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Why I Don't Like The Little League World Series

Patch editor David Mills talks about why he doesn't like the Little League World Series

This might be borderline un-American, but I'm sorry, I don't like the Little League World Series.

Now, I have nothing against Little League itself. In fact, it's a fine organization, the largest youth sports organization in the world.

The nonprofit organization allows 2.6 million children worldwide to play the game of baseball. Its coaches and adult volunteers provide a multitude of lasting learning experiences for these young players.

This column is also not intended to disrespect the Petaluma Little League team, which finished up a fine season on Sunday by winning the consolation game in the World Series championship round.

The Little League games played week in and week out are wonderful. I don't even object to regional playoff tournaments.

But that's where it should end. At the local level.

There is no reason to subject 12-year-olds to the rigors and stress of a statewide or national or worldwide tournament.

High school sports only rise to the state level. College sports only compete at the national level.

Why does Little League need to thrust itself on the world stage?

It's simply too much pressure to put on young boys who are just hitting the age of puberty.

I really believe the Little League World Series is for the adults' benefit. It is an opportunity for the grown-ups, many of whom perhaps did not have a high-level athletic experience when they were young, to experience the thrills of sudden death playoffs.

It's too much for pre-teens. We do see the happy 12-year-olds who jubilantly  celebrate their victories.

However, we rarely see the devastated middle school students on the losing side. The youngster who struck out with runners in scoring position. Or the infielder who booted a groundball at a crucial moment. Or a pitcher who gave up a critical homerun.

There are plenty of youngsters in these tournaments who suffer through the wrath of a normally calm coach or parent who lets their emotions get out of control during the tense moments of these must-win games.

I'm not alone in this opinion. Former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden expressed reservations last week on KCBS radio about the Little League World Series.

Bad experiences at this level can be scarring for young athletes. And it's not necessary. There's no reason to make Little League baseball a worldwide experience with live television coverage and hordes of other media attention.

Little League baseball is a wonderful experience at the local level. Let's keep it there. At the local level.

