Little League World Series

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Dunlap: Little League’s Instant Replay Is A Bit Much

Colin Dunlap
August 14, 2019 - 1:42 pm
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I was on a plane a few times last week and, through the power of technology --- gosh I love technology even if I’m terrible using it --- was able to watch some live television on my iPhone. 

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It was the middle of the day and there weren’t many live sports options. Truth be told, there were two: The Pan Am Games and the Little League World Series. 

Naturally, I opted for youth baseball over fencing or canoe sprint or judo or whatever. 

Glad I did. 

The Little League World Series was in the regional stages and while there is no purity left in it anymore (after all, I was watching it on a major network on an airplane) there still is something delightedly innocent about kids going out there and trying to win for themselves, their teammates and their hometown. 

There are no routine plays; every play is met with a “will he make it?” sort of anxiety as the ball heads toward a fielder and I found it to be wonderful viewing. 

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It was, to be sure, tremendously enjoyable. 

Except for a huge variable --- instant replay and replay challenges. 

Huh? 

What? 

They have that in the Little League World Series? 

Sure do. 

And in watching it all go down, I was reminded that I remembered seeing it a few years ago and thought the same thing. I thought out loud, “Does Little League Baseball really need replay pushing into its umpiring? I mean, the kids are 12 years old?!?!”

As I sat there and took in the game between New Hampshire and (I think it was) Rhode Island, there were a few replay challenges in the span of two innings at first base. If I remember correctly, one was upheld and the other was overturned. 

Both were on bang-bang calls. Plays that, with the naked eye were about 50/50 and not obvious one way or the other. Or, in another way of saying it, calls that seemingly over the course of a game --- and especially a summer --- even out. Logic would say that you get about half of those calls while about half would go against you. 

It should also be noted that neither play involved a run or potential run being scored on that play; they were both simple ground balls to a fielder who tossed over to first for a would-be force out of the batter. 

But I will tell you an even bigger point: It really slowed the game. I mean, slowed it to a crawl. The umpires had to do the same thing they do in Major League Baseball as they communicated with someone off the field who watched the play, broke it down frame by frame and then worked in unison with the guys on the field to arrive at a decision. 

All this for Little League? That seemed a bit much.

But even bigger was the fact that this is only available for televised games. There are games played in the very same tournament bracket that are not televised where replay cannot be used. Seems really imbalanced to me as two games played in the same tournament can be officiated differently dependent on if technology is turned on or not.

But I think what overrides everything for me is this: Why can’t children have an uncomfortable moment anymore? Why is it made to be where we, as adults, have to facilitate a world where stuff like bad calls in a sporting event can’t exist? Part of me thinks it is just another coddling mechanism for our youth. 

I mean, is it asking too much for some 12-year-old kids to potentially have to play through a bit of a bad call (or one only bad because it was slowed down to a frame by frame replay) and show a little fight? 

Is presenting some tweens out there playing baseball too much of an unfair situation in life if they have to overcome just a little bit of human error from time to time. 

I mean, these kids do understand in real life if something goes wrong --- and even if it is obviously wrong --- there isn’t always a chance to just ask for a replay review and then all is made right, right? Sometimes you get the breaks and sometimes you don’t.

It just all seemed a bit much.

Replay in that Little League game and in the Little League World Series just didn’t look right. 

The kids are 12. 

Maybe the best way to learn sometimes is to endure when things aren’t perfect. 

Or maybe I’m just turning old and crotchety. Heck, I don’t know.