West L.A’s Little League All-Star team after winning their district tournament in 2016. Photo courtesy of wlall.org
CHECKING OUT A LITTLE LEAGUE ALL-STAR TOURNAMENT GAME IN WEST LOS ANGELES
A significant part of my involvement in baseball and softball was spent in little league.
Not only was I a player for the Santa Monica Sunset Little League Major Division Dodgers – though for only one year, in 1979 – I spent approximately twenty years as a player, coach, manager, and umpire (which I absolutely and passionately hated) in Santa Monica and Culver City’s Little Leagues, for all intents and purposes retiring after my minor division team in Culver City, the Pirates, made the Tournament of Champions in 2002.
It is very difficult for more or less anyone who is heavily involved in any endeavor, whether it’s sports, music, dance, or anything else involving an audience, to just watch such endeavor as a mere fan for pure enjoyment, because such involvement causes one to have an analytical and critical eye in what they’re seeing.
I am definitely no exception when it comes to baseball and softball, as even when I’m watching the Dodgers or any major league game on TV I tend to think, “He should have thrown a fastball there,” or “she needs to lay off that rise ball,” which is what I felt about Culver City High School’s softball players during their semi-final playoff game last month as they were chasing the Chaminade pitcher’s out-of-the-strike zone pitches throughout that contest.
When it comes to watching a little league game, those analytical and critical thoughts also apply to the coaches, as I always tend to think what I would do in situations; more on that in a bit.
Since it had been a couple of years since I wrote about any youth sports on this blog, I thought it was high time to remedy that and check out what is the highlight of the little league season in L.A’s Westside – the District 25 11-12 year old all-star tournament.
Which serves as stop number one to the ultimate event in youth sports: The Little League World Series in South Williamsport, PA.
Not that I ever expected any little league all-star team from the Westside to even make it to the Regionals in San Bernardino – the last stop before South Williamsport – let alone South Williamsport, even though SoCal teams from Northridge, Long Beach, and Huntington Beach have achieved that Holy Grail over the last 25 years.
I know full well that for every team of baseball and softball-playing youngsters showing their skills on ESPN in August, there’s at least ten teams that could easily be there save for a call or two not going their way.
Another West LA All-Star team from three years ago. Photo courtesy of wlall.org
I found myself at West Los Angeles Little League – where I coached my very last Little League game in the Tournament of Champions in ’02 – earlier this week to check out an all-star tournament game between the hosts and Culver City’s group of all-stars.
As I check out the field, which looked pristine, on a professional level, really, a prevailing thought was this:
Since the chances of going to San Bernardino – never mind South Williamsport – are MUCH less that SLIM and NONE, this tournament is the big “Moment In The Sun” for these kids, on a PRONOUNCED level.
I really hope the coaches told them to enjoy the moment, enjoy being an all-star and playing in a tournament like this; that’s what I would be telling them.
Outside of the fact that West L.A. beat Culver City in a convincing fashion, mercying them (the mercy rule is ten runs after four innings) 10-0 as they scored four runs in the 5th inning to put the Culver All-Stars out of their misery, the two factors being that Culver’s pitcher, a big kid with MUCH potential who threw hard but due to his inconsistencies with his mechanics was all over the place, which is a common issue with kids that tall as he was at least 5’10” if not six feet,
And the way that Culver’s hitters were completely shut down by the breaking pitches from West L.A’s guy – I remember thinking and mentioning to various folks that they so needed to move up in the batter’s box to get to the pitch before it broke, which they didn’t do,
(Yes, like all of the other baseball and softball games that I watch, I was watching this game with a coach’s eyes; I can’t help it, and due to the roughly forty years – and counting – that I have been involved in those pastimes in some form it will most likely always be that way)
A thought that I had towards the end of the game was that this all-star tournament, and little league in general, is not the end of the road as being 13 year-olds at the most, they have much playing and developing to do as in my opinion, if those same two teams met two or three years from now as high school kids, I really feel that Culver would win.
Particularly if that big kid that started in the mound for Culver City worked with a pitching coach to develop his mechanics and a consistent release point.
Oh, one other thing about being at this game which goes into my “I have a longtime background in Little League” category…
I knew three of the four umpires that were calling the game; one of them was the coach of the team that my Dodgers scored the biggest upset in youth sports history against way back in ’79. I had a good time saying hello to him and the other two “Blues”.
Summing up, I had a perfectly fine time being at the place where I ended my involvement in Little League Baseball sixteen years before.
No, this is not the Culver City team that I saw, but you get the gist. Photo courtesy of patch.com