(Blogathon ’16) A Random Musing on the Fairport Little League Money-Grabbing Promotion

This post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

Tons of people play Little League Baseball or have played Little League Baseball when they were of the age where you can.

This is not a story about my actual time on the Little League field, where my greatest moment was the time I drew a walk with the bases loaded to force in the walk-off run. No, this is about something else: the Fairport Little League money-grabbing promotion, a crazy promotion in which a pre-teen ballplayer was put into a box full of money, a blower was turned on to send that money flying around, and the kid had to try and grab as much money as possible, which he (or she) would be able to keep.

There were many thoughts on strategy for this. Some kids thought you should try to trap it against the sides of the box and then pull it on. Others thought you should just grab wildly and hope for the best. A few suggested using a loose jersey as a net to catch the dollars and then try to grab from the “net” since you were only allowed to keep the money you had in your hands. Still others thought that it was stupid and that you should just keep the entrance fee and use it to buy a candy bar from the concession stand.

That last group, while probably wise beyond their years, were absolutely no fun.

And then there was the question of what you’d do with the money. Maybe you’d use it to buy candy at the concession stand (always a great choice), maybe you’d rent a video game (this was back when there were actual stores that rented video games), or maybe you’d just put it into your piggy bank.

When I walked in to the box, all those years ago, I wasn’t sure what my strategy was. I think it was a mixture of the various strategies. And I can’t remember what I used the money I got for. Heck, I can’t even remember how much money I grabbed, period.

And yet, despite the fact that I’ve forgotten the end result, I still can remember that big box that sent money flying around you…. a piece of childhood and Little League.

At 5 AM: A “Songs of October” Update

This post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page.

 

 

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In Defense of the Little League World Series being on TV

I didn’t expect to write a post about the Little League World Series today, but, alas, current events have other plans. As you may have heard, the Jackie Robinson West Little League of Chicago has been stripped of it’s US Title for last year’s World Series, due to revelations that they used players from outside their district.

It’s a sad ending for what was an inspiring story- the first team in history to win the US title made up entirely of African-Americans, coming at a time when participation in the sport by African-Americans continues to drop and racial issues were increasingly in the news. It’s all the more sad because this was the result not of any child, but rather the adults.

And, with that, the many issues people have with youth sports again have arisen. Among them being that the LLWS being on television is, according to some people, an abomination that promotes behavior like this while exploiting 12-year-olds for profit.

In many ways, they do have a point. It is wrong that ESPN, it’s sponsors, and the overall organization of Little League make large amounts of money off 12-year-olds while those 12-year-olds receive no cut or royalty from it. And, yes, having that much pressure and attention placed on a kid is a recipe for possible disaster psychologically when you are so young. The Little League World Series is far from perfect, and at the very least something should be done to compensate the kids who draw in large audiences every year (perhaps have some sort of college trust fund or hold money in escrow or something).

However, I am here to argue that those people who believe that the Little League World Series doesn’t belong on television regardless are wrong. Go below the jump for more:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: Post-Schulz Peanuts go to Japan in “It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown!”

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared itโ€™s head in pop culture and fiction.

Today, we look at an odd duck: a Peanuts story. Only it’s not from the classic comics by Charles Schulz, it’s instead a long-form post-Schulz comic book in which Charlie Brown and friends go to Japan after being selected to represent America as Little League ambassadors. Hilarity ensues.

Released in 2012 by KaBOOM! Press (part of BOOM! Studios) and authorized by the Schulz estate (which provided the actual creative team), It’s Tokyo, Charlie Brown! was written and penciled by Vicki Scott and had colored by Paige Braddock. Both had worked as assistants at Schulz’s studio before his death, which famously occurred the day his final Peanuts strip came out. In fact, Braddock apparently did the inking of the comic using a pen nib that “Chuck” had given her.

Still, I don’t know, despite that pedigree, I’m not so sure about this. I mean, I’m still weary about the the upcoming Peanuts CGI film, despite the fact that it’s teaser trailer was actually pretty good.

Well, we’ll have to see…. after the jump:

It only says "Charles M. Schulz" because they are his characters and he did the original drawing of them in baseball garb.

It only says “Charles M. Schulz” because they are his characters and he did the original drawing of them in baseball garb.

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Somebody is selling a trading card of Mike Trout in Little League

In yet another case of eBay providing mankind access to anything possible, we now see the ultimate souvenir for the discerning Mike Trout aficionado (which is, to say, everyone): a card of the Millville Meteor back when he was a Cub.

