Little Leaguers Win; Politicians Strike Out

As Westport’s Little League all-star team roars toward the World Series in Williamsport — they’re 2-0 in the New England regionals, the most recent win a perfect game yesterday over the Maine state champs — some adult fans are having a tougher time.

They want to honor Westport’s 1st-ever Connecticut championship with a highway sign.

So far, they’ve struck out.

On Sunday, July 28, Avi Kaner — whose son Jonathan is friends with several of the all-stars — emailed the 3 Westport selectmen and 4 state legislators from this area. He asked how a sign could be placed at I-95 Exit 17. “I have seen similar signs elsewhere,” he noted.

Eight days later, State Senator Toni Boucher responded. She relayed information from the state Department of Transportation’s Traffic Engineering Division. It said that the division

receives many requests for recognition signing and, as a result, has established a practice of limiting the conditions under which they will be installed. Generally, recognition signing is currently limited to college level athletic teams that win a national or conference tournament championship or win their conference. Little League level athletic accomplishments are not recognized on the State highway system by the Department.

The Department shares your enthusiasm for honoring the Westport Little League team. However, if all such recognition requests were accommodated, there would be so many signs that motorists would have difficulty responding to the various regulatory, warning and guide signing essential to the driving task.

In view of the above, the Department does not provide or allow Little League Championship signing in the State highway right-of-way.

Boucher hit “reply all,” and added her own thoughts:

It might be a good idea to put in a bill as a delegation to change this policy in the future. In the meantime, if anyone wants to try to contact the Governor’s office on this it may be worth it.

UConn got a huge sign on I-84, just for winning the women's NCAA basketball title.

UConn got a huge sign on I-84, just for winning the women’s NCAA basketball title.

Kaner — the Republican candidate for 2nd selectman this fall — took less than 20 minutes to send his next email. He thanked Boucher for her suggestion of a bill, asked whether the legislature could “overturn this DOT decision on a one-off basis” — and added this personal plea to State Representative Jonathan Steinberg:

“As a leading Democrat, the Governor’s office will be most likely to listen to you. Can you please try?”

This is bipartisanship at its finest. Senators Reid and McConnell, Congressmen Boehner and Pelosi: take note.

Although, if I was a betting man, I’d lay odds that the Westport Little League all-stars’ season will end a lot more successfully than this bureaucratic mission.

14 responses to “Little Leaguers Win; Politicians Strike Out

  1. Bobbie Herman

    I’m sure I’ve seen Little League highway signs. Maybe they were removed.

  2. Dan, Much as I love your blog and what you do for Westport, did you really write “just for winning the women’s NCAA basketball title”? JUST?!? Jeff Seaver

  3. Dan – “just for winning…” Geno has won eight national titles. As a coach, you have to appreciate the work that the Husky Women put into their season.

  4. Bobbie Herman

    I believe the sign I saw was for the Trumbull Little League team, which won the LL World Series in 1989. It was probably on the Merritt, as Trumbull does not border I-95. It was up for a few years.

  5. I thought the whole column was one of your April Fool’s pieces at first. Did Avi Kaner and Teri Boucher really seek to have a sign put up for this?

    Don’t get me wrong; I think winning the Little League title is a real accomplishment, and congrats to those kids. But why is that more significant than state titles won by local high school teams? And why should any sports title be deemed more significant than achievements by students in other arenas–such as the prestigious Moss Hart Award won by the Staples Players on multiple occasions?

    The fact that these signs for college sports titles are apparently put up at the request of universities seems a little strange to me. I think I saw one for my alma mater, Yale, on the Merritt Parkway in connection with some championship team. That’s what Yale should be known for?

    PS–I played varsity soccer in high school and college, and I’m a huge sports fan. And I still think the priorities in this type of situation are out of kilter.

    • Hi Fred. I’d love to speak with you in person at some point. It has been a while.
      The idea is to celebrate a Westport achievement. 130,000 vehicles drive on i-95 daily through Fairfield County. I think it is a wonderful tribute to make, and it can be paid for with private money.

      • Avi–I would be happy to speak to you directly. But, even if the sign were to be paid with private money, I guess I still don’t see the justification for trying to, in essence, circumvent an established policy that seeks to limit the number of signs on the public highways.

        And I would really like to know why this accomplishment is so much more noteworthy than many others–on the field and off–that have been achieved by Westport kids. I was never part of Staples Players but, for example, I think their record of excellence should be recognized with a sign perhaps locally before we ever submitted a request to put up a sign anywhere for the local Little League champions.

        Let’s celebrate the Little League state title but in another manner.

        Thanks.

  6. Are athletic achievements the only ones cities should be proud of? Why doesn’t Westport celebrate its children’s many academic or artistic achievements? Is this really the message you want to send to your children – that we’ll only put up a sign if you achieve something athletically?

    You see these types of signs throughout the Midwest, and they always sadden me. To me they are a physical representation of limited expectations. Seems distinctly un-Westport to me.

    Here’s one idea: Why don’t you celebrate your high school graduation rate? Isn’t that what you’d rather Westport be known for?

  7. Adam Schwartz '75

    All this appears to be is another over zealous father who firmly believes his son/daughter is going to be drafted out of high school by the NY Yankees. My son is 17 years old and he played Little League baseball all his eligible years and it amazed me how parents acted at his games. And even more impressive were the parents that volunteered as board members. If they spent as much energy promoting their young son/daughter on other worthwhile volunteer endeavors, like helping the homeless, there would be no homelessness on the streets of America. Just thinking about many of these parents makes me physically ill. I used to bring my video camcorder and film the parents in the stands. You should try it sometime. It’s absolutely amazing how these parents transform from nice, calm, loving parents into monsters in less than 10 milliseconds! And the best part is when you see parents that have personal and/or social relationships with parents on the other team and they start turning on each other. It’s mind blowing!

    This guy is going to look back in 5-10 years and realize how stupid he looked trying to get a highway sign erected for his kids Little League team. Seriously, where does this end? My daughter’s dance team won First Place at a weekend tournament many years ago when she was 5 years old. They beat out something like 20 other area schools. I failed miserably showing up with only a bouquet of flowers and a neatly wrapped present of some sort that my wife picked out. Probably a dress. I could have applied for a highway sign… Shame on me! Bad father! Bad parent!

  8. It might be appropriate to consider a commemorative sign of some kind IF they win the Little League World Series (and I hope they do). But they’re still in the playoffs and so I think it’s a bit of a stretch to be making a political issue of this right now.