Little League Discriminates Against the Strong and Talented

A Massachusetts’ Little League pitcher has been banned from pitching because he throws with “too much power.”

The Little League organization divides children by age, not size or strength. When my youngest son played Little League baseball, there were a variety of skill levels, sizes, and height among the 120 players and ten teams. Some kids threw very hard. One 12-year-old was nearly six feet tall and had a wicked fastball.

Spud-Webb-Manute-Bol-standing
Spud Webb (5′ 7″) and Manute Bol (7′ 7″)

If you’ve watched the Little League World Series on television, you can see the disparity among the players. They didn’t get to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, by protesting that “it’s not fair” that some players are bigger and stronger than them.

What’s next? Tall kids won’t be able to play basketball? Tell that to professional basketball players “Spud” Webb, Earl Boykins, and Muggsy Bogues. Bogues was the shortest player ever to play in the NBA at 5’ 3”. He played point guard for 14-seasons in the NBA.

There are strict pitching guidelines in Little League. No one pitcher can dominate since he is not permitted unlimited pitching time.

The thing of it is, Tanner Beebe is only 5-foot-1 and weighs just 90 pounds. The problem is, he throws 60 miles per hour from a mound that’s just 46 feet away from home plate.

What would I say to kids on a team I coached who had to face Tanner’s fastball?:

“Welcome to the real world. Equality is a myth. Baseball is one of the first sports that teaches this necessary lesson. Go up there and do your best. If you want to hit the fast ball, then practice. You can’t get better facing people who are only as good as you are. You can only improve when you are challenged by people who are better than you, and you decide you want to improve. One more thing: There’s no crying in baseball.”

Sports are about life, and life isn’t fair. The sooner children learn this basic truth, the sooner they will be able to make their way in the world and be prepared to handle the inequities that will confront them every day.

Inequality in one area does not mean inequality in every area of life. Sometimes weakness and failure leads to great success.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, spoke to the graduating class of Harvard in 2008 where she talked about her failures before she found success:

“You might never fail on the scale I did. But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at al l— in which case, you fail by default.”

Rowling was a penniless, recently divorced mother when she composed the first Harry Potter book on a manual typewriter. Twelve publishers rejected the manuscript!

The great inventor Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” And this one, ““Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

Daniel Ruettiger on the sidelines of a Notre Dame football game
Daniel Ruettiger on the sidelines of a Notre Dame football game

For a classic example of the little guy going up against bigger and stronger competitors, there’s always Rudy, the life story of Daniel E. “Rudy” Ruettiger, a young man who was told he was too small to play football. He ended up only playing for a few minutes of the last game of the season.

The Bible says, “power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The quickest people to learn this maxim will be quickest to make their way in the world.

I’ll take a fast ball any day over a curve ball.