What has happened to little league baseball?
Ineligible players? Stripped titles? It’s enough to make me pine for a simpler time. What time you ask? Specifically August 30th 1994. That’s when the Northern Iowan student newspaper chronicled a Little League World Series we could truly celebrate.
It is throwback Thursday, I hope you enjoy this time capsule. The Athletic Supporter rides again.
Baseball is big business.
Millions of dollars are spent obtaining players in hopes of fielding a winning team to collect millions of dollars. Baseball players are some of the best athletes in the world, paid essentially to do something no one else does as well as they can.
In the current strike-shortened season, the players and owners have a squabble over (what else?) money. The simple idea of “who gets what?” has the entire major league baseball world in a bureaucratic limbo, leaving the common fan disappointed to say the least.
Far away from the pressure-filled negotiations, untarnished by greed, a small team of heroes assembles in Williamsport, PA.
Once again it’s Little League World Series time and fans flock from everywhere to see America’s best take on the world. Young men from around the globe assemble to simply play a game and see how they stack up against the competition.
The winners will receive a hero’s welcome and the adoration of the entire US, but not much else. These same young men have been gathering for months, practicing and working hard to reach their chance at stardom.
They love playing baseball.
If they weren’t gathered in Williamsport, they most certainly would be in their neighborhoods gathering friends to organize a game. Or out back playing catch with their dads.
Somewhere upon climbing the ladder to becoming a professional, the line between sport and business becomes fuzzy. Money comes before fun as little leaguers grow up. Their innocence gone, little leaguers enter the fray of big-time athletics, oblivious to their former selves.
One day, long since gone, Barry Bonds, minus the gold chains and fat wallet was like the little leaguers.
He loved the sport of baseball.
The problem with Bonds and his cohorts on the strike front is that they have lost what the Pennsylvania kids take for granted. The players’ passion for mastery of the game has turned into a passion for what the game can get them.
Those players could learn a lot from the team from Northridge, Calif., who are vying for the title, despite an earthquake that threatened their very existence.
Baseball is one of the most sacred and loved of American institutions, and it is truly sad how it has degenerated into a number-crunching machine whose simple concern is increasing revenues while decreasing expenses.
What can we, the fans, do about it?
I have a suggestion that works for me.
Rather than sulk in the sad days of the strike, I prefer to revel in the performances of the little leaguers. It has proved therapeutic as well as entertaining.
While you are not likely to see 400 foot home runs and celebrities in the stands, you will see America’s most genuine competitors.
Someday, the far-off dollars of giant contracts may rape these young men of their innocence, but, for now, they remain the truest of athletes.