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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Get more kids in the game!

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Get more kids in the game!

Five different Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth Baseball League Eastern New York state tournaments begin this weekend in the Capital Region and along with them, Little League continues its regional contests.

All weekend long fans will be treated to home runs, game-saving catches and pitching duels. One thing this weekend that may be as rare as a triple play would be an all-star squad with 15 players in uniform.

Currently, Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth allow all-star rosters to include 15 players mainly due to the organization’s non-requirement that everyone play one inning. Little League continues a mandate that each player compete in at least one full inning.

While the weekend will be filled with smiling faces, some with braces, some with gaps between teeth that are beginning to grow in, the rosters could be filled to capacity.

All-star squads are designed to compete in travel leagues and hopefully advance to the higher levels of regional and state competition. They are selected and built to win. The recreation season is over; the play for just playing sake is done. Now it’s just win baby.

That’s too bad.

In 2004 I fondly remember a spirited conversation with the late Ron Tellefsen, president of Babe Ruth Baseball League, Inc. who was visiting Clifton Park for the official contract signing of the 2006 13-15-year-old Babe Ruth World Series.

He was an advocate for the 15-player roster and that 15 young players should be given the opportunity to compete, practice and most importantly, play baseball together. He challenged the coaches present that they could find a reason for that one non-starter to be on the roster. Whether it was a bunt specialist or a speedy pinch runner whose offense hasn’t caught up with his peers.

The coaches listened, respected this authority of youth baseball, but all had the same response. They could manage the players, but not the parents.

The coaches said the players might be able to handle playing an inning or two, if at all each game, but it was the parents that would break the coaches “spirit.”
I talked to several youth coaches who all agreed with the theory, but the reality, those with drivers licenses and paying to travel all over each summer, they don’t want to hear it. The perception is that each parent believes their child is the next Derek Jeter, A-Rod or Roger Clemens.

Sorry folks, that isn’t the case. The spirit of the game is about being a part of a team, enjoying the American Pastime, and just maybe, win some baseball games.

So don’t ruin it.

I challenge more coaches and baseball organizations to make all-star teams compete with 15 players, not only on the roster, but in uniform for each game. Along with that, I challenge the parents out there to embrace the sport, the camaraderie and the joy that is baseball.

Give it a try; it could be the best lesson for you and your player.



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