For those of you longtime readers (thank you, by the way), you know my position with regards to the Little League World Series. I was looking for my favorite sports talk show (Pardon the Interruption) this afternoon and it wasn’t on because…ESPN was broadcasting the Louisiana-West Texas Little League World Series qualifying game. So, I left it on. Here’s what transpired:
- The game was interrupted three times for video replays – and I only tuned in after the 4th inning! Two replays to determine if a player was hit by a pitch and another to see if there was catcher’s interference. None of the calls on the field were reversed. But the game was delayed for something like ten minutes.
- A player that was hit in the face earlier in the week and has what the announcers referred to as ‘orbital fractures’ and a very clear black eye was celebrated for his toughness in coming in to pinch hit. I watched the at bat. He was bailing out on every pitch and…OF COURSE HE WAS! He was hit in the face the last game he played.
- There was an advertisement for a new Little League program called Sandlot Fun Days. I was intrigued by the commercial and went to their website. The concept is to give the game back to the kids by removing the adults from the equation. The players use the local Little League equipment on a Little League field. There are no umpires and no coaches. The players self regulate the game – if they play a regular game at all…the site highlights that the players can make up the rules of the contest they play. Initially, I thought this sounded great. This is in line with the Aspen Institute’s 2nd Play – Reintroduce Free Play. But then I watched the video on the site of the Dunedin Sandlot Funday from 2020. After two minutes of video of kids having fun and adults explaining why this is a good thing, there was a quote that struck me:
It’s more fun for me to watch this game knowing there’s no pressure on the kids – they’re just out there for fun.Dunedin parent
Why aren’t all Dunedin Little League games no pressure and for fun?
Again, there is much that is good about Little League Baseball. However, televising the games nationally with play-by-play and video replays, celebrating the toughness of a young man who probably shouldn’t be playing at all, and advertising that you have to create an alternative program to yours so the kids can play without pressure and have fun…there’s the bad and the ugly.