The Little League World Series, and the consequences for the kids

Every summer when the Little League Series comes around, I cringe. Not that I don’t like the idea of the series — far from it. My 12-year-old self would have loved to have gone to Williamsport and compete.

But the parent in me worries every time I see the huge way the series is presented by network television.

Take the post on Facebook I saw today from ESPN about a pitcher dominating in this year’s series. The post is interspersed with those about Miguel Cabrera, Kobe Bryant and other pro athletes. That’s heady company for a sixth grader looking in the mirror to search for the onset of facial hair.

ESPN has the right to promote its broadcasts, and the series each year produces wonderful stories about the players, their families, their coaches, teachers and other mentors.

Most of the players probably know that they’re super fortunate to advance to Williamsport. Many likely hear their parents counseling them not to get a big head about things and to realize (as my parents told me) that the odds of making it to the big leagues are infinitesimally small.

I don’t worry about most of the kids. It’s the ones who get swept up in the hoopla, only to discover in a few years that their baseball career (or maybe their dreams) peaked on a diamond in small-town Pennsylvania before they hit their teens.

Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by

Bruce Springsteen

If there’s a long-term study of the effects of media hype on pre-teen athletes, I’d like to see it. I’m willing to accept any research that proves my fears groundless.

For now, I remain uneasy that some kid will ultimately come out of the experience deflated and depressed. I hope I’m wrong.

But I will mention that the Little League organization has an agreement with DotCom Therapy and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to provide mental health and emotional well-being support during their baseball and softball playoffs and championship series.

What does that tell you?

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