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Keep your forfeit wins and trophies, I’ll take our grand slam

From a distance, or really even close up, I looked like the worst third base coach in the history of baseball.

“What is he doing?” the crowd must have been asking as I was telling my two baserunners, Matty Lockmer and Carter Barsness, to stop.

Matty and Carter were going to score easily, and they looked at me like I had two heads, not knowing that I just didn’t want the game and the season to end. I wanted that game to last all night long, and stopping the runners was the only chance I had.

It was the last game of the season for the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the 7-8 baseball league. It was loser-out game in the city tournament.

We entered the bottom of the last inning trailing 7-2, and the league rules allow only four runs per inning. It is a rule that keeps the games from lasting longer than a Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN. It’s a good rule.

So, even though we brought the tying run to the plate in Matty, we had no chance of winning.

But, hey, they let the Seattle Mariners play the rest of their games after June 1 every year, so I figured we’d play the last inning even though we were mathematically eliminated.

While I was sure I didn’t have the time to coach the team, I took the job anyway when offered it a few months ago. Somehow, I found the time to practice a couple times each week and play 13 games.

I would have rather played the full 162-game schedule because it was so much fun.

Coaching Little League Baseball is like traveling back in time. Every boy on the team reminded me of a boy I played with back when I was in Little League, and memories I didn’t even know I had popped back into my head.

Every game and every practice these boys improved. It was so rewarding and fun to see Braylon Larson, Kyler Carpenter, Dallas Doyle-Richards, Jaeger Hansen, Nolan “Tanner Boyle” Bisch, Donovan “D-Train” Gamez, Eli Corbin and my boy Grady advance a light year in baseball in just a couple of months.

That is why it was baffling to hear that a team in a league went to the cold, emotionless rule book to avoid playing a game in the tournament.

We had four Northwest Little League teams playing an interleague schedule with seven teams from the Mile High.

Mile High’s teams were, for the most part, older because unlike Northwest they didn’t go by the new age guideline mandated by Little League Baseball to be in effect by 2018. That says a player’s league age is what his legal age will be on Dec. 31 on that year.

That means, nearly half of the 11-year-old players in the world will be told they are 12 years old. The next year, those 12-year-old boys will be puzzled when they’re told to hit the bricks because they’re 13.

Keeping players in the game from the age 12 to 13 in one of the biggest challenges in baseball. So it is head scratching as to why Little League would make a move like. Their rational is they don’t want 13-year-old players playing. Their solution ends up outlawing 12 year olds.

Plus, Little League is losing numbers each years to traveling teams, where parents hope their money will make their kids better players.

So, Little League coaches should make sure they get their players to play games and practice as much as possible while we have them. Lobbying for a forfeit hurts two teams, even though the intent is only to rob one.

As a Little League coach, your job is to teach the kids the game, let them have fun and hope like crazy you can instill a love of the game that will last a life time.

Most importantly, the role of the Little League coach is to get the players to go out for Little League again next year.

So, really, who cares if one team didn’t have enough players to field each position? One of our best games was when we had six players. That was enough for a pitcher, catcher and infield.

We’ve hardly needed an infield in the first place because the ball rarely gets hit that far. When it does, the entire infield goes to the outfield anyway. So we’ve got it covered.

I was told the team with enough players in that game didn’t want to waste its top pitchers. Little League has a strict pitch count for the safety of the young players, and if the top pitchers in that age group throw more than 35 times they need a full day of rest before they can pitch again.

My team has 10 top pitchers because my assistants Jake Larson, Kyle Barsness, Troy Lockmer and I had 10 kids begging us to pitch every night. Our players played a different position every inning except on the rare occasion that a pitcher got through one inning with less than 20 pitches.

It would feel good to call out the coaches and league officials who allowed a forfeit by name. It probably wouldn’t do any good, though, because they probably don’t see anything wrong with underhanded tactics in pursuit of the prestigious 7-8 boys’ championship trophy.

Is there such a trophy? For the coach’s sake, I sure hope there is. Maybe we’ll have to have one made if there isn’t.

If Matty and Carter would have stopped on second and third like I told them, we would have had at least one more boy bat. That’s what I was thinking.

When an opposing player finally got the ball in the outfield, he threw it over his the heads of his teammates. When another player chased it down, he threw it over his teammates’ heads again.

Even if I would have tackled Carter, both runners would have eventually scored. So, Carter raced home and then Matty came flying around third for his Little League grand slam.

It would have tied the game at 7 had our fifth run of the inning been allowed to count. Instead, the play ended the game and the season for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have even tried to stop those runners. I was thinking about extending the season instead of enjoying the absolute perfect ending.

We capped our season with a grand slam and a memory that will last a life time.

Congratulations on your forfeit win and hopefully that championship you so badly want, coach. That trophy will look really nice on your mantel.

— Bill Foley, who is the world’s greatest dad according to one of his trophies, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 5 comments



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5 Comments

  • Ol' Pahv
    July 7, 2015, 11:27 am

    The world needs more coaches like you and your crew! Well played!

    REPLY
  • BBennie
    July 7, 2015, 11:33 am

    Great article this morning Bill…

    REPLY
  • Amy Babb
    July 7, 2015, 11:33 am

    Bill I respect your position in this article,however,I feel like I need to stand up for Mile High.

    First, we did follow the new age requirements put forth by Little League. There were quite a few parents that felt their kids were ready to move up to majors and did,but some were not. They only had one year out of coach pitch/tball and would have been thrown right in with 10 year olds. Rather than throw them in a league they weren’t prepared for and would not come back next year, we did our research and asked some officials how to handle this situation for these kids in transition. We decided to let the parents decide where to put the kids that fell into the months in question. Some would definitely take advantage of the situation. Who doesn’t want to have the stud kid. I can tell you that my son was in the league last year…and I agreed with the assessment of most kids.

    As far as tournament, I agree let to the kids play, but at the same time, why have a tournament if you don’t play a tournament with certain rules? The rules were set before the tournamnet started and no one had any issues that I was aware of. Because of the Interleague play all season, they have all played each other. We could have continued the season a few more weeks and called it good. It would have been easier on the few of the volunteers gathering the standings, scheduling games and bracketing, fields, umpires…not to mention parents.

    I urge parents and others to get involved in the setup of both leagues and seasons next year. Both leagues need more volunteers than ever to make the softball AND baseball the best they can be from tball through Junior/Senior. Bring concerns and ideas forward with ideas on how to make them better. It’s the only way Butte Little League, regardless of boundaries will grow and get stronger in a time where it seems to be losing ground.

    Amy Babb

    REPLY
  • Brianna Barsness
    July 7, 2015, 6:02 pm

    Carter had a blast this year with you and your team. I could see them improve every game, and that’s a credit to you. As a coach myself, I appreciated what you did. They had fun, win or lose! They encouraged each other, and they all got a chance to play different positions. Thanks again!

    REPLY
  • Lance Bailey
    July 9, 2015, 10:49 pm

    Do want the results of the 7/8 minor boys tournament?

    REPLY

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