By Ken Reed

I’m enjoying watching the Little League World Series (LLWS) on ESPN but part of me is wondering if I should be. Am I part of the problem?

Williamsport, the Little League village and Lamade Stadium are all so … well, cool. While watching, I reflect on my Little League days and think “Man, would that have been cool to play there!”

I love watching the kids have fun before, during and after the games. It seems each team has a few stereotypical kids that can be found on every Little League team in the country. The coaches too are Everyman, with regular jobs that we can all relate to.

And then there’s the parents. Some good. Some bad. And some just crazy. Again, similar parents can be found at every Little League diamond in America.

I guess I enjoy watching the LLWS because it brings back fun memories, reveals the spirit and innocence of baseball through 12-year-old faces, the skill level is amazing for such young kids, and of course, because of Mo’ne Davis. What an awesome story she’s been. It’s been a blast watching her knock down some gender barriers, prejudices and ugly stereotypes.

But, and it’s a big “But,” what about the pressure on these kids brought on by national television, hundreds of newspaper, radio and television reporters, and now a Sports Illustrated cover for Davis?

Does being in the bright media spotlight for a couple weeks when you’re 11, 12 or 13 positively or negatively impact the rest of your life?

When asked what she thinks about adults coming up to her asking for an autograph, Davis said, “It kind of creeps me out.”

Me too — especially when her autograph ends up being sold on Ebay for $500

ESPN aired a documentary a few years back called “Little Big Men,” the story of the 1982 Kirkland, Washington team that won the World Series. Director Al Szymanski wanted to know what happened to the boys from Kirkland in the years after they left Williamsport. How did having such a high point before their lives actually began impact them as they became young adults?

In some cases, the impact wasn’t positive as the kids struggled to adjust to regular life through their teen years and beyond.

The LLWS organizers and ESPN have received their share of media backlash. This piece from Rick Telander, columnist for the Chicago Sun Times is typical of LLWS critics:

“ESPN is there with more cameras than we see at many major-league games … pandering, quivering, praying for even a single tear drop. Thirty or 40 years ago, any rational parent would have said this is too much for kids, too big an invasion of privacy, too close up for unformed pre-adolescents.”

Many parents think the same thing today.

However, to Mo’ne’s credit, she’s handled all the attention with aplomb — to this point.

When asked if the media spotlight was bothering her, Davis said, “Not really. I can always say ‘no,’ so that’s like my special weapon for the media.”

Quite the mature answer for someone who just recently turned 13. Maybe today’s kids are better able to handle these kinds of things in this social media world we live in.

Let’s just hope that 20 years from now, when Mo’ne and all the other participants at this LLWS are 32 and 33, they’ll view their time in Williamsport this past week as having had a positive impact on their lives.

If not, if it was all too much to process for such young kids, then shame on all of us as a society for allowing this to happen.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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