As a kid I didn’t have dreams of becoming an astronaut, cowboy, or Doctor. All I ever wanted to be was a Major League baseball player. Growing up with a cousin that was in “the show” made me think it was actually a possibility. Pretending to be Graig Nettles or any other New York Yankee occupied most of my thoughts. I would dream big, I imagined my baseball card and thought maybe one day I would be playing in the World Series.
To get there I had to play, and I did just that. In the backyard, the streets and of course in Little League. My first exposure to Little League was in Palos Verdes, California. Names like Josh Leichter, Bryan Ezell, Jason Buck and Jenny Fox. Yes, Jenny Fox. Jenny was Mo’Ne Davis before Mo’Ne Davis. It didn’t seem strange to me to have a girl in our Little League. Forget being a girl, she was a flat out stud. We all played together, learned team concepts, hopefully developed as players and for me, fell even more in love with baseball.
From there at age 11 I moved to Irvine, California. New names, new Little League and new challenges. The players were older, getting better, faster, and stronger. Those new names I had to contend with included Sean Spelber, Kevin Krogstad, Gary Fishel, Marty Craddock, Mark Nolan, Jason Harnett, Donald Halliburton and Tim Corken. All those names meant something to me. It is what I knew, it was my competition, it was people making me better and eventually became teammates and friends as all of our baseball lives continued. Some went on to play Babe Ruth, High School, and even College. I tried that route. You know that movie “Trouble With the Curve”, I swear that is about me. If pitchers would only throw about 80 mph and straight down the middle then I might still be playing….. In my mind at least.
So that takes us to where we are now. As sports fans we have almost made it. The dog days of August for baseball are almost complete. NFL and college football starts very soon. The PGA has played out it’s 4 majors. The NBA and NHL camps open soon and the baseball playoffs will be here shortly. So how do we fill our sports landscape? Little League Baseball. Little League Baseball. Really? This isn’t my Little League Baseball, or likely your Little League Baseball or any other form of Little League you have ever seen. I’ll admit it, I have watched but why in the world should I know Mo’Ne Davis and Erick Figuerora’s name. I found out about Figuerora because he is a massive kid. 6 foot 4 229 pounds. WOW. Mo’Ne Davis we know because she can bring it. No doubt she is a stud but putting her on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with a caption that says “remember her name”? Sports Center has had a Sunday Conversation with Mo’Ne Davis. They are broadcasting full shows live before games. I realize we are in a different age. The game is the same however the coverage is scary to me. How would Jenny Fox have handled being on the cover of Sports Illustrated all those years ago? How would Mark Nolan have done being interviewed on the SportsCenter set? What if Sean Spelber had his hitting mechanics broken down on national television by Nomar Garciaparra? That is a world that I can’t even imagine. It is certainly not the kids fault, but the media has turned a great game for kids who love baseball into a big time event. On the surface I think it would be incredibly cool but should they really be getting this much exposure?
We had a team from Irvine that made it all the way to the Little League World Series Championship back in 1987 just after our group finished playing. As High School students we rooted for them, the community rooted for them and hoped for a title. They fell short but they got their love locally and will have a lifetime of memories, but certainly never any SI covers or blanket coverage on National Television. More power to Mo’Ne Davis and anyone else that gets a lot of attention during this tournament. I hope you continue to dream big and make all the right plays. As for me, I think it it’s time to call up some old friends to set up a game and see what we have left in the tank. But please Jenny, only fastballs for me.
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