Mountainside is a beautiful rural town 19 miles west of Manhattan—home to 5,500 residents … and one team of 12U baseball players.
For the first time in six years, a 12U Mountainside Youth Baseball team signed up to compete in the Cooperstown All-Star Village Competition with the goal of having fun … and winning one game.
For a boy who has been playing the game since he could hold a bat, playing baseball in Cooperstown is nothing short of a dream come true. But to play on the same team with the same boys he grew up with—the same boys he calls his best friends—is an experience words can’t describe.
On Friday, August 2, 2019, a caravan of 50 plus Mountainside residents took the gorgeous drive through the Catskills to the same town where Abner Doubleday invented the game during the summer of 1839. With 12 players, five coaches (aka dads), one umpire (yes, we brought our own ump), 14 siblings, and 40 fans (ranging from four to 87 years old), Mountainside doesn’t travel light. We may be small but we are mighty!
We spent months preparing for this moment—embroidering towels, customizing pins, printing up banners, buying new baseball gear, fundraising—and now was our moment to “live the dream.”
While standing in opening ceremonies, I looked out at the crowd and saw the back of a father’s shirt that read “Practice winning every day.” It was then that I realized that the competition would be stiff, and teams came here to go home with a trophy.
With 64 teams from across the country (including three from Canada), I would say a majority of the teams we played in Cooperstown were club teams with paid coaches. These boys were selected from a pool of hundreds. They traveled from across the country not just to compete but win. On the other hand, our boys were coached by their dads and we had 12 boys sign up…the same 12 we brought to Cooperstown.
Our first game ended in a 12-0 loss after four innings. Ouch. I told myself in that moment that I needed to focus my energy on reminding my son to be a good loser. I also needed to be OK with spending quite a hefty sum to watch my son lose.
The next five games of pool play were much closer match-ups which made for a lot of lost voices (57 to be exact) and superstitious moves (to wear the sunglasses or not, that is the question). Mountainside ended pool play with two wins and four losses. We were proud and getting a little better at losing.
We were eliminated from the Championship Tournament after winning one playoff game and losing the next. Three wins from our little town … that far exceeded our expectations and we could have gone home with our heads held high. But in the midst of taking what we thought was our final team photo, one of the coaches got a call from the organizers asking us if we wanted to compete in the Monster Tournament featuring 16 of the teams who were eliminated from the Championship. And while we were exhausted and somewhat defeated, Mountainside does not give up easy. It was then that I realized that giving up was way worse than losing.
Our boys went on to win four straight tournament games—one of which didn’t end until 12:30 a.m.— and took home the Monster Tournament Championship win!
Overall, we played 12 games over the course of five days (six of which fell within 24 hours). We beat teams from Canada, California, New Jersey, Illinois and Pennsylvania. We had seven wins, five losses, 25 home runs and one very important championship win.
We are a society focused on winning. As parents, while we want our children to be good losers, we too want the win. It’s more fun to win, and so, as much as we try to focus on the fun, and less on the win, the two are intertwined. No one wants to see their child (or any child, for that matter) drop a ball in the outfield, or miss an important in-field play that costs us three runs, or fall apart on the mound. But it happens and we all (parents included) need to learn to “shake it off Mountainside.” And while my son may never be OK with losing, I want him to learn to lose with grace because it’s in that moment of losing that defines how we handle life’s hard moments.
If you look at the facts, Mountainside came home with a win. And when you see the photos of the 5-foot trophy on social media, you assume it’s the tournament win. Many people have messaged me, asking me if we won the tournament. And to that, I say yes.
We are winners of determination. We are winners of hard work. We are winners of teamwork. We are winners of not giving up. We are winners of believing. And as a mother of a 12-year old boy, I never want my son to stop doing any of those things despite the outcome.
Congratulations Mountainside 12U for competing in Cooperstown and succeeding in ways that are far more important than winning any trophy.