Simpler Times - Shawn Loughlin editorial
On Sunday night Major League Baseball did a really good thing with its first-ever Little League Classic, held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals played each other to a 6-3 Pirates win in front of just 2,600 fans.
Under normal circumstances, such an attendance figure would likely raise red flags in every Major League Baseball office, but under these special circumstances, 2,600 was the perfect number of fans – a sell-out crowd as it were.
The league returned to its roots, in sandlots and in parks all around the world, and played a professional baseball game between two of the world’s best baseball teams at the home of the Williamsport Crosscutters, an A-ball franchise affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The game was held in conjunction with the Little League World Series, which is must-watch baseball for any fan of the game, held every year in the small town of Williamsport. The two teams arrived to the town early and players, in uniform, attended Little League World Series games, signed autographs and talked with the 12-year-old players about the passion they share.
Then, the Pirates and Cardinals played at Historic Bowman Field just five miles away from the Little League World Series complex to a crowd comprised of little leaguers, all in their uniforms, and their coaches and families.
Fans of the in-state Pirates, could be seen standing atop ladders in the outfield, as very, very few tickets were made available to the general public.
What makes the Little League World Series so great is the passion behind the play. Money is a non-factor (even umpires volunteer their time and talents to the tournament and attendance to all games, even the final, is free) and, of course, no players are being paid. They are kids chasing their dream.
We can all relate. It might not have been baseball – though, in my case, it was – it could have been hockey, figure skating, dance or even music. But we’ve all been there. We’ve all been young and passionate about something, wondering if we might be good enough to do what we love for a living under the brightest lights in the world.
This return to the passion of the sport was first done by the National Hockey League a few years ago when they started hosting the Winter Classic every New Year’s Day. Players, just like they did when they were kids in Canada, the United States or Europe, strapped on their blades and went for a skate in the open air, all trying to keep their stick on the ice and find the back of the net.
Seeing the Pirates and the Cardinals play for a bunch of little leaguers or two professional hockey teams play in the open air so cold you can see their breath brings the beauty back to the sport.
It’s no secret that the world of sports has become bloated and unsustainable. It’s all about stadium sponsors, seat licences, signing bonuses, strikes and lockouts and $18 beers. It’s easy to look at professional athletes and miss the passion of the game and see a bunch of spoiled brats.
We’ve all rolled our eyes at news stories detailing athletes complaining about being “underpaid” or “underappreciated” under circumstances we could only dream of for ourselves. But, there’s always a way to get back to basics, and Sunday’s Little League Classic was one of those times.