Q&A With Bob Levey
Taking a break from cheering Allie on, Bob spent the hour discussing Little League. The eastern region of Little League is the largest region in the world, covering 11 states and Washington, D.C. Played in over 94 countries, Little League Baseball is the largest youth sports organization in the world.
Here is a transcript of today's session:
Bob Levey: Good afternoon, multitudes. You'll forgive me if I type a little more slowly than usual today. I am suffering from LITTLE LEAGUE ECSTACY!
Dupont Circle: Bob, Love the chat, but are you one of those crazy parents that pace back and forth annoying all those who are standing still watching the game??
Bob Levey: Guilty as charged. I'm trying to save my best stuff for later in the week, because if our kids win today, I'll be writing a big piece for the Post's sports section about being a nervous Little League Dad. But I'll tease you with this: Some unsuspecting soul offered me a seat before yesterday's game. One of the other D.C. parents had to inform her that Levey doesn't sit when D.C. plays. He paces, incessantly.
How many pairs of shoes have you worn out pacing during the game, and how many manicures have you had for your finger nails?
Bob Levey: I brought only one pair of shoes, and so far, so good. As for manicures, it'd be hard to perform one on a guy who ain't got any nails left.
Bob Levey: You know I could.
Washington: Are little league coaches in demand? I recently became a father and eagerly anticipate my son's little league years. Where can i get more information on becoming one? Plus, does the District have many teams?
Bob Levey: I've conferred with all sorts of Little League folk during my week up here in Bristol, and I can tell you that volunteers of all sorts are constantly in demand. That includes coaches. However, one area of concern among supervisors of the Eastern Region is that lots of coaches just jump right in without getting (or seeking) any training. That cheats the kids, of course. So if you decide to join the coaching ranks, you ought to check in with Bristol headquarters to see if they can help teach you how to teach. The phone is 860-585-7430. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Westport, CT: Hey, Bob. Glad you're in-state. As you've come to realize, baseball's big up here. Is it popular in Washington?
Bob Levey: It could be much more popular, and that's never been clearer to me than since I arrived. To get here, our team had to be the best of 7 D.C. Little Leagues. The New York champs had to be the best of more than 400 teams (!). Same with Pennsylvania. It isn't that baseball is unpopular in D.C. It's that there are relatively few kids, relatively few involved parents and coaches and relatively few places to play. I realize you can overdo this, but the New Jersey and Rhode Island champs have indoor practice facilities. They throw, pitch and hit all year.
Washington, DC: Bob, When are you coming back to Washington?
Bob Levey: Ah, such a pleasant softball......
Bristol, CT: So Bob, does this little summer side trip to Connecticut count against your vacation time?
Bob Levey: It sure does. The bean counters don't care if I spend these weeks in the south of France or the south of Bristol. The vacation clock is ticking. But how could a tubby papa spend his August in a better way? Another D.C. Dad said to me last night, "You know, if this had been a normal summer, I'd be sitting on some beach somewhere, reading Tom Clancy." Doesn't that sound grim? I'd rather be banging my wedding ring on an aluminum railing in the grandstand here in Bristol and chanting, "Let's Go D.C.!"
Arlington, VA: Hey Bob. How is Williamsport treating you? If you get a chance, drive over the 4th Street Bridge and visit my alma mater, Lycoming College. A great liberal arts college nestled right in the middle of Williamsport--lots of green grass and open spaces--of all the places in Williamsport, I am sure you can find peace and tranquilty there!!!
Bob Levey: You're tempting the evil eye, too.
Bob Levey: Don Soucy, the king of Bristol Little League, says you can get everything you need from www.littleleague.org
Fairfax, Virginia: Once your son's team was selected, how often did they practice in preparation for the East Regionals and what did they concentrate most on in practice, i.e., hitting vs. fielding, situationals or a well-rounded training approach?
Bob Levey: I'm so glad you asked this, because our magic carpet ride here in Bristol has been a ringing endorsement of how the right kind of practice yields the right results.
Bristol, CT: Bob, just so you don't upset some little grandmother in Bristol, I'll need to correct the telephone number you gave a short time ago. If one needs to call the Eastern Regional Center, the number is 860-585-4730. Thanks.
Bob Levey: As we love to say in Washington, I accept the amendment
According to Yahoo Driving Directions, Williamsport is about 280 miles -386 minutes- from Bristol. Here are the driving directions! GO DC!!
Bob Levey: Hey, that evil eye is going to start getting VERY mad in about a second.
Alexandria, VA: Bob, How's Allie holding up? Is he nervous about the game tonight?
Bob Levey: I saw him for about 15 seconds this morning. The following is an accurate transcript of the conversation:
Bob Levey: The boys have all been playing at one level or another since they were about 7. My son, for example, has been playing organized ball since he was 6. He was the starting shortstop for the Maryland State Babe Ruth League champs at age 7. The bug bites early, and the bites last.
Bob Levey: A chat from Williamsport? Count on it. Maybe two.
Bob Levey: I'll know more when I see the kids in a few minutes. I'd guess the answer is yes. I'd also guess that they'll find a way to push past it.
Chevy Chase, MD: Hi Bob, Tell us about the Little League World Series. How long is it? How many games are played? Will there be special opening ceremonies, etc?
Bob Levey: Eight teams will be there--four from the U.S., four from elsewhere in the world. There are three preliminary games within each bracket. Then the top two teams meet in a single-game playoff. Then those winners meet for the whole shebang on Saturday, 8/28.
Herndon, VA: Bob, an earlier questioner from CT asked if little league baseball was big in DC and you answered you were mystified why it wasn't bigger. Shouldn't you consider that baseball would be bigger here if we were not wrongly deprived of a Major League Baseball franchise?
