We don’t often use this space to write about sports, but the juxtaposition of Major League Baseball’s latest performance enhancing substance scandal against the awe-inspiring performance of the youngsters competing in this year’s Little League World Series is simply too glaring to ignore.
In an era that seems to be defined by extremism, violence, corruption and global conflict, the annual convergence of bright-eyed ballplayers on tiny South Williamsport, Pa., is a welcome reprieve from what is so often a dark and dangerous world.
The tireless efforts of unpaid Little League volunteers – from the folks selling Cracker Jacks and Cokes to the umpire behind home plate – help to remind us that baseball is about more than overpaid MLB superstars who can’t stop cheating, and a players union that becomes more shameless with each passing year.
Since the 1947, Little League has enabled kids from as far away as Taipei, as troubled as Tijuana and as close to home as Orchard Mesa, Colo., to transcend the petty differences that so often divide us grown-ups and play the game we all love.
But the annual competition is about more than just baseball for these kids. It’s about making new friends and learning about the importance of things like hard work, good sportsmanship and fair play – timeless values underscored by a patch sewed on to each player’s jersey emblazoned with the words “I Won’t Cheat.”
Unfortunately, too many of the big league stars that these young ballplayers look up to seem to have forgotten those principles – lost in a sea of multimillion dollar contracts, steroids and scandal. And that’s too bad.
We hope a few of those big league heroes take some time to catch a LLWS game or two this week on ESPN and ABC — and stop to reflect on the immense responsibility they bear as role models for these aspiring young sluggers.