Baseball season is over!!! I know that sounds wierd to people in more northern climates but we start in February so that we can finish before the continuous 95 plus degree days of heat. And of course, it’s not really over since my son is going to play in some tournaments on another team but the Little League season is over.
Unfortunately, it finished with a 29 to 3 loss in the first round of the City Championship. Our team should have never even been in the game. We’re a Junior minors team of mainly 13 year olds playing Junior majors teams of mainly 14 year olds. The city tournament doesn’t distinguish between majors and minors so we were thrown in with the better, stronger teams.
That wasn’t unexpected. Our league didn’t have to send their minor division champions but a lot of people thought it would be a good “experience” for the kids. Getting beat 29 to 3 isn’t a good experience, especially when you’re being beat by your own league’s major team. Luck of the draw. Instead of playing another league’s Junior team (major or minor), we got to play our own league’s major team. So the kids, coaches, and parents all knew each other.
I won’t go into all the details that lead up to this game which to me made it in many ways a contest between the worst and best elements of youth sports. But I will tell you the one incident that really bothered me and pretty much represents the differences.
Our team was home and played terribly. I don’t know if they were intimidated or if the heat got to them or what. They never made so many fielding mistakes before. And since this was the tournament, there was no run limit, only a ten run rule after the 5th inning. In other words, they played an inning until they got three outs no matter how many runs were scored. (In regular season, we play with a six run rule per inning.)
Anyway, the other team was scoring and scoring as we made mistake after mistake. One of the other team’s players was coming into home and about ten feet from the plate stopped and took baby-steps the rest of the way home. Unfortunately, this was only one example of the kind of taunting he did.
I was furious. Why did he do it? They were beating the pants off us, was it necessary to rub it in? But more importantly, why did he think he could do it? Why did he think that it was acceptable? What kind of team did he play on all year to make him think he could get away with it?
After another incident and our manager talking to the umpire, the umpire told the coach he had to do something. The other coach said he was planning to say something when they came back in from the field (they were on defense at the time.) The umpire told him, no, that he had to do it now.
Of course, I didn’t realize that all this was going on until later. But I did see one of the kids from the other team pack up his gear and leave during the middle of the game. Was he mad because this was the first time he got in trouble for this and he had been doing it all season? Was sportsmanship something done only when you lose?
Like I said, there was plenty of other issues involved with this game that reflected different priorities and values. This was just the tip of the iceberg. The sad thing is that so many in our league wanted us to win but they were also the ones that let the opposing team exist as it did, if not actually encourage it. And we lost 29 to 3.