LITTLE LEAGUE: PARENTMANIA
My one regret is that every parent and prospective parent of Little Leaguers the nation over can't be required to read the Little League articles (SI, Aug. 19, 26) before next season begins.
In my opinion Little League baseball is the greatest thing that has ever happened for the youngsters. Nowhere have I seen anything that so captures the interest and creates the friendships and desire for good sportsmanship that Little League baseball does. For the parents, it's an entirely different story. Night after night I have watched the opposing players meet at the center of the field after the game was over, shake hands and walk off arm in arm. Not once have I seen the parents of a losing team member congratulate the winning parents.
I have watched the selfish desires of parents change their sons from happy youngsters, having the time of their lives playing baseball, to bewildered, disillusioned boys, reluctant to go on the field for fear of being criticized for making an error or striking out.
Once I heard the minister of a church sponsoring a team tell the boys, who had hit a losing streak, they just had to win. They had gotten off to a good start, the people were expecting them to win and they would be letting the community down if they didn't, they were told.
Another time I saw the parents of a boy, packed and ready to leave on a beach vacation immediately following the game, on the verge of refusing to take the boy along, saying he didn't deserve a vacation after playing such a sloppy game.
That's the kind of pressure that must be stopped if Little League baseball is to survive, and continue to exert a good, rather than a bad influence on the boys.
Little League baseball is a tough business for managers, umpires and players alike, but for every bad point there are a dozen on the good side.
Long before the season is over I promise myself that never again will I have anything to do with a team, but I know that when the first warm days of spring roll around next year, I will be out combing the neighborhood for new boys of League age that may have moved in; and when the day comes to pass out the shiny, new uniforms, I wouldn't trade places with Casey Stengel himself.
That's the way Little League baseball gets you. Maybe that explains the cases of Parentmania that seem destined to accompany the sport.
LITTLE LEAGUE: BASIC COMPETITION
Over the anguished screams of a legion of mommas and the nervous hand wringings of child psychologists, I would like to interject a strong voice of protest.