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Little League World Series TV: Baseball 36; Softball 3

July 29, 2009 – 4:29 PM

By Laura Pappano

The visual is stunning.

Click here to see the Little League Softball World Series championship TV schedule.  You’ll find ESPN2 (the channel broadcasting women’s college hoops unless there is a men’s game that can’t fit the ESPN or network schedule) is showing two semi-final games on Tues., Aug. 18 and the championship on Wed., Aug. 19 (7 p.m. EST)

Reasonable airtime given that this is Little League. Kids. Right?

Mistake. That is the Little League Softball World Series. Click here for Little League Baseball’s World Series broadcast schedule.

Softball games may be limited to three on TV, but from Fri., Aug. 21 to Sun. Aug. 30, you can basically watch 12-year-olds play baseball all day long (and into the night).

Between the three channels — ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC – broadcasters will bring you 36 – yep, THIRTY-SIX!! – Little League games (including consolation play).

The disparity in prestige and attention might be chalked up to the American passion for baseball over softball, if Little League didn’t have such a troublesome record on gender issues. Sure, it now “celebrates” the move to allow girls (following a successful civil complaint by N.O.W. on behalf of Maria Pepe of New Jersey in 1973).

But the move in early 1974 to start a Little League softball program has been seen by some, including Jennifer Ring author of Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball (Illinois, 2009) as a strategy to steer girls into softball and keep baseball for boys. Today, there are few girls on Little League teams. (see post)

It may be unfair to blame Little League for what is a larger cultural truth: baseball is not merely a terrific game, but an institution that celebrates male power. But it surely is not an accident that Little League dugouts are loaded with Dads re-living their youth and it’s a rarity to see a ponytail on the field.

I am the mother of a boy smitten with baseball and Little League. I love the game and played as a kid. But as an organization (and an effective one  – is there a better brand in youth sports?) Little League is missing an important opportunity. This is not just about allowing girls to play, but encouraging them.

And if there is a Little League Softball World Series, make it as big a deal as Little League Baseball. Otherwise the message is that 12-year-old boys are just more worth watching than 12-year-old girls. And, as one who has attended my share of games, I certainly don’t think that’s the case.

  1. 4 Responses to “Little League World Series TV: Baseball 36; Softball 3”

  2. The LOCAL group of volunteers in Portland for the Little League Softball World Series is doing what we can to help you watch the games. It won’t measure up the ESPN, but it will dramatically surpass the webcam service LLI HQ has contracted with YouthSports for to cover other World Series tournaments.
    We will have 3 cameras, and professional broadcasters to call the play-by-play at http://www.softballworldseries.com. Examples of last year’s broadcasts are at http://www.softballworldseries.com/videos/index.html. We update box scores for every game every 2 minutes. This is all done by amateurs and volunteers at our own expense, and with the help of LOCAL sponsors. It is the ultimate in outsourcing, but we love doing it.
    To the bigger issue: Thank you for speaking out. We got the ball rolling on ESPN when Williamsport realized that viewers were not watching to see superior baseball/softball skills, but to wax nostalgic about their own youth, and to see real life competition among small town teams. It takes us back to how life was, and ought to be.
    We now have young women who played the game themselves watching with fond memories, and ESPN has indicated the softball games have among their best ratings. But having fought the battles at all levels, I can assure you that the problem is local, not with headquarters. Indifference by Little League Presidents everywhere to softball is caused by willingness to allow ASA to have the girls, so they can focus on the boys. Mothers and fathers of daughters will have to get more involved if local officials are to take notice. HQ will follow.

    By Tim Jackson on Jul 29, 2009

  3. Little league has given the boys of summer everything and the girls of summer barely anything. Softball is becoming very popular even amoung men. I think as parents and coaches of softball players we need to look at the little league and whats important to the league. It’s not the girls. ASA is more supportive of our girls. This is one example of many 3 games to 36 games. Come on if this is not discrimination what is.

    By Kelly Rivera on Aug 3, 2009

  4. With all due respect to the liberating of female potential that is now an ongoing and healthy reality in American life, young kids and men are simply better built than most young girls and women for playing hardball with overhand pitching. When an exception occurs, as in the case of the girl who plays third base for Canada’s team, it appears that Little League encourages female inclusion without discrimination
    So until we see the first female get signed to play in the Majors, let’s let Little Leaguers be Little Leaguers and help keep the stink of gender politics out of the ‘wonder years’ (How about letting concerned political activists form a hardball league for girls and see how that works out?)

    By Bob on Aug 23, 2009

  5. I am a “woman of a certain age”, have watched less than 10 Major League baseball games in my entire lifetime and cheered the Little Leaguers
    only when my state made it to the L.L. World Series. It seems that this year all forms of media gave the games a good deal of exposure and coverage which leads me to a question of curiosity:

    Why does there seem to be such a pausity of racial diversity among most (especially in the North East)kids who join and play Little League?
    Would love to stop wondering.

    By Nancy L on Aug 30, 2009

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