Saturday, August 12, 2006

Rick Reilly asks an interesting question. What's your answer?

Rick Reilly does a weekly column for Sports Illustrated Magazine, and this week he presents a question that offers up some moral dilemma questions that is sure to offend one person or another. It involves Little League, a cancer survivor, and sportsmanship.

In a nine- and 10-year-old PONY league championship game in Bountiful, Utah, the Yankees lead the Red Sox by one run. The Sox are up in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, a runner on third. At the plate is the Sox' best hitter, a kid named Jordan. On deck is the Sox' worst hitter, a kid named Romney. He's a scrawny cancer survivor who has to take human growth hormone and has a shunt in his brain.

So, you're the coach: Do you intentionally walk the star hitter so you can face the kid who can barely swing?

The coach ended up walking the stud, pitching to the Romney, and striking him out. As you can imagine, the town is divided and the little league coach's popularity is around the same as George Bush's. Reilly's opinion is that he should have been walked for the sake of sportsmanship.

I think what the Yanks did stinks. Strategy is fine against major leaguers, but not against a little kid with a tube in his head. Just good baseball strategy? This isn't the pros. This is: Everybody bats, one-hour games. That means it's about fun. Period.

What the Yankees' coaches did was make it about them, not the kids. It became their medal to pin on their pecs and show off at their barbecues. And if a fragile kid got stomped on the way, well, that's baseball. We see it all over the country -- the overcaffeinated coach who watches too much SportsCenter and needs to win far more than the kids, who will forget about it two Dove bars later.

I would have walked the stud, and pitched to Romney.

I understand the argument that it was bad sportsmanship and that the coaches were playing to win at an age, and a situation, where it wasn't warranted. However, I'm of the opinion that the kid deserves a chance to win the game, and that if simply pitch to the stud because Romney's handicap, or intentionally walk him for the same reason, that you are doing a massive injustice to the kid by not letting him have a chance to be a hero. I have a family that has a history with cancer and I've dealt with kids that have had cancer, and one thing that people need is the knowledge that life can still be normal if you are dealing with cancer. So Romney was pitched to, so he struck out, sounds to me like he's a little leaguer!

I know this is a controversial decision, and I don't think that the coach had that in mind when he was walking the stud, as it shows in the article. Still, check out the last part of the Reilly's article.

By the way, the next morning, Romney woke up and decided to do something about what happened to him.

"I'm going to work on my batting," he told his dad. "Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."

Sounds like the kids a ballplayer to me!
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