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In the regionals of the Little League Softball World Series the big story this past week was a rematch between Central Iowa and Washington for the right to advance in the playoffs. But here’s the back story: Central Iowa, which finished 3-1 in pool play, could have advanced to the semifinals if South Snohomish, Washington, either scored three runs vs. the U.S. Southeast representative from North Carolina or won the game to finish 4-0 in pool play. However, Washington rested its top four players and, according to Central Iowa Little League president Chris Chadd, ordered its players to bunt and reportedly had players swinging at pitches in the dirt. The goal? To prevent Central Iowa from advancing.
The result: North Carolina no-hit the Washington team in an 8-0 victory, and the Central Iowa All-Stars finished in a three-way tie — and out of the tournament. The Central Iowa coach protested to the tournament director, who denied the protest. Iowa then took the protest to Little League International, which didn’t disqualify Washington but did order a one-game playoff between Iowa and Washington to see who’d advance. In what some would say was an act of Karma, Central Iowa won and advanced (but lost in the semi-finals). For his part, Washington coach Fred Miller said he was only trying to rest his starters and his team was unfairly punished.
Now, let’s face it: It’s not unheard of for pro teams to “rest their starters” to get a better draft position, but this is Little League, where the Little League pledge says, in part, “I will play fair, and strive to win, but win or lose, I will always do my best.” Coach Miller says his players were harassed with notes left on their hotel room doors after the game. Coach, it wasn’t the players’ fault—they were just doing what every team member is told to do—follow the coach’s orders.
We’ve talked a lot about the good and bad in youth sports, and the lessons to be learned. Here’s one lesson for all those involved, as former Jets Coach Herm Edwards famously said: “You play the game to win.” Let’s hope so.