Tag Archives: Little League baseball

Little League Elbows

Today’s New York Times Magazine contains a fascinating story on the tremendous harm done to young baseball pitchers’ arms, due to overuse and under-caring.

The piece, it turns out, has a strong Westport connection.

It’s not — fortunately — about local athletes.  Westport’s youth coaches do a good job of counting pitches.

Ron Berler

Ron Berler

The connection is the writer.  Ron Berler grew up here.  A 1967 Staples grad, he was the Wall in the Staples Players’ production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  He became an actor after being cut as a sophomore during baseball tryouts — “a wise decision” on the coach’s part, he now says.

Ron did play Westport Little League — “the last time I was an All-Star in anything.”

But he’s always loved the game, and while driving to his weekly Sunday morning softball game he listens to Rick Wolff on WFAN.

Shortly after last year’s Little League World Series, the talk show host mentioned that a pitcher had thrown 288 pitches during the tournament — over just 10 days.  Ron was stunned.  He had coached youth baseball for 17 years.  A writer for Wired, Men’s Journal and ESPN.com, he “pitched” (ho ho) the Times. The result is today’s eye-opening piece.

“I hope the article will lead parents to demand changes in how youth baseball leagues are run,” Ron says.  “It’s their kids who are at risk.

“At the same time I hope Little League — which has done more than any other youth league to protect its players — does not end up shouldering all the blame.

“Yes, Little League needs to address its relaxed pitching rules during the World Series tournament.  But the real problem lies with the thousands of kids who play on multiple teams, many of them with overlapping schedules, for coaches who do not communicate with one another, and who pitch their players way too much.”

Amen.  And let’s thank all the Westport coaches who are not caught up in such craziness.

Take Me Out Of The Ballgame

Driving past the very active North Compo Little League fields recently, I flashed back to my own baseball experience, all those years ago.

I sucked.

Sorry — I didn’t mean that.  I should have said:  I really sucked.

I loved baseball.  I truly did.  I just couldn’t play it.

Despite years of experience with the cul-de-sac pastime called “running bases,” and plenty of impromptu recess games at Burr Farms Elementary, the organized version of Little League lost me.

I remember being assigned each year to Cap League teams, finally making the minors as a 12-year-old charity case.

I recall standing endlessly in right field, knowing that the rare ball that came my way would never land in my upraised glove.  (This was in the pre-contact lens, pre-pre-Lasek surgery days).

And I will never forget standing at home plate, happily trying to follow the coach’s instructions to not swing — “just get a walk.”  I was 2-foot-1, so the advice was wise.  Still, even 9-year-old pitchers managed to throw with Sandy Koufax-like accuracy against me.  I can’t recall ever making it all the way to first.

Going to Yankee Stadium was fun.  Going to the Coleytown Elementary field was not.

I still like the game, particularly because it offers such a leisurely opportunity to second-guess strategy, look ahead to the next inning, and answer email.

I’m not anti-baseball.  I’m just pro-not-playing-a-sport-I-suck-at.