America's Pastime in its purest form.
That is, until a few adults get their hands on it and turn that Rockwellian ideal into something resembling a trashy reality show.
From the Washington coach who ordered his team to tank a game in this year’s Little League Softball World Series to last year’s Little League Baseball darlings being stripped of their U.S. title for fielding players outside of their South Side Chicago district, recent high-profile cases of “dirty dealings” (in President Obama’s words) by the grown-ups in charge may have shaken your faith in youth sports.
But fear not.
The 2015 Little League Baseball World Series offered up plenty of proof that the kids (and, yes, most of the adults) are all right.
So take a minute to ease your cynicism with a few reaffirming moments from this year's Late Summer Classic:
Maybe the best example of sportsmanship from this year’s LLWS took place in an elimination game between Uganda and Chinese Taipei.
After Wei Hung Chou hit Uganda’s Joshua Olara with a pitch, the two exchanged a gentlemanly hat tip to indicate that no harm was meant/done.
Then, one batter later, Olara took out Chinese Taipei’s shortstop (a tiny kid who could fit comfortably in Olara's strike zone standing up) with a clean, hard slide into second. After the Ugandan was called out, he helped up his opponent, putting his arm around the shortstop as they walked back to their dugouts.
Pitching with the bases loaded and his team down by 14 runs, it would have been hard to blame Missouri’s Mekhi Garrard for not finding the positive in the situation. But, sure enough, he did – taking absolute delight in the massive grand slam he served up to Pennsylvania slugger Cole Wagner.
In the 3rd inning of his team’s opening round matchup vs. Rhode Island, South Carolina’s Terrence Gist stepped to the plate as the ESPN broadcast cut away to a live interview with his sister and mom. Right on cue, Gist blasts a mammoth home run. As you might expect, mom’s reaction wasn’t what you would call reserved.
Even Rhode Island’s pitcher had to give it up for Gist’s home run, which, given its distance and trajectory would have cleared Fenway’s Green Monster.
"I'm proud of you, man."
Long after the sting of defeat wears off, those words will resonate.
Also cool: You can hear an opposing player chirp "nice pitching" as he trots off the field.
That moment you realize you probably just made SportsCenter's Top 10 . . .