Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Too Good for the League

There is a story circulating out of Columbus, Ohio, today about an 11- and 12 year-old boys' baseball team called The Stars of Columbus which was kicked out of its league for being too good. The Bad Boys of the Buckeye State were beating the other teams by scores of 18-0, 13-0, 24-0, 10-2, and17-6, until their opponents just stopped showing up and forfeited their games.

"They were just beating the rec kids up," said Michael Mirones, the league's board chairman. "It's no fun for the kids that are losing."

"We didn't want one of our kids to get hit in the face with a ball," said rival coach Kris Hutchins, who said all his players' parents agreed that their boys not face the Stars.

Finally, the head of the league refunded the team's entrance fee and told them to find a more competitive league.

Why didn't the American League do this to Team Steinbrenner years ago?

Seriously, I think most everyone involved may be happier if all the boys are playing more competitive games at their own levels of ability. On the other hand, I don't think it's unusual for youth sports leagues to have one or two dominant teams at the top and at least one group of kids who get creamed by just about everybody. The Bad News Bears is based on that fact of life. At some point, everybody has to run up against someone else who, despite your best efforts, is just way more talented than you, and maybe even to a humiliating degree. Do 11- and 12 year-old boys these days need to be protected from that realization?

Said Stars 2nd baseman Matthew "Boomer" Hufferd (btw, I'd like to meet the 12 year-old who has already acquired the nickname "Boomer"): "If they learn at their age that they can forfeit on things they don't want to do, it's quitting."

Say what you will about Tanner, but he never was a quitter.

True story about myself: the very first organized baseball game I played, my team lost, 26-1. I remember the score vividly, mostly because I scored my team's only run. I recall going home and telling anyone who asked that "I scored a home run!" What I meant was, I'd drawn a walk, took 2nd on a wild pitch, took 3rd on a wild pitch, and I'm pretty sure I scored when yet another wild pitch hit the backstop. Hey, it's the little things... right? And, you know, maybe my teammates didn't feel the same way, but I remember feeling happy that day.

I would go on to play for some good sports teams, some lousy ones, and I would experience some losses that I took personally and upset me in ways that my first baseball game did not. But the only thing that really stung all that badly was when I just didn't get a chance to play. Win or lose, I always felt like the playing's the thing. Has a group of kids ever suffered any permanent damage to their self-esteem just because they played a game and lost by a score of something like 26-1?

Since being kicked out of their league, the Stars have been
fielding offers to play teams from around Ohio and even outside the state; but, ironically, the boys recently lost their first game of the season, 5-4, to a team from the Columbus area, called Georgian Heights, whom the Stars had beaten twice before this year. The Stars seem to be taking it in stride. Pitcher Josh Dameron said, "The mood of our team is the same. We don't care about the loss. The next time we play them, we hope we win.''

When the boys on the Georgian Heights team look back on their experiences this season, I wonder what will stick with them: losing a couple games to a team that was "too good" for the league, or that they came back to beat them on the third try?


At 6/29/2005 5:14 AM, Anonymous Kristi said...

I was always embarrassed when my fastpitch team beat up on the other local teams during our regular league play, I felt really sorry for them. I sure didn't enjoy winning by a landslide. We won several games because of the "10 run rule."

One of my top favorite games we played resulted in a 3rd place finish at an invitational tournament. We didn't win the tournament or come in second, but we played VERY hard to beat a great team (for the first time) to take 3rd! No doubt there are some uptight parents that would have a difficult time wrapping their brains around that concept. Hey, kids can have fun even when they don't place 1st!

At 6/29/2005 10:24 AM, Blogger SBG said...

I still remember my first little league at bat. I was seven and the pitcher was my 10 year old second cousin. I swung at the first pitch and rolled out to the shortstop. I was happy to make contact, not knowing that there were plenty of Ks in my future (and I wasn't a pitcher).

At 6/29/2005 11:47 AM, Blogger Johnny said...

I've been "drubbed" in a couple different sports in my career. You get over it. Frightwig is right. At 11 or 12, playing is the big thing. Yes you want to win, but the biggest thing is playing a sport with your friends.

At 6/29/2005 12:51 PM, Anonymous Just Beth said...

My company sponsored two teams in softball a number of years ago. We enjoyed every game. At the end of the year when we got together after the games for pizza, we celebrated because between the two teams, our record was 1-17-2 (yes, one win, seventeen losses and a tie for each team). I will point out that the two teams played each other twice, which means the lone win was one team beating the other, and the tie was the last game of the year when the umpire, knowing our records, allowed us to end after the regular five (or seven) innings in a tie.

As better players who wanted to compete joined the team in ensuing years, enthusiasm waned until there were no longer enough people interested enough to form a team. I'm not athletically inclined at all, but I miss "playing" softball.

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At 8/05/2006 8:09 PM, Blogger Erik Mann said...

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