I've been very focused on the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball this summer but recently I found time to enjoy the book Little League Big Dreams by Charles Euchner. In Euchner's last book, The Last Nine Innings, he used the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks as a springboard for a detailed look at Major League Baseball. In Little League Big Dreams, he employs a similar approach. This time, the 2005 Little League World Series is used as a backdrop for a discussion of Little League Baseball. Specifically, he gives a detailed account of a game which is developing into a profession as much as a pasttime for many youngsters all over the world.
The book examines many aspects of Little League Baseball of which should be of interest to players, parents, coaches and others involved in the game. Euchner covers many topics including an excellent history of Little League Baseball and the Little League World Series, the commercialization of the sport, detailed accounts of the preparation teams do leading up to the World Series and the social environment that teams experience at Williamsport.
He brings to light some disturbing trends in Little League Baseball which readers may or may not have observed in their own experiences. He talks of coaches that lead teams through hours of rigid and grueling practices in pursuit of the goal of the World Series. He writes of unhealthy emotional pressures imposed by coaches and parents on 10-12 year old boys. He suggests that many arms have been ruined for life by coaches who allow youngsters to pitch more innings than their young bodies can handle.
While he does spend much time revealing the negative side of the sport, he also reminds us of the benefits of the game for many youth. This includes learning the game of baseball as a participant, making new friends, and gaining an understanding of the importance of teamwork. Little League Baseball is still a great organization for many even if it is becoming too much of a business for some. In fact, one of the themes of the book seems to be a quest for the preservation of the beneficial aspects of Little League Baseball in the face of the growing professionalism of the sport.
Like The Last Nine Innings, Little League Big Dreams is a book that will educate and entertain both casual and sophisticated baseball fans. I recommend it to parents, coaches and anybody else who has an interest in Little League Baseball.