With participation in baseball seemingly dwindling as the years pass, league play surrendering fields to travel teams and organizations folding up faster than a lawn chair, Little League Baseball is standing the test of time.
There are a plethora of organizations — Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, Dixie Youth and Dizzy Dean to name a few — in which players can participate. That is usually dependent on where you live and what is available.
Little League Baseball is not available in all areas but draws more spectators than possibly all other leagues combined due to its annual World Series, which is telecast nationally on ESPN and ABC.
White Hall and Pine Bluff Western have beeb playing in the district tournament at White Hall with aspirations of reaching South Williamsport, Pa., home of the Little League World Series. Last year White Hall, now led by Dickie Lunsford, made it to Waco, Texas, before being eliminated, one step shy of an appearance on national TV.
That pretty well sums up Little League Baseball … national television. Otherwise, it would probably fall victim to select leagues just as many of its counterparts have done.
Little League Baseball has not changed from when it was created by Carl Stoltz in 1939. Pitching distances are short (46 feet), bases are 60 feet apart and the fences have recently been moved to 225 feet from 200 at Lamade Stadium.
One of the main differences between Little League and other organizations, such as USSSA, runners are not allowed to lead off and pitchers don’t have to learn to pitch from the stretch. Kids and parents who want to introduce these elemental aspects of the game to their children at an earlier age stray from those organizations that don’t allow it.
That leaves Little League, and organizations like it, reeling to find participants. That is evident by the three-team bracket at White Hall. The number of teams will expand in next week’s state tournament, which the city will also host, but only because it’s getting closer to Williamsport.
Lunsford has been part of this process for 47 years with the White Hall Lions Club. He claims this year’s team is “the strongest he has ever seen” to come out of the area.
And he has only missed four total games in 47 years. He should know.
Chan Davis is a sports writer for The Commercial. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.