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Benchwarmers: The best seats in the house

Bristol ballplayers (Collin Seguin/YJI)

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Some people play sports to score touchdowns, or hit home runs or nail three-pointers. Others just sit on their butts.

For benchwarmers, games consist of chasing foul balls, cheering teammates, keeping score and dreaming of glory.

You don’t always see them, but they’re there. They’re on the team, yet you might never see them play.

They go to all the practices and, for the most part, work as hard as anyone — but they’re lucky to get a chance to play every five or 20 games.

They might get a hit or score a goal, and then realize the score is 26-0 and nobody really cares anymore.

I know what it’s like. For the past season, I’ve sat on the bench waiting for my chance.

There were only a few of us sitting on those hard metal benches at Page Park, watching the action unfold in front of us. The coaches were on the field, flashing signs and yelling
instructions to the players on the field.

Then, a base hit. A double follows, then a long drive that skitters to the street. A rally is starting and the team is starting to get excited, as it seems that we are going to win another game.

I look satisfied. I’m standing up, cheering, and congratulating players as they cross homeplate.

Courtney Pendleton/YJI

However, on the inside, I am torn apart at the fact that I can’t get into the action.

This, for me and many benchwarmers, is a typical game, wasting away on the bench, feeling useless and not really part of the team.

This is my first year sitting bench all season, so I am still getting used to it. But I think I handle it pretty well.

Every person handles sitting the bench his own way.

Some are very upset with their role.

“I’m not happy about it. It’s boring sitting on the bench with nothing to do, not being able to play,” said Tom Positano, a junior at Bristol Central who plays baseball.

During a Monahan League game, a benchwarmer who did not want to be identified said, “This isn’t what I paid twenty bucks for. It doesn’t feel like I’m even on the team.”

Some players, when told that their playing time is going to be severely reduced, even resort to throwing things, including temper tantrums.

There is a rare class of benchsitters, though, who are resigned to the fact that once in a while, they aren’t going to play. Matt Zbikowski, a junior at Bristol Eastern who plays soccer and baseball, said that he “understood why I was sitting bench. It gives other kids a chance to play, and it gives me a chance to relax.”

My outlook on sitting bench combines resignation with anger. I am frustrated that I am not able to play more and contribute, but I understand that there are better players who deserve the time more than I do.

But the real problem lies with younger players, especially Little Leaguers, who never get the shot they deserve. If you’ve been playing for five or 10 years and feel bad about sitting bench, imagine how a kid just starting out feels when they are told by a coach that they’re not good enough to play for their team.

A young player’s dreams can be crushed by a coach who wants that elusive tee ball championship.

For those discouraged players, I asked some members of the Yarmouth-Dennis team in the Cape Cod league to give some advice.

The players I asked, pitchers Ryan Fry and Mike Moriarty, had the same message: “Be patient. Some players don’t develop until they get older. Everyone has to pay their dues.”

Coach Chris Podeszwa had some additional advice: “Be supportive. Only nine players can play at one time. If you have the desire, enjoy the game, and really want to be a ballplayer, eventually you’ll get the chance.”

Maybe, then, the message is to work hard and stick it out. Besides, if that doesn’t work out, at least you’ll have a great seat to see the game.

Collin Seguin is a Reporter from Connecticut for Youth Journalism International. Courtney Pendleton, who drew the cartoon, is also a Reporter and Cartoonist for YJI.

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