Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why I love Little League

Photo by Flickr user DavidDennis used under a Creative Commons license.

I was watching tonight's International Semi-Final between Japan and Chinese Taipei go far into extra innings and I realized that the game that these kids exemplifies everything I love about sports.

In a time when pretty much all of the sports coverage right now is focused on things unrelated to sports, (Steroids in the MLB, Michael Vick, Tim Donaghy, Tom Brady's Baby, Davydenko Tanking, Tiger sitting out, Becks finally getting some PT, etc.) the little leaguers present us with nothing more than strong fundamentals, a big heart, and a love for the game.

In a time when 50 percent of major leaguers couldn't lay down a sacrifice bunt if it meant their life, I just saw a 12-year-old from Japan square away, sending a little dribbler about three-quarters of the way down the first base line, hugging it all the way, advancing the lead runner to third and netting himself a cheap base hit.

When nerves are the bane of every major league athlete, I watched a Taiwanese pitcher coolly strike out two of the best Japanese hitters in a row, stranding the run that would have ended their World Series experience on third base.

And when the biggest stars can't muster up a clutch hit, I saw a patented "Ichi-Ni-San" Ichiro-esque swing send a towering home run into the stands in the bottom of the tenth.

The elation on the Japanese players' faces is what makes watching worthwhile, that they could be so happy just to win an International Semi-Final game, not even qualifying for the championship yet. Kids like this give me hope for the future of the game in a time when everything else looks bleak.

Later tonight I just might make a post explaining why the FIBA Americas tournament is going to save USA Basketball (I doubt it, but I'm watching so we'll see), but as of right now, my heart belongs to the kids in Williamsport.