Hey Chicago! Kids age 13 are no dummies

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Column by Jim Clark

For about 30 of my adult years, I have been a youth baseball coach, in various parts of Florida and the country. I have also been a league officials and district official in a couple of different programs. I coached a few all-star teams in that time.
I gained an awful lot of experience and insight into 9-12-year-old baseball players during those years.
The first all-star team I coached as an assistant coach was in New Jersey, the next was in South Florida, and in both cases my regular-season team played within its own league all season. In both cases we won the league championship, and in both cases the rules called for the first-place coaches to be the all-star coaches.
When we got to the first all-star practice, it was a bunch of familiar faces that greeted us on the field. Even though the players were on different teams, they were all familiar with each other, many of them, of course, going to school together. These leagues, both part of Little League Baseball of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, operated under the rules that tournament teams were all-star teams of players from that league.
If three or four, or even one or two, players had showed up for all-star practice who hadn’t played in the league all year, the players who had played in the league would have known instantly and a howl of protest would have gone up. After all, the presence of a few outsiders would have meant that a few of their friends were not on the team.
We also would have heard, rather vehemently, from the parents of those borderline players who weren’t chosen.
That’s why, when I read last week about the Chicago Little League team being stripped of its national championship from last year, and I saw the interviews with the “upset” players, and I heard the commentators blaming only the adults, I felt no remorse for any of these players.
You will never convince me that they didn’t know. Children 12 and 13 years old are no dummies. They have, in addition to book learning smarts, a lot of street smarts.
Yessir, they knew.
I’m not sure, and I haven’t read, how the deception was accomplished. If the players were not added at the last minute, but played in the league the entire season, that’s even worse. The players should have known that some of their teammates didn’t go to their schools and were from outside of their neighborhoods, and their parents should have known, too. Or perhaps the parents were only interested in winning.
So spare me the interviews with the players who say they know they did nothing wrong and went to Williamsport and won (almost, they finished second).
And spare me the interference from the White House, where things are more messed up than they are in Chicago.
When you cheat, and you get caught, you pay the price. And if there is some collateral damage, too bad. You should have thought of that before you added those outsiders to your roster.
The best thing Little League can do is permanently kick this league out of its organization. There are other groups in which they can compete. But as a former Little League coach, I don’t want them in the organization in which I started my coaching career, and whose World Series I once attended and watch every year in August.

Jim Clark is the editor of the West Marion Messenger and South Marion Citizen.