Waipio children shine
in Little League series


Waipio children played starring roles in this year's Little League World Series.

BASEBALL fans disgusted with big leaguers are being entertained by the little ones, free of revenue-sharing plans, luxury taxes proposed for payrolls, performance-enhancing drugs and strike deadlines. Eleven- and 12-year-old all-stars from Waipio in the past week shared the national spotlight by playing in the Little League World Series, telecast by ESPN and ESPN2 from Williamsport, Pa. They can count the season as a rewarding experience and, just as important, return to being keiki, innocent to the ways of grown-up baseball.

Some critics have expressed concern about the unprecedented TV coverage of the children, some of whom have been seen preening before the cameras, taunting opponents or in other ways reflecting their cognizance of being on stage. More likely, the children are merely continuing behavior present in the untelevised part of their season.

Baseball, even at a young age, embodies an assortment of ritualistic and downright silly conduct, whether spectators are sitting in the stands or watching on TV. The cameras do not create this behavior, although they might encourage it. For example, whatever watery substance that members of the Worcester, Mass., team keep spitting during this month's Little League games -- previous generations of children used sunflower seeds -- is an obvious imitation of chewing tobacco, a pro-baseball tradition that fortunately is fading with the growth of knowledge about its carcinogenic risks.

Whatever narcissism is created by the children's fleeting fame is countered by the best behavior that the ESPN cameras require of the young ballplayers' coaches and parents. Abusive coaches and obsessive moms and dads have created embarrassing moments for Little League baseball in past decades. Microphones attached to coaches and cameras directed at the grandstands now record extraordinary compassion and encouragement to the youngsters.

The televised behavior ideally represents the off-camera conduct of parents and coaches in Little League baseball and other organized sports played by children. As Fred Engh, president of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, notes, there are worse things for their children than dropping a ball, or even having parents preserve the muff on home video.

"It's making an error and his parents telling him he's worthless or his coach verbally abusing him," Engh says. "If you've got a parent with emotional maturity and a good perspective, he or she can step back and say, 'You're not the Yankees. You're kids. Just play your game.'"

You won't see or hear irresponsible conduct while the cameras or rolling. In a perfect world, neither will such conduct occur earlier in the less public part of the Little League season.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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