanently soiling this heartwarming American inner-city story. It should be noted that this stain was not the fault or doings of the kids on the field -- they were just told to play ball -- but instead, it was spurred by the adults, coaches and administrators, entrusted to lead them. Entrusted to teach and prepare them, through the principles of this great game, about how to go forth in the world as good citizens -- by leading by example.

Apparently, these adults forgot in the eye of competition, and for the sake of victory, their responsibility and their duty to instill in these kids the ideals of fair play, and that how you play the game may be the most valuable and useful lesson of all. I won't go into all the sordid details about what happened and why. But it's a sad day when we begin to second-guess the integrity of the Little League World Series and the institution as a whole.

But with all of that off my chest now, I gotta tell ya how I was lifted out of my disappointment by an event I stumbled onto. An event that pumped me full of positive energy and plugged me back into the good that surrounds this game, be it for kids or adults.

After dragging myself and my girls out of bed early one Saturday morning, when sleeping later would've been the preferred move, I drove, at their request, across the valley to a public school yard, the cotton of weariness still ping-ponging around my skull. Upon arrival at said facility, I plopped us into the back of a long line with dozens and dozens of other kids and their parents, who were waiting to sign up for T-Ball, Pony League and Little League baseball.

It was remarkable how many people had turned out, for this was a brand new phenomenon here -- long overdue. Folks in these parts never before had the chance to be involved in organized youth baseball. This coming-together was the result of a grassroots movement over the course of almost two years -- completely volunteer-based. Community funded and driven.

But what was so inspiring to me were the conversations I had with other parents. They were there to introduce their kids to the beauty and joy of playing baseball. No matter what age, what form, what gender or what level.

Many had played baseball as kids. Many were just plain fans. But what they loved about the game was the ideals at its heart. The connections to a simpler time. The notion of possibility and the principle of good sportsmanship.

Many spoke of the importance of being part of a team and learning to do things together. And yes, there were many who ensnared me in debate about the virtues of East Coast versus West Coast baseball -- to put it politely. But after we'd signed up and headed for home, I was reflective on the drive back, or more to the point, reminded by the morning's events about the obvious -- that obvious sense of responsibility that we adults have to our children. The responsibility to teach them right from wrong. And how by using the fundamentals of this simple game as a backdrop, a game which we have the blessed opportunity to involve them in, we can say, "This is the right way to play the game -- and how we treat one another on this field, which is merely a mirror for how we conduct ourselves in the 'real' world -- does matter."

And if we start here on a little patch of green, with a bat and a ball, a glove, a hat, and a dream, if we start with truth and integrity in T-Ball and Little League, we not only pass on the love of this special sport to the next generation, hopefully spawning more passionate fans, but we raise good citizens.

So please, don't lose faith. These institutions are too important. Important because of the opportunity they provide us to instruct our kids, especially in the face of a wrong. We need to be accountable and responsible -- for the sake of our kids. Nothing is more important.

So on the eve of a new season, let's keep providing opportunities in our communities for girls and boys to play ball. Let's keep volunteering to coach, and teach them how to play the game on the field and in life, the correct way. It is our duty for the future, as parents and as fans.

Marcus Giamatti is the son of late Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.