Category

Baseball

The History of Little League Baseball

By | Baseball, Major Sports | No Comments

Few feelings come close to the satisfaction of hitting a home run. With the weighty crack of the bat and the cheer of excited parents and fans, it’s easy to understand why baseball is “America’s Pastime” for adults and children alike. It earned that title in the 1800s, around the same time that Little League was getting its start.

Late 1800s

In the 1880s, pre-teen children in New York began to form their own baseball leagues, swept up in the popularity of the sport. These smaller, ragtag groups were far from the Little League organizations we’re familiar with today, but they had the same spirit, enthusiasm and passion for the game.

Unfortunately, these leagues never flourished, weakened from an affiliation with adult “club” teams. Children chose to play “pickup” baseball in streets or sandlots instead, using substandard equipment like taped and re-taped bats and balls, unable to find anything in their size.

Early 1900s

The American Legion developed a baseball program for teenage boys in the 1920s, which is a program which still exists today. As this was happening, schools started to form their own baseball programs, but there were still no options for pre-teen boys who wanted to participate in organized games.

This changed in 1938 when Carl Stotz decided to organize a baseball league for boys in his hometown of Williamsport, Pa. Though he had no sons of his own, he wanted to create a program for his nephews, Jimmy and Major Gehron, whom he played baseball with often.

Mid-1900s

The first season in 1939 was a success, but World War II soon entered the picture. Many fathers in the United States joined the military, and priorities shifted away from Little League Baseball. By 1946, only 12 leagues organized around Stotz’s original model existed.

The following year, the original Little League board of directors organized a tournament for all known Little League programs. They called it the National Little League Tournament. Eventually, the tournament was renamed Little League Baseball World Series, as it’s called today.

Little League soon grew to encompass 94 leagues, then grew to 307 leagues in 1949. A feature about Little League Baseball in the Saturday Evening Post spread the story to more than 14 million people, and communities across the country jumped at the opportunity to start their own programs.

Over the next several years, interest in Little League only continued to grow. The first leagues outside the U.S. formed at both ends of the Panama Canal, with the first permanent league organizing in British Columbia. This momentum — and the public spotlight — made Little League a recognizable name.

Today

Countries around the world, from Japan to Uganda, have organized their own Little League programs. What started as a kind gesture on the part of Carl Stotz has transformed into an international sensation, televised on ESPN with incredible viewership.

Though Little League has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the streets and sandlots of New York, that same spirit, enthusiasm and passion still remain. Those ragtag groups of kids who played with second-rate bats and balls would feel proud to see their dream realized.

Today, people who are interested in forming a program in their community have plenty of resources to get started. As long as they approach the task with a commitment to seeing it through, they’ll provide an opportunity for children in their area to enjoy the magic of baseball and everything the sport has to offer.

The Future

Running the bases after smacking a home run while fans roar with excitement is an event that will continue to thrill pre-teens for decades to come. With the support of professional baseball players, interest in Little League is experiencing even more growth, and the sport will no doubt endure to uplift and inspire new generations of young players and adult volunteer organizers alike.

Which MLB Teams Are Having the Most Surprising and Disappointing Seasons?

By | Baseball | No Comments

Every baseball season, some teams surprise their fans — whether that’s in a positive way or not. Some teams unexpectedly become viable contenders for a World Series title, while others with lofty preseason aspirations are disappointing.

Pleasant Surprises

In the 2018 MLB season so far, several teams are doing surprisingly well — here are three of them.

1.      Oakland Athletics

The top three teams in the AL West are all viable postseason contenders. The Houston Astros are unsurprisingly leading and likely locks to win the division, though the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics have already won 60 or more games. They are competing for the second Wild Card spot, right behind the Yankees.

The degree of success that Oakland and Seattle are having is surprising. Oakland’s offense wasn’t striking on paper before the year, though Jed Lowrie is having the best season of his career, while Matt Chapman and Matt Olson continue to provide power and contact. Blake Treinen has also emerged as one of the league’s best closers. They have done great so far, though questions remain as to whether their rotation is strong enough to hang around.

2.      Seattle Mariners

The other AL West surprise, the Seattle Mariners, was thrown into disarray upon the March news that star 2B Robinson Cano is suspended for 80 games. The Mariners, though, are one of the AL’s best teams, despite Cano’s absence and SP Felix Hernandez not contributing much.

Strong seasons by Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura are helping lead the offense, while SP James Paxton has emerged as one of the league’s most lights-out starters. Closer Edwin Diaz is also very effective, with a chance at the season record for saves. Like the Athletics, there are questions as to whether the Mariners can stick around — though they have certainly shown they are a viable Wild Card contender.

3.     Atlanta Braves

The Braves have the league’s best farm system, so while it’s not exactly surprising that their roster has talent, it is a bit shocking that their star prospects have arrived so soon. Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies are already contributing All Star-caliber numbers — so much for getting acclimated to the big leagues.

The success of their younger players is combining with an MVP candidate season from Freddie Freeman, an All-Star campaign from veteran Nick Markakis and a stellar catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Tyler Flowers.

The Phillies, another relatively surprising success, will be competing with the Braves for a playoff spot deep into the season.

Disappointing Surprises

On the other end of the spectrum, a few teams have been disappointing fans — like these three.

1.      Washington Nationals

The Nationals have some of the best players in the world, like Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, so their painfully mediocre start is a surprise.

Harper continues to hit for power, though his batting average is very low. Adam Eaton is hurt again, Anthony Rendon has often been injured and Strasburg is on and off the DL. Scherzer remains dominant and Harper will likely do better in the second half, though the Nationals seem to lack depth in general. It wasn’t expected that Harper would struggle so much and no other Nationals player would emerge.

2.      New York Mets

Although no one anticipated an extraordinarily great season from the Mets, a red-hot 11-1 start suggested the Mets may at least compete for a Wild Card. The team’s best start in franchise history, followed by a significantly forgettable season, is disappointing.

For a team that has two bonafide aces in Noah Syndergaard and Noah DeGrom, a capable closer in Jeurys Familia — before his trade to Oakland — and a core of young hitters like Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Nimmo that impress, it’s a disappointing surprise that the Mets are definitely among the worst teams this season. Mediocrity was the expectation, though failure is the rest so far.

3.      Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have a winning record, though there were expectations they would lead their division — or at least come close to it. Offensive stars like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, in addition to a friendly home park and consistent rotation, make their start a fairly unexciting one. The team still has ample time to impress extensively, though so far, the results have been lower than expected.

Baseball fans look forward to seeing whether these disappointing teams will turn it around, as well as whether the pleasant surprises will continue their success.