Little League not immune to favoritism

Below is an opinion article posted in the San Diego Union Tribune sixteen years ago. Has anything changed since then?

Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern.

I keep this in mind when dealing with the varied complaints from parents. If someone contacts me upset that his or her child is being wronged, there’s a chance it is just a passionate, frustrated mom or dad who wants what is best for their kid.

If this scenario happens a second time, then it can be passed off as happenstance. But when a third case comes up, alarm bells go off.

Which brings me to Little League.

I have received multiple phone calls/letters/e-mails complaining of favoritism in local Little League organizations. The main issue is how the various all-star teams that represent communities are chosen.

With the beginning of summer, the top players are selected from all the teams competing in a Little League organization. These are suppose to be the best of the best, playing other such all-star teams in the region, and eventually with some luck and skill, nationally.

Complaints about the all-star selections usually boil down to this: Some deserving players are left off the elite team while the children of influential parents (coaches, board members etc.) make the squad.

At first glance, the whole thing is hard to buy. I’ve done this job long enough to know that some parents, because their heart is in the right place, think their child can do no wrong when in fact that child just isn’t good enough.

However, when different parents in different Little Leagues tell me the same story, I wonder.

When looking through the names of local board members and coaches, and then comparing that to the kids playing, there are quite a few commonly held last names. This really doesn’t mean anything, and there is a chance that all of those kids are well deserving regardless of who their parents are.

The way players are selected for all-star teams vary. Some are chosen by coaches, others by peers. Ideally, there would be some uniform, fair way to pick the teams, one open and without question. Something based on performance (statistics) and dedication (attendance, attitude, etc.).

There will always be that one kid on the bubble, the last to be cut. That is inevitable. Also inevitable is nepotism and back scratching. That is life, and sports, no matter at which level, are no different.

Little League should be about youngsters having fun, playing a game. But it is big business now, culminating in nationally televised games in August.

Consider this: There are hundreds, if not thousands of Little League players ranging from Sabre Springs to 4S Ranch, from Poway to Penasquitos. Do I think there is a chance that favoritism kept at least one more-deserving kid from competing in all-star play? Certainly.

And that’s disappointing.

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