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The Little League All Star Game

Friday night I was an assistant coach at our Little League All Star Game. The game featured kids from the first-, fourth-, and sixth-place teams (my group) versus the representatives from the second-, third-, and fifth-place teams. Our team lost 15-5, meaning that I maintained my perfect record for the season.

One of the things that I discovered through two practices and the game itself was that I really did have a good group of kids to coach. There were two players on our All Star team for whom I didn’t care much.

One of them played catcher. Later in the game, the opponents had the bases loaded. A pitch got past the catcher and went through a hole in the backstop. The umpire declared the ball dead and told each runner to advance a base, which scored a run and left runners on second and third. The batter then proceeded to draw a walk. The runner on third, having forgotten that he was no longer forced, started to trot home. The other coaches and I, upon realizing what was going on, hollered at the catcher, who was still in possession of the ball, to tag him. Instead, he froze up and the runner made it back to third without drawing a throw.

After the inning, I walked over to talk to him. I gave him a short pep talk about how the catcher is the brains of the defense and needs to know the game situation at all times. He never even looked at me. I let it go, since I didn’t think I had the standing to make him pay attention to me, but if that was his default attitude he and I would have had problems over a season.

The other kid reached third base in each of the two innings that I coached at third. He was clearly a speedster, and while on the base he babbled on about trying to steal home while the catcher turned his back to put his mask back on after returning the ball to the pitcher. (I found out later on from his coach that they had scouted this catcher and knew his habits.) In the meantime, I reminded him that there were less than two outs so he needed to tag up on a fly ball. Sure enough, a popup was hit in the infield. He was ten feet off the base when it was caught. It made no difference, but I gave him a few words about doing what the coach tells him to do.

The second time we met at third base was in the last inning, again with one out. He was more insistent about trying to score on a wild pitch. Sure enough, one came, but the ball bounced right back to the catcher. I told him to stay put, but he took off anyway and was out by a mile. Moreover, he ran into the catcher instead of sliding. As the catcher outweighed him by a substantial amount, he got the worst of it. He also got bawled out by both of his coaches later, who informed him that league rules allowed for him to be suspended or barred for doing that.

You might think I’m being a little hard on these kids, and you may be right. I didn’t have all that much exposure to them, and maybe I caught them in a bad light. All I can say is that I’ve seen what I call Superstar Syndrome before, and these two showed clear signs of it. Give me a team full of less talented but earnest workers any day.

Saturday was the closing ceremonies, in which trophies were handed out to all of the players, from T-ball to the top-level kids. If that sounds chaotic, you’re on the mark. The league president announced that the new field would be ready for fall ball, which means I may have to decide sooner than I originally thought if I want to ride this horse again. I do have another commitment for evenings and Saturdays in th autumn, though. So we’ll just have to see.

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One Comment

  1. William Hughes says:

    Reading your story about the kids with “Superstar Syndrome” reminded me of my Little League days. As I said earlier, all of the 9 and 10 year olds were playing “clinic” or “farm team” (advanced clinic) baseball, meaning that one guy was running the game and pitching for both teams. How he would deal with kids like this is simple. Instead of lobbing the next pitch in, he give a quick demonstration of the Bob Gibson / Don Drysdale style of pitching. The kid never acted like that again.