My Pitch

The great Little League debate

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The Sayre, Pennsylvania Junior Little League team recently withdrew from the Little League state tournament and caused somewhat of an uproar in the town.

The reasons that were given in a statement were brief and simply stated that “prior commitments” would not allow the team, which was considered one of the favorites to win it all, to continue in the tournament, and that the Sayre Little League felt that other teams deserved a chance to play.

The conclusion that was drawn by most of the community was that parents wanted to go on vacation with their kids. I’m not confirming or denying it, but that was just the feeling many of the parents got when they read the statement.

Some of the locals were angry, sad, confused. Others were not and congratulated the team on the success that they had and were understanding.

The whole story brought me back to my Little League days and this is a topic that is still debated today.

When local Little Leaguers commit to playing for their town’s All-Star team, they essentially devote their entire to summer to the team … especially if the team makes a deep run. Whether it be games, practices, travel days, it’s nearly a daily commitment for all of July and half of August.

I played for my local Little League All-Star team in Massachusetts when I was younger. I had a blast playing despite never advancing out of the state tournament.

My mother raised my brother and I alone. She was always there for my games and would always do what she had to do to make sure my brother and I had the same opportunities as the other kids.

However, she and her two kids were going on vacation in the summer … she didn’t care what the coaches thought.

When we would go away for a few days I didn’t really miss the game and enjoyed my time off admittedly. At the time I didn’t realize the issue that the coaches had with it though, and it wasn’t until I was older that my mom explained some of the “discussions” she had with them regarding it. They were pissed at her, and frankly she didn’t care.

I know a handful of baseball families that face that similar issue every summer.

Are you entitled to a vacation when you commit to the team? Or have you given that all away?

Like most things, I feel that the best solution lies somewhere in the middle.

I absolutely believe that when you commit to playing summer baseball that that should be a priority. The town selected you to represent it in one of the biggest sports tournaments of the year. I know that these are just young kids, but it really is an honor to play in the All-Star tournament.

However, these are just kids. Parents and families wait the whole year to enjoy the summer that always goes by so fast. Kids are in school for over nine months of the year and deserve a chance to enjoy their time off.

I know, I know. If they care so much about time off then why commit to playing? And isn’t playing baseball what they love to do anyway?

Both are fair and true points, but let’s be real here. It doesn’t matter what you are passionate about, if you are devoting every day to something for two months straight there will be a point where a break would be nice.

I think the best solution is increasing roster sizes if you ask me.

Most teams have 11-12 kids. Would it really hurt to add another one or two? I know that each kid needs to play which could absolutely present problems, but what about the possibility of also having a few kids on standby as alternates?

If Little Leagues were able to come up with an alternate system or a way to increase roster sizes, I think that would be a win altogether. More kids would get to say that they played for their All-Star teams, while also giving coaches flexibility when a family wants to go away, even if it means missing a game or two.

Let me stress that a player should only miss a game or two … anything past that would be failing to hold your end of the bargain.

Once again, I’m not trying to relieve families of their responsibilities and commitment to their teams. The unfortunate truth about summer baseball is that teams just don’t have other options.

Let’s give them some options, even if it’s not my suggestions. As much as families to need to honor the team, they should still be able to enjoy a getaway weekend and allow their kids time to be relaxed and carefree in the summer.

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