It’s cold, wet, the days are short and often cloudy. In short it’s the time of year that turns thoughts toward – baseball? 

Yes, baseball. 

Major league pitchers and catchers report to various spring training sites in Florida, Arizona and other warm weather locales in mid-February.

Closer to home, most youth baseball leagues start the sign-up process in late January or sometime in February.

Baseball sign-up day is a promise that spring will come, as surely as two swallows and a flowerbed full of jonquils peeking up through the snow. 

Another season of crisp new uniforms, batting practice, and concession stand dinners is just around the corner.  But there are lots of reasons for children to play youth baseball  besides just celebrating the return of warmer temperatures.

Youth baseball (and other team sports) teach children lessons that last far beyond the time they spend practicing and playing. 

Baseball teaches them about life. In no particular order, baseball teaches young people important things such as how to work together on a team – it doesn’t have to be the best team in the world – the lesson is how the team operates. 

Working on a team also means you learn to work with all different kinds of people, too.

Individually, players learn to practice, to be persistent and to use the skills they have learned in pressure situations. 

It is one thing, after all, to hit a ball hard in the backyard with your mom or dad pitching it; learning to do so when the pitcher would just as soon you never played again and a crowd of people is looking on is another thing entirely.

Finally, baseball teaches how to win and how to lose. The best team in Major League Baseball next year will probably lose about 50 games. 

Baseball will teach you to lose.  But it also teaches you to win and that is a skill that everyone needs.

All of these are important and valuable lessons for leading a successful, independent life. 

Obviously, there are other ways to learn these lessons, but baseball is a particularly good instructor.

So don’t miss sign-ups during the next few weeks, make sure last year’s cleats still fit, and check to see if there are a few hits left in the trusty old bat, because it’s almost time to “Play Ball.”

Andy Norwood is a former youth league coach and the author of Thirty Life Lessons My Boys Learned from Baseball, from Pelican Publishing. He resides in Nashville, Tenn.