Child's Play - By Floyd Lewis - Little League vs. Gold
By Softball West
Unfortunately for me, on the day that ESPN was televising the ASA 18U Gold National Championship game, I had another commitment and could not watch it live. Thank goodness for TIVO. Naturally, due to my habit of checking out a variety of softball websites and forums, I knew the final score of the game before I had a chance to actually watch the game. But I was still very interested in watching the best of youth softball on television and saved the game until I had an opportunity to view it.
Several days after the game, I was sitting at home and noticed that the Little League Softball World Series Championship game was on ESPN, live. I really don't want to go into the whole issue of what Little League softball is doing on national television, as I covered this issue in detail last year after this same event. But as one might expect, it was not the caliber of play that those of us who have seen a lot of quality 12 and under travel ball expect to see. But it was what it was, softball on TV, so I watched.
After the game, I had a yearning to watch some quality softball, so I cued up the Gold Nationals to get the bad taste out of my mouth. But as I watched the game, it too turned into a nightmare, with several errors and pitching that was not up to the normal Gold standards. It was as if I was still watching the Little League softball game. I certainly don't make these comments to down play the ability of the players in the game, as I realize that these are among the best of the best in the game, and these were two of the most successful and storied programs in youth softball.
But it did give me pause to consider how I had just watched a "recreational" national championship game and in my mind belittled the ability level, and then witnessed some of the same type of errors by the game's best. It just goes to prove the old adage that, ‘to err is human'. It is also why they make you play the games, because you never know what's going to happen. You are going to get these types of performances on occasion whenever your vantage of a tournament is one single game. Unfortunately in this case, this is the type of game we saw, which just didn't do justice to the abilities of these fine players.
THE REPORT CARD
Well, now that ASA Nationals are all completed, it is once again time for the annual report card on how the rest of country is catching up with the California teams. Order was restored in the Gold division, as California teams swept four of the top five spots. This after non-California teams had taken the two previous events. As is the norm, California, due to their disinterest in the division, was little more than an also-ran in the 18 and under ‘A' Nationals, as only one team from the sunshine state finished in the top ten.
California could only muster two of the top five spots in the 16 and under Nationals, but swept the top five positions in the 14 and under Nationals. The Golden State was even more dominant in the 12 and under event, taking ten of the top twelve positions. And in the 10 and under Championships, California failed to take home the title, but did take four of the top six positions. So, what do these results mean?
Well, basically it means that lots of good softball is being played in several areas of the country. While California teams took the top spot in four of the six nationals, there were teams representing from a wide variety of areas that found their way into the top ten. While the 18 and under ‘A' event has seldom been of interest to the California squads, it is becoming more apparent that this game is being played well throughout the country.
While it is difficult to not consider a California team as a favorite to win most age divisions, it is also no longer a lock that they will do so. We haven't reached parity yet, but it sure makes it interesting knowing that another state can field a team that can contend with the best California can put on the field. This competitiveness is great for the game, and great for the teams playing it.
I was recently able to attend a "showcase" tournament in Stockton that included several teams from Southern California. Since my move up north, I hadn't had the opportunity to see many of these So Cal teams, or their managers, many of whom I had a friendship with. I really enjoyed speaking to them again, and even more interesting, once again witnessing the interaction between the Gold and college coaches.
Speaking of "showcase" tournaments, by the time this issue reaches you; most of these fall events will be over. I hope that all of the eligible players had their hopes and dreams fulfilled.
Since this is our "holiday" issue, I'd like to wish all of you a happy holiday season and an enjoyable new year. See you again in 2007.
As always, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org_and so the ball rolls.