Cooperstown: A place where creams come true for some youth baseball teams
Posted by dnthomps August 29, 2009 13:27PM
For the second August in a row, I took my 10-12 A baseball team to Cooperstown Dreams Park.
The weeklong tournament is regarded as one of the elite youth sporting events in the country. It's similar to the Little League World Series, minus ESPN.
For 13 weeks during the summer, 1,300 competitive baseball teams from all over the country flock to Cooperstown.
The players and coaches are treated like major leaguers, and the facility is like that of no other, with 22 enclosed fields, complete with dugouts, home run fences, stands, scoreboards and lights.
For the players, it's like Disney World on Christmas Eve.
However, while the baseball is overall very good, there's an imbalance among some of the teams. There's everything from average Little League teams to over-the-top travel teams comprised of players from various towns, regions and states. For example, the week we attended this year, the Eastern Massachusetts All-Stars consisted of players from most of the New England states, which put them on a different playing field than a town team.
The varying talent pools create some mismatches. Most of the coaches of the elite teams recognize when they're playing a far inferior opponent and throttle back, as we were all told to do at a coaches' meeting prior to the start of the games.
As with most youth sporting venues, however, a few coaches didn't get the message, and the result was some humiliating lop-sided scorers. There was a 30-0 game, as well as a 35-0 final, where the winning team kept stealing until it was 25-0.
The topper, though, was a 53-0 game between eventual champion Tri-State Arsenal and the Fairmount Braves. The Arsenal drew players from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, while Fairmount is a town with a population of 1,300 in Pennsylvania. An umpire told me the Fairmount coach asked to concede the game after the second inning, but the Arsenal coach refused because his team was going for the record for most home runs in a week.
Losing is one thing, and getting thumped is another. But 30-0, 35-0 and 53-0? Come on. Each game was stopped after four innings because of the 12-run mercy rule.
After learning of these scores, the following night I didn't sleep well. I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and was awake until daylight. My switches were turned on. I kept thinking about what I would have done if I was on the losing end of an eventual 53-0 score.
Right off the bat there would have been some poor language on my part directed at the opposing coach - that's an automatic. But how would I have gotten back at this guy? How could I send this guy a message?
My first reaction was to put my own kid on the mound and to have him throw a few "high and tight," but that would have been wrong because the other team would have retaliated. My next thought was to have my infielders make some bad throws that happened to go near the opponent's coaching staff, but again, that may have put my kids in some physical danger.
So I kept thinking. How does one react to being beaten 53-0 in a 10-12 baseball game? It took a full day to come up with an appropriate solution: I would have made the remainder of the tournament miserable for the opposing coach. I would have gone to every one of his games and heckled him until I got under his skin. And when I got under his skin, I would have kept going. I would have gone on and on and on to the point of completely ruining the trip for that coach.
Is that stooping to the level of those coaches who allowed those 30-0, 35-0 and 53-0 scores? Maybe. Would I have set a bad example for my players? Again, maybe.
But those coaches ruined the trip of a lifetime for some kids, and I think those coaches deserve the same in return.
Bill Wells can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org