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Finding the ‘big leagues’ right at home

By Henry Luzzatto

On a hot Saturday afternoon recently, I found myself sitting in the bleachers at Suffolk Youth Athletic Association, taking pictures as 7-year-olds played in a Pinto baseball tournament.

I wasn’t much looking forward to it. First of all, it was supposed to be my day off. Second, it was hot and sticky. And I would have to spend time watching little kids play sports, when I could be goofing off with my friends or family.

But as the game wore on, I got caught up. I found myself cheering for the Suffolk team. I clapped for base hits and good defensive plays. I even found myself giving the umpire a little grief.

By the end of the sixth and final inning, I realized just how much I had missed all of this.

Youth baseball is one of my central memories from growing up in Suffolk. My time playing at SYAA was filled with as many failures as successes, but they were all keys to my growing up.

I’ll never forget the time my all-star “B” team beat the “A” team. I’ll never forget the time our pitchers threw a no-hitter. I’ll never forget the season we didn’t win a single game (even though I would like to forget).

Like so many aspects of my childhood in Suffolk, passing years have given me a different perspective.

It’s not just that it’s a privilege to get the chance to report on the city where you grew up. Most newspaper interns come from far-flung places with no knowledge of the city or its heart.

As an intern for the Suffolk News-Herald, I get a chance to look deeply at the world where I grew up. I’m given license to ask questions and go digging in the city I call home. Even in the stomping grounds I knew well, there is something new to be found.

Which brings me back to baseball.

When I found out I would be covering a baseball tournament for 7-year-olds, I was initially dismissive. “I’m a reporter,” I thought. “I should be covering some important issues.”

By the time I talked to the kids, I remembered just how important those experiences are.

It’s not likely any of them will grow up to be Major League Baseball players, but their time playing will still help determine the people they will become.

Playing baseball was part of my childhood in Suffolk, part of what made me want to come back to write about this place years later. Without it, I doubt I would be here, writing for a newspaper in my hometown.

So I didn’t complain, and I took time to speak to each of the ballplayers who were willing to talk.

No, they’re not professional athletes. But moments like this give them a chance to dream of that future and to create memories like mine.

To the 7-year-olds at SYAA, at least for this summer, this is the big leagues.