Take them out to the ball game

THE BRONCOS of the Seattle International Baseball League (SIBL) are not the best Little League team in the city. They're not even the best team in their 10- to 12-year-old division. Heck, they didn't even win a game this season, going 0-14. But when it comes to having fun, these kids are No. 1.

There's Deandre Coleman, the big bopper, who hits opposite-field home runs with the ease of Barry Bonds. There's Ruben Martenez-Wilcox, the speedy third baseman, who looks and fields like a young A-Rod. Then there are Malik Calhoun, Jamhal Keat, and D'Mario Moreland, all of whom could probably outhustle Edgar Martinez, even when Edgar's healthy.

Those aren't all the boys. Adam Millett, Jarrell Bell, Glen Polydore, Evan Rood, Noah Williams, Spencer Wagner, Chris Walsh, Aaron Spellman, Dominique Stevenson, and Devin Hollingsworth—all of these kids played their hearts out every game, slapping high fives, diving in the dirt, always swinging for the fences. Under the stern but loving tutelage of coaches Jay Hollingsworth and Shannon Denton, the boys never missed out on postgame ice cream. In the process, they learned the true meaning of that sportsmanly adage: It doesn't matter if you win or lose; it's how passionately you play the game.

Keeping spirits high throughout their winless season wasn't easy. Some might even say the cards were stacked against them—all of the Broncos players hail from the Rainier Valley, and at nearly 95 percent Hispanic and African American, their team was the only one in their division with any faces of color. It's not that the kids couldn't play; winning simply was an issue of opportunity—and they didn't have the tools. While opposing teams from Madison Park spent big bucks on uniforms and equipment, the Broncos used stuff donated by a coach. Opponents held full practices two or three times a week; the Broncos were lucky to round up six or seven guys once between games. Some of the Broncos had never even thrown a baseball until this May. Still, against all odds, the SIBL Broncos persevered, and gave their best to the end.

Earlier this spring, in these very pages, I challenged Mariners fans to get off their butts, to cheer for their guys more loudly than I cheered on the New York Yankees. M's fans failed, and I vowed to give away the remainder of my season tickets to minority fans, so as to increase the number of Hispanic and African-American faces at Safeco Field from zero to two at every game. Last week, I gave my tickets to the Broncos. The gift was as much a thank-you as it was a statement—in a few short weeks, these boys taught me more about passion than I could ever hope to accomplish with a silly political demonstration.

Perhaps we all can learn from the Broncos: Overcome adversity, play your heart out, and always—under any circumstance—have a good time. If every Mariners fan approached the game of baseball with this same passion and joy, Seattle would come out on top, no matter what the score. What's more, if Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln truly cared about the fans, he'd give the Broncos and every other underprivileged Little League team in town the newest and best baseball equipment every year, proving that even those kids who can't afford to support the M's are important to the community as a whole.

I did my part, comrade. Now it's your turn.

Matt Villano


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