Little League Baseball has a rule that every player on each team must have at least one at bat or the game is forfeited to the opponent.
This weekend, in the New England Regional tournament of the Little League World Series, Vermont was leading New Hampshire 9-7 with two in the top of the sixth and final inning when the Vermont coach suddenly realized that one of his players (who was due to bat first in the bottom of the inning) had not yet had an at bat, and if the game did not go to the bottom of the sixth he would never get one and Vermont would lose by forfeit.
He realized that he would have to allow New Hampshire to tie the game so that they could play at least one more half inning and have a chance to retake the lead and avoid the forfeit.
After the coach explained the situation to his team in a huddle on the mound, the Vermont pitcher began purposely throwing wild pitches to the backstop in an effort to help New Hampshire tie. New Hampshire scored one run to make it 9-8 before the New Hampshire coach and fans finally figured out what was going on and the craziness really began.
At this point, the New Hampshire players began doing things like “swinging” at pitches five feet over their heads and purposely not running home from third base when the Vermont catcher purposely threw the ball into left field.
At last, New Hampshire succeeded in “losing” without allowing the game to go to the bottom of the sixth, and thus secured the 6-0 forfeit victory mandated by Little League rules and advanced to the championship game of the New England regional.
“I’ll be drop-dead honest. I would’ve rather walked off that field losing, 9-8, and been ignorant to the [rule],” said New Hampshire coach Mark McCauley. “I hate this. I absolutely hate this. I wish I wasn’t here. I feel absolutely horrible about it. You know who I feel the worst for is those Vermont kids. You can’t say anything to those kids. My heart breaks for those kids.”
As Bruce Sutter said about baseball in his recent Hall of Fame induction speech, “The game is perfect, but the people who play it aren’t.” Well in Little League the people aren’t perfect either, but the game is also definitely not perfect. Any rule that has one coach ordering his players to purposely throw wild pitches while the other coach orders his players to purposely strike out is just plain stupid and needs to be changed.
A better rule would be that all players should have to play for at least one out in the field. This would allow a coach to rectify the situation even if his team were on defense, as happened to Vermont.
But then again, as long as ESPN and Little League Baseball are making millions off televising the triumphs and tears of twelve-year olds, why do we even care if every kid plays in the first place? Let em ride the pine, play to win, and slide spikes up, and while we’re at it let’s give em steroids and agents and scantily clad groupies too.