Little League parents get 'time out'

June 28, 1999

I think we can all breathe a little easier now that known Little League activist Ricky Hockensmith has been dragged away in chains.

Police were called to arrest Hockensmith last week for trying to watch his kid play ball. The former Little League umpire had been warned to stay away from the games because he wants to reform the league and was in the habit of handing out fliers urging something of a palace coup against National's board of directors.

National officials said Hockensmith harassed spectators, pressing pamphlets on them even if they declined his advances and tried to walk away.

Startlingly, Hockensmith was released without bail. I think it's a sad indictment of our criminal justice system when a Little League protester can be back on the street passing out literature within 24 hours, but that's what happens when the courts are packed with all these liberal bond commissioners.


National officials want Hockensmith to be relegated to "The Hill," where he would be able to watch his son play from a distance, and presumably would join fellow Little League outcast Chris McAfee, who was sent to The Hill after an ABC news special last year caught him on video reprimanding his kid.

At this rate, there will soon be more parents watching the games from The Hill than from the bleachers. If you start hauling off every tube-topped Little League mom who's ever screamed an obscenity at an umpire, as arguably the league should, it's going to get awfully crowded.

I'm looking for a small business investment, so I'm thinking of buying one of those quarter-operated binocular stands that they place at scenic overlooks.

I'll put it up on The Hill and make a killing from parents who've worn out their welcome with National. If that works, I'll start selling concessions.

You sort of wonder what the kids' opinion is of all this - seeing parents given a "time out" and sent off to sit in the corner. It must make them wish they were grownups themselves, and long for the day when their sins will be afforded the benefit of a lengthy appeals process and not the summery judgment of some autocratic vice principal.

It sounds as if everybody involved has appealed for redress from Little League headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and Hockensmith has urged parents to contact Bristol to register their dissatisfaction with National's leaders.

I imagine that right about now the Little League elders at Bristol are in the process of installing an H chip on their fax machine that will delete all postings from Hagerstown.

Hockensmith's position is that National's win-at-all-costs attitude diminishes the kids' fun and enjoyment of the game. When I was a kid that's the same way I felt about standardized achievement tests. How am I to sit back and enjoy the sweet scholastic ambiance of being intellectually challenged if I know you're going to include the results in my permanent record, I wanted to know.

Like Bristol, I never heard back.

But neither was I arrested for stating my opinion. Detained unconstitutionally? Yes. Ostracized? Yes. Whipped? Yes. Oppressed? Yes. Kept inside at recess? Without due process? Yes. But never arrested.

So I don't know why National felt the need to call the police. After all, sporting events already have a place for mal-informed, know-it-all, rabble-rousers. It's called the press box.

Out of this whole affair, we did hear from Angie Sutherland, who has her doubts about Hockensmith, but also maintained that having him arrested was a silly thing for the league to do.

"Rick is a person who can push your buttons (but it) wasn't worth doing this to the league," she said.

What's that? A voice of reason coming from the ranks of Little League? To The Hill with her!

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