The infield of this particular track at Dunbar Park in Chicago hosts several tee-ball and tiny-tot little league games, so while I ran myself in delirious circles, I was entertained by our national pastime at its tiniest level. Sort of.
I understand tee-ball and coach-pitch teams are for the young ones. I would guess they were between 5-7 years old. But some of what I saw on those fields turned my stomach.
During one game I counted 20 defenders in the field. In another, a kid grounded out but was still allowed to occupy first base. I even heard “let’s have a do-over” from one of the “coaches”.
I know we live in a semi-psychotic, hopey-changey surreality, where everyone is a “winner” and negativity is shunned like logic at an evangelical mega-church. But I think people are missing the point here: there is very valuable lesson in failure.
Life sucks sometimes. It’s hard. It’s cruel. It’s relentless. But it’s also rewarding and serendipitous and full of potential. If we rely on sheltered observations to teach our youth that failure and shortcomings are not a part of the process, then we are going to end up with a planet full of passive, stale, robots incapable of innovation and creativity.
Mistakes are a part of the success equation. Let’s not rob our future of that valuable lesson.
Also, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
The interns have been working overtime.
And lately, they think I’ve been too soft on my lugubrious and oft embarrassed colleague, Mr. Allen Krause.
No more, dear readers!
So here is some archival footage of Mr. Krause and I, as youths, playing little league baseball. He’s on the mound. I’m at the plate.
And I don’t like the look he’s giving me…
Take that, brother.
Also, the Tigers suck.
Hate me ‘cuz I don’t pull punches, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
What playoff pitcher would you least want to face?
I may have mentioned this before but I write about baseball because of how poorly I play. I wasn’t terrible in the field but I couldn’t even hit those 45 MPH fastballs that kids were throwing in 6th grade. I could blame the astigmatism or my parents for the genes that created these terrible eyes but the fact of the matter is that I just can’t hit.
So when it comes to facing any playoff pitcher I have to say that I’d prefer to not be up against any of them. I guess Aroldis Chapman might be the scariest because I don’t even want to know what a 105 MPH fastball looks like. The fact of the matter is, I’m pretty sure I’d strike out bunting against any starter or reliever on any of the eight playoff teams.
But wait. Maybe there is one guy I wouldn’t mind going up against. If the Braves can pull it together, that means my old buddy Kyle Farnsworth will be along for the ride. Hey, it’s not my fault they decided to go out and repeat that mistake. And I’ll bet you good money that he’ll end up burning them in the postseason. I’d still go there, though.
Here’s the thing. Chances are that Farnsworth would smoke me. He’s a professional being paid way too much money for something that he doesn’t do as well as he should. If he can’t put it by me, he’s a bum. And if he does, he’s still a bum. I’m a 31 year old desk jockey. What business do I have facing down a professional athlete? Yeah, that’s the one guy I would like to go up against.
I think the chances of MLB inviting me in to face a big-league pitcher are pretty slim. I’m also not really sure if the results would be more embarrassing to me or the league. But if they feel like pulling in Farnsy for a few pitches, I’m all there.
In fact, I’ll even sweeten the pot a little. If you make this happen and Farnsworth can put ten strikes by me without my even touching them, I’ll never write another word about him in these pages. If I can get the bat on just one of them, even just barely nicking it, I get his salary for the week. And if I put one in play, he has to quit baseball forever. Now that sounds like a pretty good contest to me.
What do you say, Mr. Farnsworth?
***SEND US YOUR FILIBUSTERS****
Something on your mind? Want to see Jeff and Al sweat (separately, not together, eww)? Think you got a real stumper? Send us your Filibuster question(s) by commenting or emailing them to us at email@example.com.
***Pictures of Farnsworth begging Jason Heyward for an autograph “for my kids” also welcome. Yeah right, Farnsy. Nice try.
I didn’t have a whole lot of success in little league. I could field all right but I couldn’t hit a curve. Or a fastball. Or a changeup which is really what most of the pitchers were throwing back then anyway. Turns out I might have been going at the thing all wrong, though. See, if I would have started a couple years after everyone else but started at the beginning, I might have had a chance. Kind of like Julious Threatts.
Man, as a 14-year old hitting against 7-year olds, I could have cleaned up! Just imagine. Twice their age, probably almost double their size. It would have been like this:
Or maybe like this:
Either way, it would have been awesome. At least until a 17-year old joined up.
Happy Friday and happy Labor Day weekend.
And for Dave Winfield, a man who was drafted by three different professional teams in three different sports, such an aspiration never seemed too lofty.
“People would say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But the thing was: I found something I loved. And I was pretty good at it. Next thing you know I was drafted. Four years later, my dream came true.”
In the minds of today’s youth, such dreams continue to be commonplace, which is why Dave speaks with us from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, where his partnership with Ask.com and Susan G. Komen for the Cure continues its tireless campaign of awareness, action and prevention.
