I came across an interesting story by outstanding columnist Rick Reilly while flipping through a recent copy of Sports Illustrated. The story involves little league and whether or not a coach made the correct decision.
It happened in Utah when the Yankees and Red Sox were playing in a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game. The Yankees were winning in the bottom of the last inning with two outs and a runner on third. Batting is the Red Sox best hitter and on deck is the team's worst hitter, a cancer survivor who has a shunt in his brain.
So what does the Yankee coach do? Yep, he walks the Red Sox's best hitter to face the kid who has just survived cancer. And unlike Hollywood's feel-good movies, the little boy strikes out and the Yankees win the championship.
Keep in mind this is a league where everyone gets to bat and there is a four-
runs-per-inning limit. Not exactly the major leagues.
As expected the crowd went into an uproar as people booed, the two coaching staffs nearly had a brawl and the little cancer survivor cried himself to sleep that night. Welcome to the 21st century's version of little league.
The Yankees coach said it was strategy while others in the town said it was just picking on the weakest kid. People around the town and around the country are split on the issue, but not me.
I have been around little league for the better part of the last 25 years, first playing, then coaching, umpiring and taking pictures for newspapers. It gets worse every year and it isn't the kids.
The story coming from Utah is just the latest example of how parents are ruining little league. If you don't believe me, visit a little league field some weeknight in June and just watch. It's outrageous.
I'm not talking about the parents who sit in the stands and cheer for their children and the teams. Those parents need to be commended for coming out and putting up with the other parents. You know, the ones who yell at their kids for striking out, often times making them cry. You don't believe me? I have pictures.
Don't forget about the parents who constantly blame the coach for playing favorites or better yet the parents who say playing time is given only to those who have prominent names. Give me a break.
And then there are the win-at-all-cost parents and coaches who will do anything they can to win, including walking a strong hitter to pitch to the cancer survivor.
Like it or not, parents and coaches are the role models for little leaguers and when you act like fools it is just telling the kids it is OK for them to act like fools. If you chose to pick on the weaker kid, it is telling them it is OK to pick on the weaker kid.
I am somebody who wants to win at everything. Whether it is baseball or who can walk across the street and get to the front door first, I want to win. But I wouldn't have walked the best hitter in an everybody-plays league. In that situation you roll the dice and hope your pitcher is better than their best hitter and if not, oh well.
Imagine if the two teams were playing and there were no parents there. Do you think for one second the kid would have been walked? Nope, because the kids just want to play. And after the game was over the kids would probably ask if they could play another because kids just want to play the game.
The most refreshing thing was what the little cancer survivor said the day after the game. "I'm going to work on my batting," he told his dad. "Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."
Maybe adults can learn from kids after all.