The Little League World Series (LLWS) is very different this year yet similar. It is currently being played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1939, Little League is in all 50 states and 80 different countries, and roughly 2 million boys and girls play Little League in the world.

The difference this year in the LLWS is that only United States teams will be competing instead of international teams. The last time an international team did not compete was 1975. Despite this difference, the aspect of the LLWS that remains the same is the role of the parents.

Mike Matheny, current head coach for the Kansas City Royals, wrote a letter to parents a few years ago for a youth baseball team that he was coaching after he retired as a Major League Baseball player. The letter to parents went viral as one of the parents posted it online. The main message of Coach Matheny’s letter was this: “I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement.”

One of the most awkward and embarrassing moments at a Little League game is a parent who is loud and discouraging. It hurts the hearts of those around and most especially the son or daughter, who looking with their head down into their glove, says, “that’s my dad” or “that’s my mom.”

In scripture, the role of Joseph and Mary, the parents of the Holy Family, is one of being a silent source of encouragement to their son Jesus. Every word that comes from Mary in scripture is out of love. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Joseph was a “just man” and “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” Being a silent source of encouragement is not a passive role. Mary quietly and privately told Jesus “they have no wine” at the wedding feast at Cana. Pope Francis wrote, “Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive.” Think of the flight to Egypt to protect his family.

The role of the parent in Little League is the same role as the parents of the Holy Family –to be a silent source of encouragement. Coach Matheny added that “parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support” for their children. The reason for the silent source of encouragement from the parents is that players already put a lot of pressure on themselves and coaches naturally put pressure on the team to play better. More pressure is not needed but rather a silent source of encouragement.

I encourage every parent of a Little League ball player to read Mike Matheny’s Letter to Parents which can be found on the internet. Also, take time reflecting on Mary and Joseph as silent sources of encouragement. Ask for their intercession to encourage as they encouraged.

The Little League World Series is different this year. However, the role of parents will always remain the same – to be a silent source of encouragement.

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Luke Daghir is a seminarian for the Diocese of Erie from St. Marys, Pa. He played catcher for the Elk Catholic Crusaders in 2010-2011 and coached SM Little League for 4 years. Luke was a catcher for the 2009 St. Marys Senior League State Championship team. He currently studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. His favorite team is the Pittsburgh Pirates and favorite baseball player is former catcher Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees.

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