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Little League World Series brings big ethical woes

Little league baseball
Little league baseball

For many, this time of the year brings on memories of joyful times, of camaraderie with like-minded kids, of days spent under the bright summer sun in blissful play.

We’re speaking of Little League baseball. In any town or city, there was the coach, invariably a parent endowed with the patience of a saint as he tried to teach easily distracted kids the basics of a game that often befuddles adults.

Then there were the kids of all shapes, sizes and abilities, some taking the contest super seriously, while others muddled through following butterflies and waiting for the post-game pizza and ice cream.

And then there were the hats and uniforms, usually ill-fitting but proudly supplied by a local hardware store or drug store owner, eager to merge civic pride with a bit of advertising.

And if all the stars aligned, your local club could make their way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where they might get the chance to play a group of kids from across the globe for a peek into the ideals of childhood.

Not to get all Norman Rockwell here, but if you’ve seen what Little League baseball has become, it’s easy to yearn for those good old simpler times.

Now some of the changes have been for the better. There are, for instance, reasonable restrictions on the number of times and days a pitcher can pitch, so as not to exploit or harm young arms.

And one of the best changes is that little girls can fully access the field of dreams just like little boys. Nine years ago, Mo’Ne Davis, a 13-year-old from Philadelphia, took the country by storm when she became the first girl to win a game and throw a shutout in the Little League World Series. Last week, 12-year-old Stella Weaver of suburban Nashville became only the second girl ever to score a run during the World Series.

But all the breezes of change that have swept through Little League baseball are overshadowed by the tornados of upheaval that have shaken the game to its core. We all should have learned lessons from the 2001 scandal where a supposedly 12-year-old from the Bronx named Danny Almonte shaved two years off his age, with the help of his father and coach,

But, according to the Washington Post, the message of doing whatever it takes to get ahead, still holds sway.

The Post reported that a pair of attorneys have alleged that the coach of a Northwest Washington Little League team has lied to parents, officials and other coaches about the eligibility of kids while attempting to poach some of the best players for his league.

The coach, who has coached and umpired in D.C. for over 30 years, strenuously denies the allegations.

The Northwest team was eliminated short of reaching Williamsburg, but the fame and attention now attached to what was once just a kid’s game make it likely we haven’t seen the last Danny Almonte or his like.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Threads and Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.