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New Jersey Baseball Guest Editorial

Dream or Nightmare

One of the mottos for Cooperstown Dreams Park (CDP) is “Live the Dream,” or something of that nature. Having been a head coach at CDP, one of the aspiring, youth sporting events in the country, I’ve found that phrase to be mostly true.

For a few teams at this year’s CDP Week 12, however, that motto fell far short of its intended purpose. Due to the poor decisions by a handful of adults, youthful baseball dreams turned into baseball nightmares.


CDP Game in Progress

Massively lopsided scores were the talk of this year’s tournament, and those scores and the people involved have brought unwanted, negative, national attention to CDP and the winning teams.

I’m very lucky: I’ve been able to attend CDP the last two years as a head coach. We went 4-2 this year before losing our first-round playoff game to a team that eventually reached the Sweet 16. We laid an egg in 2008, going 0-8, but our team still had a great time.

Our players and coaches were able to “Live the Dream” both years. Our team was treated well, and I can’t say enough about the facility. For a team of 10-12 year-olds to have the chance to play seven-plus games on immaculate fields, complete with dugouts, lights and a scoreboard is a treat and certainly a wonderful thrill for the boys.

 

For some teams this year, though, that thrill was more of a horror. CDP’s Week 12, which was held Aug. 22-28, attracted some of the elite 10-12 teams in the country, with high-powered travel programs making the trip to Cooperstown from as far away as California, Florida and Canada.

However, Week 12 also drew average, town teams that were simply trying to get accepted into CDP and enjoy the experience. With the combination of travel teams and town teams, right off the bat, the makeup of the field wasn’t balanced.

In addition to the usual array of 20-run and 25-run scores, this year’s Week 12 saw three unfathomable scores: 30-0, 35-0 and 53-0. Those outcomes are similar to that of the 100-0 score from a girls’ basketball game in the Dallas area in January of this year, which also drew national attention. In 1916 the Georgia Tech football team routed a team from Cumberland University 222-0.

Other than the score, I have no details on the 30-0 game, which was stopped after four innings due to the tournament’s 12-run mercy rule. However, the final score speaks for itself.

In the 35-0 game, the losing coach told me the opposing team was stealing bases until it was 25-0, give or take. I guess a 20-0 lead in the second inning wasn’t big enough and the head coach felt his team needed that extra base.

The game that drew the most attention, of course, was the 53-0 final. Word spread quickly through the CDP complex of the score. Rumors flew, and coaches and umpires talked openly about how they would have handled that situation.

 
Dream or Nightmare?

Opinions varied, but what is certain is that this particular situation was handled poorly. The home plate umpire of the game said both coaches wanted to end the game in the top of the third inning but were told by CDP’s baseball operations staff that the game had to at least go the minimum of four innings.

Surely, this sort of score, or something close, has happened before. Why doesn’t CDP have something in place to make sure these scores don’t occur? At some point, isn’t enough enough?

Ultimately, though, the blame and the finger pointing, of which there has been plenty, should go in one direction – the head coach of the winning team.

Yes, this was a game between two supposed evenly matched teams; yes, technically, this was a round robin tournament week; and yes, under most circumstances, a head coach always wants his or her team to give its best. But this was not a normal circumstance. It was a blowout from the start. After batting through the order once, it was clear this was a lopsided affair.

A 10-0 score in baseball is a good thumping. A complete blowout is 20-0, and a massacre 30-0. What’s 53-0? One word appropriately describes such a final score – unacceptable.

I don’t care what two teams are playing each other. It could be the 1927 New York Yankees vs. the Bad News Bears. A 53-0 final is unacceptable under all circumstances.

By the way, what does a 53-0 score in baseball translate to for basketball – 100-0? How about football – 250-0?

The winning team did bat opposite handed, and also tried to bunt to the pitcher. Those are nice gestures when it’s 15-0 or 20-0, but why on earth were those players allowed to even hit a ball when it was 30-0? That’s where the head coach blew it. All he had to do was to tell his kids to go up to bat, take a good cut, and miss. If he did that, problem solved. Instead, that head coach, as well as CDP, have a problem... a big problem... a nationally-known problem.

The keys here are the final score and the age group involved. The outcome wasn’t 10-0, nor was it 20-0. How does a 10-12 team justify scoring 53 runs against another 10-12 team? How can a head coach do that to another team? This is youth sports, not the pros. Heck, a 53-0 baseball final wouldn’t even be acceptable in the pros. If a major league team beat another 53-0, that would be the talk of the sports world.

I feel bad for the kids of that winning team. They were booed and looked down upon for the rest of the tournament. They didn’t do anything wrong. They’re kids. They simply followed the instructions of their head coach.

And I also feel bad for the kids of those teams which lost by such large margins. They went to Cooperstown to “Live The Dream.” Instead, due to some wrong-minded adults, at least for one game, they lived a nightmare.

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