MLB Needs To Be More Involved At The Little League Level
When I was growing up out on Long Island, your sports season was basically pre-determined. You played soccer or football in the fall, CYO basketball in the winter, and Little League in the Spring. Maybe it was just where I lived, or maybe it is times changing, but it seems now there are more sports available, and they are available throughout the year.
There are summer hockey leagues, and there are indoor winter baseball leagues. As a parent of a five year old, my goal is simply to expose my son to as many sports as possible to see which ones he enjoys the most and wants to continue playing when he gets older.
Going through this process, it amazes me how much some sports are better run than others and how much professional leagues are involved in some of these sports.
For example, when it comes to hockey, the NHL runs the Learn to Play program. For $195, a child is fully equipped with hockey gear, and they participate in a 10 week session guided by team officials. Part of that gear is your own personal practice jersey from that team.
Even if you don’t go that route, there is not one hockey arena which does not have some sort of NHL presence. Moreover, when you sign up for different hockey lessons, you actually will receive USA Hockey magazines. Inside are not just stories from American hockey league players or stories on college teams, there is information on different drills to do.
Hockey is not alone in reaching out to fans this way. In addition to hockey, my son if playing NFL Flag Football. That league, run by the NFL, teaches children the basics of football while providing a safe and fun environment to play. Without dropping names, it is interesting to see some former NFL players have their children participating in my son’s league (albeit in a different age division).
What is fun about this is the children receive a reversible NFL jersey. Also, similar to the USA Hockey magazine, there are weekly emails with different drills to do with your children.
This is much different than the Little League experience thus far. Just like when I was in Little League, you got a jersey which was identified with a local sponsor and/or color. I remember growing up, I was the light blue, white, and blue teams. It wasn’t until I was older that there were MLB like jerseys, and those needed to be returned after the season.
It’s also interesting there is no newsletter or emails from Major League baseball. Basically, you are leaving it to your child’s coach. From my experience on both sides of the aisle, that is the luck of the draw.
Really, there’s a disassociation between Little League and MLB as far as children are concerned.
To be fair, Major League Baseball has taken some steps with the Little League Classic. Last year, Mets fans got to see Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz watch a game with the teams participating in the Little League World Series. Then again, the game was broadcast on ESPN on Sunday night.
Often times, we discuss why children aren’t as interested in baseball as they are the other sports. There are many varied and plausible theories focusing on pace of play or time when games are broadcast. Lost in all of those is the fact baseball isn’t focusing enough at creating fans at a very young age.
Honestly, if not for me, I’m not sure my son would be as big a baseball fan as he is. After all, baseball makes little to no effort to make him one themselves.