Monday, August 17, 2015

Little League World Series won’t give us same thrills this year, regardless

Even without the stink that lingers over the Jackie Robinson West youth baseball league, there wouldn’t have been as much interest in the Little League World Series that begins later this week.

Back when it was a sports story, and NOT a court story
For there won’t be any kind of local angle to the event this year. For 2015, the best team from Illinois was one from the Little League program in Olney – an out-of-the-way community in the far southeastern portion of the state.

AS IT TURNS out, the Olney team managed to get knocked out during the qualifying rounds. They won’t even be close to Williamsport, Pa., when the 10-day tourney begins Thursday.

There won’t be anyone local for us to cheer for.

The champs from the Roseland/Morgan Park neighborhoods who also had players from scattered south suburban communities definitely won’t be anywhere to be seen.

Not even in any way to be remembered as the defending U.S. champions (who could have been “world” champs if they could have beat that ball club from Seoul, South Korea in the final game).

FOR LET’S NOT forget that 2014 is going to be the tourney that goes into the books with re-written history – less concerned with what actually took place on the ball field. Which makes it go against the very nature of sports – where on-field activity is usually all that matters.

There will be that team from the Las Vegas, Nev., area that couldn’t beat the boys of the Far South Side on the field, but will be regarded as the U.S. champions regardless.

Even though anyone who actually watched last year’s Little League World Series remembers that the big stories were the outstanding play of the boys from the Far South Side and surrounding suburbs and that girl who pitched outstandingly for the team from the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Another story not likely to be matched this year
In fact, a whole chain of teams that didn’t win, but are now regarded as “winners” because of the efforts to pretend that what wasn’t really was.

NOW I KNOW some people are determined to think that a major deceit took place last year. There have been recent reports indicating that only six of the dozen ballplayers on that Jackie Robinson West team that represented the Great Lakes region were legitimately from the neighborhoods that the league covers.

Although I also remember that no one ever tried to cover up the fact that many of the kids were from nearby suburbs – in many cases with one parent living in the suburb and another living within the Chicago neighborhood.

Or in some cases where they had moved to a new neighborhood, but preferred to stay in the Jackie Robinson West program that has been an elite amongst city-based youth baseball leagues.

I suspect that the Little League programs in those suburbs are jealous that they couldn’t attract those kids to want to play ball in their new home communities. That jealousy has enough of a stink that I have a hard time getting too worked up over the Jackie Robinson West program.

THERE WAS TALK of having the Jackie Robinson West program break away from Little League proper; perhaps joining the Cal Ripken Baseball program or some other league that would accept them on the terms they operate under.

A part of me does wonder if what really bothers some people is that the public attention last year went to Mo’ne Davis (the pre-teen pitcher) and the Jackie Robinson West kids – who happened to be the few African-American ballplayers in what was largely a lily-white tourney.

I’m sure some think the fact that some praised those kids was somehow detracting attention from other kids they would have preferred to get the publicity. As far as I can tell, this year’s Little League World Series might well be closer to their liking.

Which might also make it less worthwhile to watch!


No comments: