Buzby: There's no need for shady politics when picking youth all-star teams

jonbuzby@hotmail.comMay 5, 2013 

For many youth sports leagues, it's that time of year again -- time to select spring all-star teams.

I can't remember a time in my son's sporting life when he felt more stress than waiting to hear the announcement about whether or not he made his Little League's all-star team.

My experience with youth all-star teams is that usually 80 percent of the team is made up of kids everyone agrees belong on the team, and the rest are on the fence. A few of them get voted on and a few get left off, sometimes because of politics.

In some leagues, being a manager or serving on the board of directors almost guarantees your child a spot on the all-star team, as long as he is at least on the fence come selection time.

But I've also witnessed first-hand the exact opposite happening.

The year my son made his all-star team, there was a tie for the 12th and final spot on the team.

According to league bylaws, that meant that the final spot would be decided by the league commissioner. Of course, as luck would have it, one of the two boys in the tie for the last spot was the league commissioner's son.

The commissioner's son was 11 and arguably deserved the spot more than the other boy who was 12 (the last year you are eligible for the team). The commissioner easily could have put his "dad cap" on and selected his son, who in the eyes of the other managers was not only a better player, but an easier child to coach.

The commissioner did not vote for his son. His rationale was simple: The player talent level was close enough that the 12-year-old deserved to be on the team, since it was his last year in the major leagues.

That uncommon decision has since been brought up several times at all-star selection time and the result has been several 12-year-olds getting the nod over 11-year-olds of better, but similar talent.

I'll never forget that moment because not one person in the league would have argued that the 11-year-old shouldn't be on the team. But instead, the commissioner put his fatherly pride aside and gave another player a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

The father stood up for what was right, and not what would have been a popular decision. There was certainly a political aura in the room that night, but unlike what often happens in government arenas, this time the politician made the right decision.

I've never experienced a moment in youth sports quite like that night. It made me realize even more that there is a lot of good out there in youth sports and that sometimes it takes just one person with the guts to stand up for what is right, rather than what is popular, to set the stage for future decisions.

Everyone in that room learned a lesson that night. Not about baseball, but about life.

Contact Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.

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