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Greg Ow August 27, 2012 at 03:18 PM
As a father of a teenaged son who grewup playing Little League Baseball, the dream of playing in the Little League World Series still lives on for my 17 year old son. Recall as a kid the dreams you had to become President of the United States, or representing your country in the Olympics when you growup. What other venue allows kids to experience their dreams while still a kid! The raw emotions you speak of for those kids striking out or missing the catch whether performed locally or nationally will be similar, a sense of letdown that fades quickly. But to experience the thrill of playing in the Big Leagues at the young age of 12-13 years old is a dream come true for boys and girls around the world! Let's keep the dreams alive! A Father from Walnut Creek
Ian Lipnicky (still a SportsFan) August 27, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Too many parents want to live vicariously through their children.
Scott August 27, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Sorry, I have to disagree with your premise. Having had a nephew go through the tournament about 3 years ago, I got to see first hand how it works. The teams that get to the Williamsport tournament are the best of the best, an "all star" team of the entire league. They play other towns in their region (most of which he faced as a representative of his hometown's "traveling team" that summer), and so on up through the ranks until they become their state's representative in the finals to go to the LLWS. Take a look at the rosters of the tournament from, say, 2000. You will see more than one name on those rosters that are playing major college baseball, if not in the professional ranks. By the way, my nephew's team won their sectional, but lost in the second round. Was he disappointed? Sure, who wouldn't. Did it "scar" him as an athlete? Let's see. Last spring, he was starting catcher on his HS baseball team as a freshman, as well as all-league soccer player. His team made it to the New England regional finals in Pop Warner football the year of the LLWS run, just missing out on the national tournament. Nah, I think his disappointment at losing didn't affect him much. Truth to tell, I think the LLWS loss was a GOOD thing for him. It showed him that, as good as he may think he is, there are almost always others as good if not better than him.
Creek Diva August 27, 2012 at 05:43 PM
So I guess you won't be covering it next year when it's in Livermore? As a former baseball coach my rules were simple, have fun and play by the rules.
CommonSense August 27, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Hey, let's give everyone a trophy and not keep score and then we'll all hug and drink from juice boxes! Or, we can allow our children to try and excel, and encourage them when they succeed AND fail. And not protect them from every little hurdle they might have to overcome in life, because they will encounter hurdles... and mom and dad might not always be around to pick them up. As I've told many people, I didn't raise children.... I raised ADULTS.
Voter with an ID August 27, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Good comments, Common Sense. Too often the focus is on the negative or the typical put down these days of anything that smacks of competition where one side loses. The notion that kids this age would be scarred for life is an projection of the social engineers in education and government that feel self esteem (real or perceived) is more important a life lesson to kids than competition and success. Sad, that some kids may be deprived of the chance to compete and excel. They will never get to know what they are capable of and to test how far their potential will take them.
Eileen August 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Very thoughtful article.
Anonymous August 28, 2012 at 05:02 AM
I agree with SportsFan. I know of little leaguers who play baseball pretty much 24/7 365 days a week. They play on numerous teams and spend late nights at batting cages and playing indoors in the winter. I have heard horror stories of these CHILDREN following asleep in class. This is just pure craziness. I feel bad for these kids and can't think that they do this not because they want to but because of their parents pushing them.
Anonymous August 28, 2012 at 05:47 PM
What a difference a few weeks makes. On August 9th, David was telling us about the inspirational Olympic experience of international competition. Does that include the teenage Olympians? I guess he must have missed the fact that many of them lost. Are they scarred? Well, I guess they are not 12/13. Does he not realize they were competing internationally when they were that age, and younger?. How many of the Little Leaguers were sent away from their families to train to play baseball? Is it worse to grow up with your friends and family, play baseball at the local park, eat at the snack bar after games, get selected to represent your league and make it to the LLWS only to lose or is it worse to discard a "normal" childhood, move away from your family to live with a coach, train unbelievable hours in the drive for perfection, only to lose in the Olympics?
Tom August 28, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Here is my concern with youth sports in general. A generation ago there were seasons, now many kids feel they must play year around in order to compete. They go to camps, travelling teams and there is no off season. When you get to high school it can be very harsh. For example if you go to SRVHS and wish to play some sports (tennis or golf for example) making the team does not require much dedication as the teams are fairly weak. Try to make soccer, basketball, LAX or baseball and you better be VERY good or you wont make the first cut. When I grew up there were very few private coaches for kids, there was a clear season and if you just worked hard you had an ok chance of making your local HS team. Those days are gone. Now you have the use of video, private coaches and a laundry list of what parents will spend and kids will do because.......you have to to make the team. There seems to be no end in the quest to be the best. This trend has also gone to academics as well so I am not bashing on sports as I do love them.
Weechee Warrick August 29, 2012 at 06:29 AM
I hate the lack of a decent slider.
Concerned Citizen II August 30, 2012 at 04:00 AM
Seriously, did you even play sports as a kid? It is a GAME. Win or lose, I can only imagine the life lessons the teams attending the LLWS learned through this amazing experience. Yes, the spotlight is a bit brighter on the big stage. More cameras. More buzz. That just multiplies how ridiculously cool and unforgetable it would be though the eyes of a 12 year old. Fortunately for kids, life hasn't yet tainted their view of the world. Adults take themselves WAY too seriously. It reminds me of an amazing quote: “You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”- Olin Miller As a kid, I played on a team that went 0-26. We sucked and knew it. We weren't coddled and given participation ribbons. Somehow we found the strength to survive. Life isn't always fair. Let the kids play. Forget the cheaters and egos in the majors... I'd rather watch the little guys play. True heroes.
Ryan September 05, 2012 at 05:13 PM
While I think it is important for kids to learn how to win and lose, Little League does have some issues. One, I don't think the LLWS should be on TV. Two, parents can be the largest problem in Little League. Three, I do loathe the push for kids to specialize in one sport so young. It makes me sad. Kids should be able to play multiple sports, even through high school. Four, my main issue when i see pitchers in the LLWS is how they are throwing all kinds of junk. Most of those kids' arms will be ruined. Coaches and parents are to blame for this. Other than that, Little League is a great experience.

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