Regardless of what happens as the Manteca Little League baseball season comes to a close, we know one thing for certain – that one team of 12-year-old boys will not, if they qualify, be playing in the Tournament of Champions for District 67.
And that’s a shame.
For all of the hard work that those young men have put in this season – and by some accounts, it involves practicing two or three days a week for multiple hours a day – they aren’t going to be able to play beyond the regular season after a District decision barred them from advancing.
I know – terrible, right?
But digging just an inch below the surface on this shows that the number of young men who are being cheated out of a chance at postseason baseball glory is far greater than just the members of the Manteca Little League Major Dodgers.
In talking with coach Brodie Downs earlier this week, he admitted to me that he came to the league with a list of nine players form Ripon who wanted to play for him on a Little League team and asked them to place those players on his team and fill the rest of the slots with anybody they wanted.
While every other coach in that division drafted the players as the Little League rulebook demands that they do, Downs started with nine hand-picked players that he says wanted to play for him so they could “develop” their baseball skills from a coach who has played the game at its highest levels.
Baseball, however, is nothing without the rules that govern it.
Downs can claim that he did nothing wrong because the Board President, who has since stepped down, signed off of his proposal and therefore he did what he needed to do, but I’m not quite so sure that truly holds up under close scrutiny. What was done is clearly an infraction of a very specific regulation in the Little League rulebook, and it doesn’t even pass the smell test – there’s no logical reason why one coach gets a hand-picked team of players who never previously played in this particular league while the rest of them go through the established process.
In our conversation, Downs told me that he wanted to do this because it was an alternative to travel ball, and that travel ball is “killing” Little League and he wanted to do something that supported the timeless organization that has developed countless baseball players and served as a rite of passage for millions.
Moves like this – where a coach stacks his team to try and dominate the competition and gain an unfair advantage – is what is killing Little League and youth sports in general.
Perhaps he really had no clue that what he was doing was wrong, and the Board President had absolutely no clue that the proposal violated one the fundamental tenets of Little League Baseball – ensuring that there’s a level playing field.
But that seems very unlikely.
And one group isn’t being taken into consideration by those that think these young men should advance: the teams that very well could have finished in first place by following all of the rules had this incident not occurred.
At this point it’s only one team that has been disqualified from advancing to the TOCs, but the decision from Williamsport could very well extend that to all other 12-year-old teams since the draft process required by Little League was tainted.
Beyond that the league’s charter could very well be in jeopardy, which means that there may be no teams playing for the city’s namesake Little League next year.
It’s a sad story all the way around, but at the core it impacts far more than just the players that aren’t going to get to the TOCs this year, and I think it’s important to keep that in perspective no matter what happens from this point forward.
I played my T-Ball for Manteca Little League, and I know a lot of people that got their start in baseball – some of them that went on to do great things in the game – that did as well.
It’s a shame that the actions of a few adults has tarnished that reputation.
Delivering on a longstanding promise
It’s not uncommon to turn on the television these days and see a member of the United States Congress talking about any of a number of issues.
It’s a little bit different when the person sparring with the talking head on the screen is your local Congressman.
While his back-and-forth with Conservative firebrand Tucker Carlson on Fox News wasn’t quite the exchange that his campaign would have hoped for, Jeff Denham has been in the headlines for the past week thanks to his move to usurp Congressional leadership and bring a bill to the floor that will grant amnesty to the more than 1 million undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States as children.
It’s a delicate issue – some in his party are in full support of the move, which gives the so-called DREAMers a chance at finally becoming United States citizens, while others see any sort of caving on immigration as an attack on the American rule of law and an affront to all of those who are waiting to become citizens.
Despite his political affiliation and the polarizing politics of America today, Denham has always been somebody that championed the pathway to citizenship for immigrants that that are willing to pay back taxes, learn English, and pass background checks.
Conservative publications are making him a pariah for his newest push invoking the “queen of the hill” rule to bring a handful of immigration bills to the floor for debate and a call for the 218 votes necessary to pass them.
Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, it’s an interesting process to watch take place that’s made all the more interesting that the man behind the push is the same man whose campaign signs are on nearly every street corner.
Is it a dash to the middle to secure re-election in a district that is growing more liberal every year? Perhaps.
But it’s also a continuation of his long-standing political convictions.
And that’s worthy of recognition by itself.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.