The Little League World Series stinks. That’s right, stinks. The only reason I’ve watched it this year is to see just how badly baseball is played by kids who are supposed to be good at it. Not only should ESPN be embarrassed for televising it, the 35,000+ fans who pack the stands should be embarrassed and any non-Little League person who watches the games should be ashamed of themselves, as well.
As I said, I watch the Little League World Series so that I can form an informed opinion of the state of play. What’s your excuse? Did I mention that the Little League World Series stinks?
Watch a game and you will be hard pressed to find a kid with a proper pitching motion or a good swing. Proper technique in general is hard to find for any skill, and Little League games bear little resemblance to the game as it’s played at higher levels. Kids don’t run well, don’t bend and have poor overall movement skills. Keep in mind these are the “best” players and the inescapable conclusion is that the “average” players’ skills are that much worse.
The only aspect of Little League that cues you in to the fact that these kids are playing baseball is the uniforms.
Who cares if the kid has a funky pitching motion if he can throw heat? What does it matter if a kid has a bad swing if he can get the bat through the hitting zone?
There is a list of reasons why Little League play is lousy.
1) Physical maturity is mistaken for talent. Quite simply, the oldest kids are the best kids. Rare exceptions aside, the dominant players from any state, island nation or country are the biggest kids, who are the oldest kids. If the Little League World Series was any indication of talent or potential, there would be a hell of a lot more guys in the major leagues and playing at the highest level of college who played in the Little League World Series.
2) Cal Ripken Jr. The Little League administration has ticked off a lot of people, and there has been a move away from Little League and towards Cal Ripkin, Jr.’s baseball league. This talent drain of baseball players has resulted in a lowering of Little League’s already overall low level of play. This isn’t to say that there should be an expectation that Cal’s league is any better, because regardless of the league, baseball’s best 12-year olds will always be the ones who are the most physically mature.
3) Kids are playing too much baseball. Over the past decade the advent of fall baseball, year-round baseball clinics and the increase in games for summer baseball leagues, at all levels, has had a detrimental effect on the sport. Injury problems and burnout have driven kids away and/or put them on the sidelines (actually this is a mixed sport metaphor, it should be “in the dugout”). Ask any parent who has kids playing baseball in the summer and you will hear stories of arm troubles and/or the misery that comes with summer baseball, which doesn’t end until the middle of August.
4) Lacrosse; the other spring sport. Depending on where you live, playing lacrosse has become a viable option for many kids, and kids have been defecting in huge numbers. From Little League through high school, lacrosse has been taking kids away from baseball for several years. Look at the explosion of this sport and you have to realize that the kids that are now playing lacrosse didn’t just materialize out of thin air, but in large part have migrated from baseball.
As mentioned above, baseball’s over-scheduling has been a major factor in kids – and parents – making the switch. If you don’t know a parent who helped coax their kid away from baseball to lacrosse because of youth baseball’s ridiculous demands, you are in the minority. I am not saying that one sport is better than the other, I am just commenting on the fact that kids are switching sports.
Over the past several years, the talent drain away from baseball in general, has been substantial. Watching the Little League World Series is a great illustration of outcome based competition (which for little kids is bad) and how physical maturity is mistaken for talent.