The Little League World Series is the pinnacle of youth baseball and it’s always life-affirming to watch kids realize their dreams and take a gander at the absolute worst umpiring on the face of the Earth. Sadly, youth sports are not immune to society’s ills and cheating has become a familiar player in Williamsport and on the road to it. From Danny Almonte to the Jackie Robinson Little League, there’s a rich and storied history of doing whatever it takes.
This year’s is a bit more tepid, but don’t tell that to the coach doing some hefty finger-pointing in the form of sign-stealing charges.
Pat Dutton, the manager of the team from Goffstown, New Hampshire, which lost to Barrington (R.I.) in Saturday’s region final, made the accusation after the game in Bristol, Connecticut.
“You can see [runners on second base] leaning in, looking in and they’re doing hand gestures to their kid [at the plate] indicating what kind of pitch it is and where it’s located,” Dutton told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “You can do that in big league ball, but in Little League it’s unsportsmanlike, it’s dishonorable and it’s disgusting.
“They did it the whole tournament and got away with it, and now that’s what’s representing New England in the Little League World Series. It’s just a bad look.”
Of all the things to call disgusting, relaying the catcher’s signals to the batter at the plate is an off-the-board choice. Sure, it’s supposed to be illegal in Little League, but there’s also an easy fix for it: changing the signs up a bit.
The Barrington side, predictably, says there’s no truth to the accusation and calls the whole thing “an unfortunate incident.”
Once again, it sounds like the real issue here is the umpiring crew. Dutton said they were alerted to the possibility such nefarious behavior was going on. The crew either failed to stop it — with offenders potentially facing ejection — or it wasn’t going on at all.
Either way, it’s a nice little illustration of the ridiculousness that tends to arise this time of year. We may have a coach out there throwing all ethics in the garbage or we may have one who decided to make a big stink about it after the fact, in public. Maybe both.
One day sociologists and/or doctors will be able to tell us what happens to the human brain when kids playing sports are introduced into the environment. For now, though, we simply must accept that otherwise reasonable people are going to find themselves in unreasonable situations, usually with the kids themselves in an awkward situation.