“I just think back to when my brother and I were playing baseball at this age, if we would’ve had the opportunity to play on these beautifully manicured fields against kids from around the world, this would’ve been the highlight of our lives.”
Luckily for Dave, his highlights came later in life, in the way of 7 Gold Gloves, 12 All-Star selections, a World Series ring and a spot in baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame. But the kids in Williamsport still have plenty to look forward to:
“I know how much they love it. And they’re excited about it and how they’ll remember this experience the rest of their lives.”
There’s no doubt about that. And one needn’t look only to the Little League World Series to find such enthusiasm. Just head out to your local youth ball field and watch how regimented, how jovial, how respectfully the game is played, even on a small level. It is with that in mind that Dave recalls one of his more cherished little league memories:
“We used to take infield practice that was flawless. That was our goal, to take these flawless infield practices before the game and it would set the tone and intimidate the opposition. We were good.”
In fact, back then, growing up in Minnesota following the Twins, Dave’s focus was on defense.
“There were many players on that team but the one I really liked was Zoilo Versalles. He was a shortstop. And his glove was what I’ll never forget. I followed those guys. Harmon Killebrew. Tony Oliva. Guys like that. We used to imitate all of them.”
Kids will always imitate their heroes. They will always dream big; always envision themselves in the spotlight. But with only 30 teams and set 25-man rosters, the reality is that only 750 Major Leaguers can exist at any one time. So Dave’s advice to kids with Big League aspirations is “to get their education. Do well in school. Be versatile.”
“Enjoy the sport. Go hard. We’ll give you every tool and every opportunity to succeed. Just know that there are other things in life too.”
Of course, not every kid can grow up to be Dave Winfield. But every kid can grow up to be like Dave Winfield — to do things the right way, to respect that which demands respect and work hard to make a difference.
If every little leaguer can live up to those ideals, then the future is as bright as their dreams are big.
Written by Jeffery Lung
Special thanks to Zack Nobinger for arranging the interview.
For more information on Dave Winfield’s thoughts on the progression of little league baseball, check out his book Dropping the Ball.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s interview with Ozzie Smith.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s first interview with Dave Winfield.
to read Jeff’s interview with Ken Griffey, Sr.
(Top image courtesy of Essence.com)
(Bottom image courtesy of Tim Shaffer/Reuters)
For the last man in the universe who still religiously employs the use of both suspenders and shoulder pads, the April 21st edition of the New York Post couldn’t have been too flattering.
Or could it?
Okay, so according to the Post, Larry’s wife (we’ll call her Shawn)* allegedly had an affair with his sons’ little league coach (we’ll call him Hector) but allegedly King — who, by the way, is a rabid Los Angeles Dodgers fan — didn’t really care ‘cuz he was bonin’ Shawn’s sister (we’ll call her Manny)** on the side.
And I must admit, I first heard of this story via that awful fear aggregator also known as The Drudge Report with the headline: “Little League Coach Claims Affair with Larry King’s Wife”.
At first I was really angry with Drudge (which is quite common) because I found that headline to be recklessly damaging to the institution of little league baseball — an institution that made me the sound, boisterous, STUBBORNLY CORRECT individual I am today. I thought, “Oh, okay, now Drudge is attacking little league. Let me at him!”
Until I read the story… and realized that it was little league baseball that brought them together. It brought them all together in one place, to interact, to make whoopie.
And it was at that exact moment that I realized the bar, the club, the beach might not be the ideal place to meet Ms. Right.
So if you need me, I’ll be at a little league ballpark near you hollerin’ at the single moms and estranged wives of the rich and famous.
Don’t worry, Mrs. Kucinich, I got ya on my radar. Muah!
Hate me ‘cuz it’s allowed, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
*That’s her real name.
**I meant to write “Shannon” but was too lazy to change it.
Sometimes as I sit here pondering the Tigers’ three game sweep at the hands of the lowly Royals I wonder why, even here in the land of the internet, it has to be like this with the venom and the animosity. I ask myself, is it wrong to detest a team and yet admire a player on that same team? And then I realize that I can’t get angry with my friend. No, I know where it all comes from: Demon Rum.
But I hold none of this against my collaborator and conspirator, Mr. Lung. He finds himself flush in the prime of his life with everything going for him: the Cardinals are winning, he has a beautiful woman on his arm and Chicago is always sunny and 85. And even if only one out of those three is true, it’s still nothing to scoff at. In fact, I’m pretty sure neither one of us even hit .333 in Little League.
No, it turns out that the loose lips that my colleague flaps about so wantonly are a symptom of something much more disturbing than even distilled spirits. In reality, Jeff is slowly losing ground to the dreaded scourge of senility.
It’s not all bad. Sometimes it’s quite hilarious. I just hope that the next time this dementia slips my good friend’s tenuous grasp on reality it will come out in a more constructive manner. Perhaps a bawdy limerick or an ode to Mr. Pujols. We can always hope afterall.