“Cute” has taken on a new meaning and is currently synonymous with the game of baseball. In Canada, a grassroots program with the name of Rally Cap is growing bigger and bigger, playing a major role in the lives of countless kids. Just imagine a team of five and six year-olds, with their matching jerseys and rainbow assortment of hats, running onto the field and ready for a show-down. Indeed, this would qualify as an “awww” moment.
Over the past couple of years, Rally Cap has become Canada’s official baseball initiation program, and in 2008, approximately forty-five thousand hats were distributed. To make a long story short, Rally Cap is a two-part system consisting of seasonal games and an evaluation process based on hats. A different colored cap signifies the passage of a certain level, in many ways like the belt-system in martial arts.
The main purpose of Rally Cap is a simple one. Mr. André Lachance, the creator of Rally Cap, said the following: “The idea behind Rally Cap is to transform the way kids play baseball by making it more fun, while at the same time to help them develop the skills necessary for rising up in the game of baseball.” Without a doubt, it is much easier to excel in an area one loves, and this concept is beautifully applied in this situation, where young players’ determination comes as a natural response to their initial enjoyment.
An obvious advantage brought about by Rally Cap is the physical activity required. It involves non-ending exercise, because, unlike traditional Little League, three teams play simultaneously, with a game going on between two of them on the infield and the rest preparing on the outfield. In other words, there are no outfielders, nor are there kids who stand idly waiting for the ball to come their direction. After a while, rotation occurs, and those who have been practicing get plunged into a fast-paced competition. Everybody remains active, everybody improves, and the training done is fortified by its application immediately afterwards.
Usually, a child has the opportunity to practice a couple of times a week, and they come to form close relationships with their coaches and teammates. Very quickly, they begin to understand what true team work is, as they work together to win for their team and to advance in the cap ladder. As the season goes on, these kids, despite their young age, no longer mind the hard sun beating down on them or the fatigue they feel after a difficult work out. They see their own growth, and they become confident in their abilities. This assurance, in addition to the values and lessons bestowed by Rally Cap, is extremely important, and as a result, participants become not only stronger baseball players, but also stronger human beings.
Lastly, and most importantly, Rally Cap provides a haven. The teams are where these boys and girls belong to, where their presence is both significant and necessary. Five and six year olds are still trying to find their places in the world, all along looking for that group of pals to laugh with, to play with, and to strive towards the same goal with. In Rally Cap, they find a community much bigger than themselves, but at the same time, they are able to look within and locate their inner strength. For them, Rally Cap is a blessing. For them, Rally Cap is irreplaceable. For them, “I am baseball” is the ideal they embrace.