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Enjoying my swing with the Little Leaguers

July 20, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

Having the opportunity to report on two Little League District 1 games last week was the first time since I've been here I had seen the little ones play baseball.

I had forgotten about the Little League pledge, recited prior to each game.

Immediately, it brought back memories of when I was involved in both the 9-10- and 11-12-year-old divisions where I previously lived.

And, it even brought back more memories from the days, albeit with wooden bats, when I played in the same age divisions, cracking the ball all over the field.

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When it comes to baseball, almost all of the kids playing now, and those from the past, had idols.

Mine was Rocky Colavito, who played with the Cleveland Indians, and I always wanted to hit home runs like he did. I was fortunate enough to be nearly as big as I am now in height and was able to produce a few four-baggers.

I'm sure kids playing today have idols, too - Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens to name a few possibilities.

Last week, I was impressed in two specific areas at each location. The first game I covered was the South Mountain-Halfway contest at South Mountain, followed by South Mountain's visit to Maugansville.

I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the crowds at each location.

Monroe Street, along with the parking lot at South Mountain, was packed. The same held true at Maugansville the following night.

There were plenty of fannies in the stands, lawn chairs and beds of pickup trucks. The cheering support for each team let the players know their fans were behind them.

The concession stands at both locations were packed and no doubt made a fair amount of money with the outstanding food that was available.

The quality of play on the field was superior each game.

The kids were in all sizes - tall, short, some a little cubby, some pencil thin. However, there was one common element that stood out among each - hustle.

Not one kid quit, even those on the losing end. For the most part, the games were well-played. There were bunts, line drives, long fly balls and blasts over the fence. There was good pitching and, surprisingly, a good amount of defense displayed.

The only factor that left a sour taste were some of the parents, voicing their displeasure at some decisions made by umpires, individuals who volunteer their time. There were many comments made toward the players on the opposition - something not needed.

That, too, was not a surprise, having heard it in my days back in Cleveland from both sides of the fence. It's just unfortunate that parents just can't let go and let their kids play the game between the lines without unjust criticism.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience and my hat goes off to each competitor and to the individuals who volunteer their time to make each league a success.

Congratulations to Maugansville on its first championship in the 30-year history of the 11-12-year-old league. You made Jay W. Stouffer a happy man at last. All the best to each in the state tournament as it unfolds this weekend.




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at koelble@herald-mail.com.

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