Monday, October 15, 2007

Little League, Big Dreams (Charles Euchner)

For me, it all started with a skinny, short second baseman nicknamed "Mouse." It was during ESPN's broadcast of the Little League World Series one year, and as soon as Mouse stepped up to the plate, I said two things to Jim: 1. Look how cute he is! and 2. What's a strike zone?

I love the LLWS, so I was incredibly excited to read Charles Euchner's book Little League, Big Dreams, which focuses on the 2005 LLWS. Unfortunately the book has some major structural problems. First, the book assumes you know who won the 2005 LLWS. (That being a year that we moved and were without cable for a month, I had no idea. Plus even if I had watched the game at the time, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you now off the top of my head.) This is incredibly distracting and takes away some built-in tension/organization/reason to keep reading to find out what happens. Second, the organization of the book doesn't make sense to the reader. The most organic structure for this kind of book (and one that has been used quite successfully in other baseball books such as One Day in Fenway) is the natural time frame of the World Series tournament format. When reading Little League, Big Dreams, it was easy to forget who was on which team and which team made it to what level in the series. And why some chapters went where (or why some material went in them in the first place) was unclear, such as a section about pushy parents in a chapter about faith and religion in the sport. There's also a chapter titled "The Greatest Little League World Series Ever" but it was never clear to me why this particular one was the greatest. I really wanted this book to succeed. But in the end, I was disappointed.

I did come away with some new knowledge about Little League. For example, it's not considered the highest level of competition for youth baseball (with PONY leagues, travel teams, and Ripken baseball all above it), but what it has that the others don't is the television broadcast.

For now I'll just have to settle with grown men playing baseball in a grown-up World Series (as the Cubs are out, go Rockies!).

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