Palo Alto Little League – A Family Journey
By Andy Mutz, PALL Vice President with Jennifer Mutz
Palo Alto Little League Baseball started as a great ‘activity’ for my son in 2006 when he was in Kindergarten. Little League became a way for us to connect with each other through our shared time on the field over the years with him playing and me coaching, and continues to this day with both of us coaching together now. Twelve years after we began our Little League baseball journey, with my son now in high school and long aged out of playing Little League, it’s still an integral part of our lives. We got to coach a Palo Alto Little League team together this year! Baseball teaches so many lessons, helped both of us develop life-long friendships, and created wonderful memories for our family.
I first volunteered as a T-ball Coach when my son was in Kindergarten, and became a T-ball Manager/Coach the following year when he was six. We moved together through Coach Pitch, Machine Pitch, into PCL, and then on to Majors. With me still Managing/Coaching his Majors team, my son played all the way through until he aged out of Little League as a middle schooler at 12 yrs old. (This was prior to the existence of 50/70.)
Little League became a spring tradition which filled our family calendar and gave us so many great memories. Not only was our father and son time precious, but most of his best friends played Little League on his or another team through the years. Their community of friends continued through middle school and into high school, well after their Little League years. And those are still some of his best friends to this day, some of whom are still involved in baseball in high school like my son, and some of whom have moved on – but regardless of whether they are still playing baseball, they all remember those Little League years fondly. (And the Little League field looks very small to them now!).
I managed and coached all through the years with other parents also volunteering their time and energy. In PCL I was also able to recruit a Paly High School player to coach with me, who went on to volunteer with me for another three years into Majors. We had a blast in the PCL season and won a championship that year. When my son graduated to Majors in 4th grade, we learned together about playing at the highest level in Little League from the volunteer Paly High School players. Most importantly, the Little League team players loved having a ‘big kid’ they looked up to and learned from as an Assistant Coach. The older players did a great job of mentoring the younger kids – teaching them the game while being fun and funny. The first Majors year was a losing season in ‘wins’ but a life ‘win’ with more great learning moments. In those PCL and Majors years we shared the field with several incredible players who played in High School and now play D1 and D3 college baseball. My son started both middle school and high school in September knowing he had friends from Little League in the older grades, which made the big life transitions easier.
My son and several of his friends played travel ball in the fall, but every one of them came back each spring to Little League to be with their friends. As a 12 year old my son had the chance to learn about and play many positions, and to be a winning pitcher on his All-Star 12s team – a great capstone to his Little League career.
After he graduated from Little League he played three more community spring baseball seasons with Palo Alto Babe Ruth. Again, he had a blast. He and his teammates enjoyed a friendly rivalry with the other Babe Ruth teams all three years since many of the players were his friends from Palo Alto Little League.
While he was playing in Babe Ruth, my son began his first paid job working as a youth umpire for Palo Alto Little League. Remember how important your first job was? Umpiring was an amazing first job. He was able to use the in-depth knowledge he’d developed playing baseball for so many years to become a paid umpire and learn new skill sets: responsibility, collaborating with other umpires, game management skills, managing coaches/parents/players, training new umpires, public speaking, staying cool under pressure, critical thinking, and player encouragement. All valuable experiences for a first job. The world looked very different now from behind the plate as an ump!
As a freshman, he played on Paly’s JV team, continuing to grow in the game. Our journey together came full circle last fall 2018, when we volunteered to coach a Little League Fall Ball team together for the first time. He was now an Assistant Coach, working with elementary and middle schoolers – the ‘big kid’ mentoring and teaching the younger players who were the size he used to be so many years ago. It was his turn to teach the game of baseball and valuable life lessons, to set a positive example for the team – all while having a great time with me. How many chances to do get to learn and grow together with your teen? Little League has given our family so many great opportunities and memories.