Keep The Little Leaguers Home!

Jason Campos

I refuse to watch the Little League World Series. I did so once, but not anymore.

It’s not that the game of baseball is a travesty when played by eleven and twelve year olds. I simply loathe the fact that the super cable sports media outlet, ESPN, has an unnerving grip on the games.

For a few weeks, the pint size tykes become celebrities. Somehow their actions are seen as the manifestations of community (some cases, national) pride and spirit. Simply put, vicariousness taken to the extreme.

Wait a minute, isn’t that exactly what pro sports do? Sure does, but there is a difference. Professionals are adults, and therefore more adept to the scrutiny and pressure that is applied to them. The same phenomenon happens in youth sports. Whether it is intentional or not, the kids are placed with an enormous amount of undue anxiety and stress.

I am not calling for the abolishment of youth sports. There is much to be gained by participating on a team, working with others towards a goal. Kids such start at a young age. Yet, much of that disappears in a puff of smoke when Little League baseball is placed on a stage such as ESPN.

A few weeks back, a child on the Harlem, New York team was coming to the plate and paused outside the batter’s box. He raised his aluminum bat and pointed in the direction of left center field, calling for a homerun a la Babe Ruth. He proceeded to crush a ball almost to the exact spot to where he had indicated. Exquisite drama or poor sportsmanship? Improvisational or premeditated action? You think that boy knew he’d make Sportscenter if he pulled it off? Sure enough.

Is it necessary to stick microphones in front of these kids’ faces? What could they possibly say that could be interesting? They stand there, stuttering answers, hoping to crawl into a dark corner. Leave them alone, will ya?

You know what else is gratuitous? The incessant interviews with parents or the nostalgic reveries of the broadcasters of Little League World Series gone by. And spare me the you-may-be-watching-future-big-leaguers-here-folks crap. I won’ remember fifteen years down the line.

Another thing that bothers me is the concept that these are teams. These kids are mercenaries. During the spring, very few of them played on the same team. The squad from Worcester, like all the other squads from across the country, was assembled, carefully calculated to the last man.

Don’t think adults have too tight a grip on the game. What about the Danny Almonte fiasco last year? What kind of parent inserts a 14-year old kid in a game being played by kids two or three years younger than him? Despicable is all I can say. That was all for me. No más.

I’m not calling for all kids to return to the sandlot. I must admit a baseball uniform is very cool to wear and even cooler to play in. It’s that it’s just a little too much when it comes to flying in teams from around the world to play in a small baseball field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, that hotbed of tourism. Leave the kids home so they can play, not train, during their summer vacations.