Here’s yet another example (this one from the Little League World Series) that whatever problems there are with youth sports stem from the adults involved, from coaches to parents to the television networks who broadcast them.

On Friday in regional action, the team from Goffstown, New Hampshire trailed Maine 7-5 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. That meant that the game could end at any time. New Hampshire still had a player left who hadn’t yet played; as this is Little League, every player is by rule supposed to play. Because, again, these are kids. That’s one of the redeeming rules about the competition, actually.

In this case, though, rather than send the kid to the plate with the game on the line, the coach elected to violate the rule, which is apparently something you can do? It’s not really much of a mandatory rule then, is it?

Here’s the sequence in question:

Good for Karl Ravech for calling out the behavior, but it’s unfortunate that that didn’t seem like a unanimous decision from the broadcast team. Because karma is sometimes, New Hampshire ended up losing, 7-6. The coach would have been suspended at Williamsport had his team gone on to win, but think about what he did there.

According to the coach, the player turned down an earlier opportunity:

O’Connell said Bergeron declined an opportunity to bat first in the bottom of the fourth, causing the manager to wonder if “he wasn’t feeling good.”

“We gave him an opportunity in the fourth inning,” said O’Connell, who faced a two-game suspension had New Hampshire advanced. “He chose not to hit. So then waiting for the right time to get him in in the sixth, and to put him in a situation where (it was) do-or-die with the game, I didn’t feel it would be very fair.”

Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, coach. The opposing coach had the correct viewpoint:

Upon learning the decision had been a calculated gamble, Poole shook his head.

“Well then, you know what? They should be going home,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for that group of kids, but the coaches, I hope, learn from that. That’s not setting a standard. It’s too bad. It really is.”

Little League president Stephen Keener also weighed in, noting that while there’s a certain flexibility with the rule, in the event of an injury or illness, that wasn’t what happened in this situation:

Two games seems awfully light, all things considered.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.

  • Kurt Goss

    Sports don’t build character, they reveal it.

  • Amore HL

    The rule used to be failure to play someone resulted in the team being disqualified. Since generally this happened simply because a coach goofed and forgot, they determined a DQ was too harsh and a 2-game suspension for the coach was sufficient. So what they need to do is change the rule to say that if a coach is informed that he has not played one of the kids (as he was in this situation) and he still declines to do so, then the team is disqualified.

  • Jason

    Little League International can fix this by simply going to a Continuous Batting Order like most local leagues use during the regular season. Drop the substitution rules for offense come tournament time and let every rostered kid bat. These are all players their respective leagues determined, through processes outlined in the Little League Rulebook, to be All Stars. So let them all bat.

  • Dave DB Beal

    This entire problem is caused by having a Little League World Series in the first place. It’s the same in all team sports for kids, if you have competition that places an importance on outcome (e.g. finding a winner, especially in winner-take-all games such as you find in cup ‘knockout’ formats) – then the coaches are going to be tempted to do things like this in order for the team to have the best possible chance of winning the game.

  • Jeff Backlund

    Another shitty article where pertinent info is left out like what is the coach’s name?!?! O’Connell?? Mattingly? La Russa? Torre? Girardi? Jeesh!