There is not a more boring time on the sports calendar than July if you ask me.
The football season is still a ways off, basketball and hockey are officially over, and baseball is in that midseason lull that seems to drag on for far more than a month or two. There are no college sports, no high school sports … I feel a withdrawal coming on as we speak.
Thank God we have Little League baseball.
I don’t have kids of my own so I can’t even fully appreciate the value of having a strong local Little League program, but even as a child-less 20 something, I do enjoy the Little League tournament that seems to always pull me out of a dark sports-deprived depression that sinks in during the month of July.
I’ve got to admit, some of the talent coming out of local Little League programs is as impressive as its ever been as well.
I’ve spent much of the past two weeks covering the baseball and softball tournaments and I have been pretty impressed with how developed some of these kids are, at least compared to when I used to play.
Kids have clean swings, can throw off-speed pitches and are even calling which cuts to throw to and outfield shifts. When I was 10 the game plan was simple: The pitcher throws the ball, you hit it.
Rhode Island, Warwick in particular, has become one of the Little League hotspots in the Northeast. Whether it is Warwick North or Warwick Continental American, the teams around here have hit their peak in the last decade or so and have boasted some of the best talent in all of New England.
Because of that, I encourage you to follow the tournament even if you don’t have a kid or can’t make it to the games. All of the brackets are online FYI.
I have to say though, I am not a fan of some of the theatrics from the Little League World Series tournament that takes place in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. I think that it’s cool to televise it on ESPN and that it has become such a prominent cultural event, but I think sometimes the off-the-field fun takes up too much air time and I also don’t agree with the pressure that can be placed on the kids.
The above paragraph is somewhat of an aside … I’m a big supporter of Little League and its tournaments, I just wanted to make it clear that the coverage of the final tournament could use some tweaking.
From a more local perspective however, Little League is important on so many levels.
Most kids play Little League, most kids are socialized and make friends through Little League, and it teaches kids the game and how to compete as a team while also emphasizing fun. No one’s job is at stake, losing doesn’t matter, and it helps bring communities together every summer.
Little League baseball is also a ton of fun to watch, especially once the all-star tournaments kick off.
Sometimes regular season Little League can be hard to watch. Kids aren’t as sharp on the field, sometimes pitchers can’t hit the strike zone, there are errors left and right. However, once these teams reach the district and state playoffs, the quality is actually pretty solid, especially in a place like Rhode Island.
It’s always a fun change of pace seeing the game on the mini field. It’s actually a lot faster at times than the higher levels, which can sometimes make for even more exciting sequences of plays and whatnot.
I wrote a column a few weeks back discussing how the uncertainty of high school athletics makes it more entertaining at times than professional sports, and Little League also falls into that category.
Because of the small field and the fact that the kids are 10-12 years old, no lead is safe and rallies can be sustained for long periods of times. I’ve seen teams come back from as many as 10-run deficits in Little League. Not even because of poor play, but just because of the pace of the game and how kids seem to play off each other in ways that adults do not.
Usually when I write columns praising teams and organizations it is because I feel that they are being under appreciated. In this case though, Little League has always received its rightful praise and I am just simply adding to it.
Little League is such a strong, important foundation of the community. This time of the year is when we get to celebrate some of the best local talent at the youth level compete on the state, and sometimes nation-wide stage.
As much as July makes me want to go into a 31-day hibernation as a sports fan at times, it always is a nice reminder of the significance of Little League, community and local sports in general.