What the heck is wrong with all these people?
- Miles Vance
- Beaverton Valley Times - Sports
I'll be the first to admit it - I've never been to Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League Baseball World Series. Not until yesterday, anyway.
I've also never been to San Bernardino, Calif., site of the Murrayhill Little League Majors all-stars' regional tournament victory, a victory that sent the Beaverton all-star team on to this week's World Series.
Nor did I go down to Ashland to watch Murrayhill's unabated romp through the Oregon state tournament. Finances and staffing at the Beaverton Valley Times, while better than ever before, are not those of a major daily newspaper and don't always allow such extravagances, even if you wish they did.
So, if you want to read the rest of this column and say I don't know what I'm talking about, go right ahead - people say that about me a lot even when I have been to this game or that.
But here's the deal - for the Murrayhill team to make it to the World Series is a good thing.
To become the first Oregon team in 48 years to get to Williamsport is a good thing.
That these kids, all of them 11 to 13 years old, get to play in luxurious stadiums, get showered with free baseball gear and get to play every one of their World Series contests on national TV is, again, a good thing.
Over the top? Sure. Out of proportion? Yeah. But for these kids, their coaches, their parents and their fans, it is a good thing.
At least that's what I think.
And in that, apparently, I'm in the minority, at least among the media folks of this world.
Just listen to a couple of the phrases dropped into stories and columns about the World Series from other local media sources.
From John Canzano's pre-Series column in the Oregonian, a column that focused on the regrettable - but still incredibly rare - instances of cheating and win-at-all-cost behavior: 'Little League isn't about the kids anymore,' and 'It's now about mom and dad's pursuit of glory.'
Another Oregonian story, though generally positive, remarked on the incredible cost - perhaps as much as $10,000 each - that families bear when a youngster and his team advance all the way to the World Series. While this item was absolutely fair, it also harbored in its sub-text the message 'These people must be nuts' to pay that much money for their kid to play baseball.
Then there's Jason Scukanec, an on-air personality at Portland's all-sports radio station KFXX and a contributor to KPTV's Fox12 sports, who opined over the weekend on Fox 12 that having all the Series games televised nationally 'kind of creeps me out.'
As I said, I understand that big corporations are making big money off kids ages 11-13, but you know what? I don't care. As to the cost, a majority of that expense comes before players' families make it to Williamsport, and no one seems to care about that portion of the expense.
As to the instances of cheating, dirty dealing and out-of-control parents who put their ambition above their children's best interests, shame on them.
But you know what all this stuff ignores? I'll tell you. It ignores the times when the Murrayhill players have gotten to sign autographs and shirts ('One kid even got to sign a 9-month-old baby's head,' said Murrayhill manager Jeff Keller).
It ignores the warmth of the momentary spotlight that most of these kids will never get to enjoy again.
'The kids have had a bunch of teeny-bopper girls chasing them around and blowing them kisses everywhere they go,' Jeff Keller said. 'They're loving it.'
It ignores the interaction the Murrayhill players have had with players from Russia and Japan and Saudi Arabia, interaction that may just bring the world a tiny step closer together rather than pushing it further apart.
'It's been fun coming together with the teams from around the world and try to be friends with them even though they can't speak English,' said Murrayhill infielder Sam Albert. 'It's fun to see the Japanese kids smile at you when you try to have a conversation with them.'
It ignores the lifetime memories these kids are making in what is truly a unique setting for Little League baseball.
'I'll probably remember the fields and the amount of stands and how many people have come to watch us play,' Albert said.
'Just being able to play on that field and knowing that all of America and all of Oregon are watching and supporting us,' said infielder/pitcher Derek Keller.
'It's so much fun. It's absolutely the greatest coaching experience I've ever had, and it's probably one of the greatest experiences I've had in my life, especially with my own kid being here,' Jeff Keller added.
So don't ignore the rotten stuff some parents to do get their kids to the Series. Don't excuse the cheaters or the umpire-beaters. Find them, catch them, expose them expel them.
But don't ignore the overwhelming amount of good stuff that goes along with it, too.