“When was Mike Trout a Cub?”, you ask? I can understand, after all, as likely as it is that the Cubs would be able to squander away Mike Trout, it feels like that’s something you’d remember, right?

Well, that’s because it’s not the Chicago Cubs, but rather the Steelman Photo Cubs of the Millville American Cal Ripken League. Yes, it’s a baseball card of 11-year-old Mike Trout:

 

And it’s all available for the low, low, price of $8,927.27! It’s signed too! Yes, somebody not only went through the trouble to somehow track down a little league trading card from 2003, but they got Mike Trout to sign it. As far as I know, there are only a few types of people who would have been able to do that:

A) Mike Trout himself.

B) Mike Trout’s immediate family.

C) Mike Trout’s Little League teammates and coaches.

D) The guy who was hired to make and print these cards in the first place, who keeps copies of them just in case any of the kids become the greatest player on the planet.

E) A local bully who beat up Mike Trout and then took his lunch money and baseball card, which Trout had signed because he believed that if he became a big-leaguer one day, he’d better have had practiced his signature.

F) Somebody who Mike Trout should really consider putting a restraining order on.

Logically, one of them is who put this up on eBay.

Sadly, whoever acquired this didn’t find the true holy grail, as something that needs to be noted here is that this card lacks Trout’s Little League statistics. This is very important. I remember when I was growing up (and I’m, alas, older than Trout), I got my statistics on the back of my card. But, nope, all we get for Trout is this:

All that we can learn from this is that Mike Trout, when he was 11, was 5’1” and weighed 102 lbs. So, guess what, folks? Young Mike Trout was not fat! In fact, he was a little slim! That’s nice and all, but I wanted to see what his stats were. Was he a Pablo Sanchez-level secret weapon? We may never know…

So, where exactly was this picture taken? AKA: Where the heck would they play baseball in Dubai?

You may have seen this picture online a few days ago (click to enlarge):

As you can see, it’s a baseball game being played outside of Dubai, with the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa (formerly known as the Burj Dubai) rising in the distance.

Of course, the United Arab Emirates isn’t exactly a baseball hot bed. So I was wondering where this picture was taken. So I did some research… and found it!

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 1.26.41 PMAt Al Quoz Pond Park south of Dubai’s downtown is the site of the Dubai Little League. To be more specific, the picture of the game with the Burj in the distance was taken at the large, adult-sized north field. As you can see below, this Little League facility is definitely close enough and in the right direction relative to Dubai’s downtown where the view in the top picture is what batters would see:

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 1.31.21 PMSo, there you have it: Not only are there baseball fields in Dubai, but at least one of them has a killer view.

Profiles in Folly: The Aggressive At-Bat Stat, teaching kids to swing at everything

I’ve got a book called The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, by Paul Dickson. It’s an expensive and expansive book, and I believe I was only able to afford it during the great Borders going-out-of-business sale of 2011. As the title suggest, it is a baseball dictionary, giving the definitions and origins of baseball terms, both common and uncommon.

Some of those terms, though, are weird, and, in other cases, kind of foolish.

Take, for example, the Aggressive At-Bat Stat. The page that has the “AAB” is available in preview format on Google, so you can check it out yourself, but in short, it is a stat, meant for Little League players, that tracks the number of times a plate-appearance ends with the batter swinging, a measure of the “determination” of the batter to try and hit the ball… even if that means him striking out or grounding weakly back to the pitcher. Dickson noted that the stat was introduced by a Stephen Barr and Brian Opitz in the New York Times in 1999, and that they believed that it was an important lesson to encourage trying to make contact no matter what, as even a strikeout would mean the kid was trying. Obviously, the stat hasn’t gained much (or any) leverage since then (a Google search on it brings up only references to Dickson or the New York Times article), and it isn’t hard to figure out why: It’s wrong way of going about it.

Okay, I’ll give that it is able to give a kid a lesson in never giving up and showing determination, but it is a bad way to teach baseball skills, particularly in our Moneyball days and especially in little league where all but the very best pitchers are going have to a hard time finding the strike zone. To encourage this stat would likely mean a great increase in strikeouts and a great decrease in base-on-balls, turning every little leaguer into a pint-sized Vladimir Guerrero, only without, y’know, being Vladimir Guerrero. The kids would easily be able to swing themselves out of a game flailing at pitches nowhere near the strike zone. Compare this to my greatest Little League moment: when I was walked, forcing in the winning run.

If I’d been going for an “Aggressive At-Bat”, I probably would have struck out and then, since I was six, been all angry about it until I got a post-game candy bar from the concession stand. Mmmm, candy bar….