It’s another summer in Lufkin, and we’re officially fired up for some more Little League baseball.
After going to the World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 2017 and Taylor, Michigan, in 2018, we’re ready to see where this summer leads us.
We know World Series dreams don’t come to fruition every year, but that doesn’t mean this year’s group can’t dream big.
This year’s Majors All-Stars are off to a flying start after going unbeaten in the District 10 tournament. If they’re going to get knocked out, it’s going to take one heck of a team.
Unfortunately much of the talk around the Lufkin Little League program this week has been about what isn’t happening rather than what is.
The Lufkin Minors 10U All-Stars had the look of a team that could go all the way to the state tournament. They started off the district tournament with a thrilling win when Mack Slaton picked up the walkoff hit and Ceylan Williams starred on the mound on an outstanding night for baseball.
Sadly that was the last game of the summer for that group of youngsters, whose only goal was to enjoy a summer with their friends showing the rest of the state what we already know about Lufkin baseball.
Just a few days after that win, the team was disqualified from the tournament.
Before casting any judgment on the players, this isn’t some sort of Danny Almonte situation. All of the players were of legal age and they all went through the regular season, which is a requirement for Little League tournament action.
None of them, or the coaches for that matter, were trying to cut any corners or do anything inappropriate. They were there to have fun and win big, something they looked to be well on their way to doing.
As is the case with most problems in youth sports, the ones that screwed this up were the adults.
In talking to those in the know around the field, the disqualification was the result of a misinterpretation of the rules and a paperwork snafu.
In short, the problem was a lack of official games by the players. According to Little League rules, games aren’t official until they reach a mandatory 41/2 innings. And if there was an early run rule or the league’s hour-and-a-half time limit came into effect, the game was called off. That means it’s not an official game.
Players must play in a certain percentage of completed games and there must be enough of those games to make the season schedule official.
In the end, those mistakes cost the kids.
The question on many minds is who ultimately is to blame for letting the kids down?
The only thing we know for certain is that it wasn’t the kids.
Should those in charge have seen something like this coming? Yes.
Should they have gone out of their way to make sure the rules were followed down to the letter? Once again, yes.
Plans need to be put into place to make sure that never happens again. And by the early accounts, they already have been.
Next season, parents can expect a few longer nights at the field and a longer season in order to avoid a repeat of something like this.
But that doesn’t help this year’s group of kids, who ultimately lost their chance at district, section and state titles while never being beaten on the field.
The investigation was the result of a complaint, one that probably came from a disgruntled parent upset that their child didn’t make the team. But that complaint triggered a review by Little League officials of all of the teams from Lufkin and Tyler in all age groups in the tournaments.
The blame for this turn of events falls squarely on the adults. Yes, it’s a technicality, but the shoddy record keeping meant players were ineligible. That’s the fault of league officials. But complaining because somebody didn’t make the all-star team? That’s a selfish parent’s fault. Is this really what youth sports in Lufkin have come to?
In our minds, of course not.
Fortunately we saw enough from these kids to know they aren’t going to let this keep them down. In two years, many of them will be back on the field chasing their own Williamsport dreams.
Before then, let’s make sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed so they never have to deal with this again.
As the famous chant from from one of the “Bad News Bears” movies goes, “Let them play!”
They certainly deserve it.