Mandatory and play do not go together, Little League

The Little League World Series began Thursday and continues through next Sunday.

I refuse to watch, unless it happens to be on at a sports bar, where I don’t have control of the televisions. But usually I have enough to distract me, including trivia and other sporting events.

I refuse to watch for one primary reason.

Mandatory play.

In most levels governed by Little League International, including the 12-year old level, which is the age group for teams in the LLWS, everyone who is listed on a lineup card must get into the game for meaningful action.

If a team has 13 or more players on its lineup card, every player must (a) bat at least once, or (b) play three consecutive outs on defense. And three consecutive outs means just that; a fielder can drop three fly balls or let three balls go through his legs, but he has to stay out there until three outs are recorded.

If a team has fewer than 13 players on its roster, then everyone must either bat once or play SIX consecutive outs.

A coach who violates this rule is subjected to severe penalties, and the player(s) who did not get into that game must start the team’s next game.

It happened in a regional game in Connecticut this summer. The coach of the New Hampshire state champion refused to insert the one player on his team who had yet to play. The commissioner of the New England region ruled if the coach violated the rule, he would be suspended for his team’s next two games.

What made this ridiculous is New Hampshire trailed 7-5 in the bottom of the sixth–the last inning–with runners on the corners.

The coach refused.

Good for him.

Let me see: I’m going to bat someone who has yet to play just to satisfy a stupid rule when he represents the winning run. Okay then.

The mandatory play rule is asinine. I don’t care if the kids are 12 years old.

It’s a fact of life some kids are just not as talented as the others. It may be some kids hit their growth spurt earlier, it may be a kid is just not naturally talented, whatever.

If the greatest heartbreak in a kid’s life is not getting into a Litlte League game, then that kid has a great life.

How many Little League players are going to make their high school varsity? I would say less than one third.

How many of those who make their high school varsity are going to play in college? Less than five percent.

And how many players in college (or high school) are going to play professionally (and by professionally, I mean the minor leagues)? Less than one percent. And very, very, VERY few are going to make it all the way to Major League Baseball.

Starting in high school, NOBODY has a right to play. NOBODY. There are tens of thousands of high school varsity players across the United States who see little or no action in their careers. It’s not anything against them. It’s a fact of life.

Mandatory play in Little League is another symptom of the participation trophy culture of the United States. Just like parents complaining their son or daughter didn’t play.

I think mandatory play should be abolished, period. But if Little Leasgue insists on keepig it, it should be outlawed for use in state, regional and World Series play. Teams should be able to use their best players at all times when their seasons are on the line. And coaches who refuse to abide by it need to be applauded, not punished, for upholding the spirit of the National Pastime.

I wasn’t good enough to play baseball when I was very young. I tried, but it was futile. I gave it up. It’s not good to quit, but I knew I wasn’t coordinated enough. It’s simply a fact of life I deal with.

No kid should be discouraged if he doesn’t play. It’s all about the team.

Kansas doesn’t have to worry about it anyway. No team from the Sunflower State has ever played in the LLWS. The only area with teams sanctioned by LIttle League are in the southeast corner, and those are grossly overmatched in the Midwest regoinal.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on August 19, 2017, in Baseball and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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