Bob Levey: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Bob Levey: You've got to remember that parents spend very little time with their children here. The kids eat and sleep in a set of dorms, and parents are not allowed in. Nor are the children zallowed out. So I'm only guessing, but I'd say they are loving every second of it. Even Mr. A. Levey, who loves to keep a poker face around a certain paternal ancestor, has had to admit that this is a kick.
Bob, please understand that I'm happy for you and your family that you are getting so much joy from this experience in the Little League regional tournament.
Bob Levey: I understand your concern, and I share it. But this D.C. all-star team of 14 kids doesn't in any way prevent other kids from playing ball in the park. These are exceptional kids who have devoted themselves to baseball, sometimes when it wasn't a whole lot of fun in 99-degree weather, for weeks on end. And they have learned the game beautifully, because they have been coached beautifully. I can't see anything wrong with that. The average child will still learn as much about baseball (or any other sport) as that child wants, given the child's skill and commitment level.
Washington DC: How was the team selected? By stats? by committee? by Mike?
Bob Levey: By the president of the Capitol City Little League, a wonderful volunteer named Ann Kane.
Hagerstown, Maryland: What is the real reason that your typing is slower than normal today?
Bob Levey: Must be all that pasta I'm wolfing down at the Farmington Inn, which has become my home away from home. Ziti and mozzarella for $8.95, with free garlic bread. Try THAT on K Street sometime. Plus, the waitress calls me "Hon."
Maryland: How long does the average LL game last? How good-bad is the umpiring?
Bob Levey: The average game lasts about an hour and 20 minutes for six innings. The umpiring has been a bit bumpy at times. I've see about 30 games in the last week, and on three occasions, I saw umpires make a close call at a base before either the runner or the ball arrived. But the ball-and-strike umping has been very strong.
Maybe another reason why baseball is not big in DC is that there are not a whole lot of baseball facilities and that other sports like soccer and basketball are quite popular. Kids can't do it all, and many are attracted to these other alternatives which are readily available here where they may not be as available in areas where baseball is traditionally big or where there are not a whole lot of people into other sports. The large international community here, for example, helps to account for the booming amount of soccer teams-clubs in this area.
Bob Levey: I'm with you on facilities. You'll find a softball field in just about any public park in or around D.C. You will almost never find a Little League-sized baseball field. However, in a town like Toms River, N.J., you'll find bushels.
Bob, I remember Little League from about 20 years ago as a hurtful experience. With fathers serving as coaches, the process governing who would play was utterly political. On my team, I recall the coach's sons getting twenty minutes of batting practice each, whereas other players would get a couple of minutes. Furthermore, the importance placed on Little League via the manicured fields, the uniforms, and the standings made kids feel more hurt than would be the case otherwise, as if something was wrong with them.
Bob Levey: The best-run programs let father-coaches know that favoring your own kid is terrible for that kid, other kids and the league as a whole. Sure, it sitll happens, but I haven't seen nearly the level of father-favors-son as I have in soccer or basketball.
DC: Are any of the Tom's River players the same as last year's champions?
Bob Levey: Two of them, Casey Gaynor and Eric Campesi. Both exceptionally strong players. Both the subjects of a Bob Levey bad dream last night.
Washington, DC: bOB, why does your son play on the d.c. team. don't you live in maryland?
Bob Levey: He goes to school in D.C., which makes him eligible.
DC: What insight do you have to offer regarding the world of Little League? Who are D.C.'s star pitchers, batters, fielders, etc?
Bob Levey: Tom Vladeck is not only our star pitcher, he's clearly the best pitcher at this tournament, and one of the best in the country. Our top hitters (Mike Sheridan, Nick Wiseman,b Danny Diaz, Cameron Dantley, Ben Privot and Vladeck) have produced runs all summer. I know you'll want to break out the grain-of-salt machine for this one, but my son, Allie, is the best fielder I've seen here (don't take it just from me--take it from a reporter from a New Jersey paper, who said this to me last night before he knew Allie was my son). Our bench players have been exceptional. Tom McCarthy made two great defensive plays and got a hit last night. Ryan Kupperman had to step in as the starting catcher when Wiseman got hurt. With all the pressure, he played a HUGE game.
When you get to Williamsport stop at Wegmans -the ultimate in Grocery stores- and have a sub for me. Or chinese, or pizza, or olives from the olive bar, or,... Puts everything in the DC area to shame. I go up a few times a year to shop -and everytime I go home to visit my family!!!-
Bob Levey: I just hope that evil eye doesn't like olives.....
Since we are all cheering for
Bob Levey: I spent two hours of my young life trying to arrange exactly that this morning, because today's Bristol Press carries a super color photo of Allie making a play at second base. Woulda been perfect-o for this show. Alas, the photo guy at the Press hadn't come to work in time for technological magic to happen.
Bristol, CT: Bob, other than DC, who's your # 2 odds on favorite to make the trip to Williamsport?
Bob Levey: D.C. is my HOPE for Williamsport. But my PICK for Williamsport is New Jersey. They are so-o-o-o-o talented. Yet our guys can beat them if they play tough and hit the ball.
:) New York, NY: I heard that The Eastern Region always has a great program book for the tournament. I am unable to be there this year, is there a way I can get one?
Bob Levey: Since I have read this year's program book a mere 37 times, I can vouch for its quality. Stacy Jackson here at Bristol HQ can ship you one, I'm sure.
Fairfax, VA: Does Little League take any steps so that poor or inner-city children can play? What about children who are recent immigrants, or who might not know much, if anything about baseball?
Bob Levey: Little League actively tries to build programs in inner cities, but that's a tall order, because of poor facilities and a shortage of volunteers. Yet there are occasional ringing successes. For instance, the New York State champs hee in Bristol were a team of Hispanic kids from the South Bronx. Great kids and good players--but the key was excellent adult leadership. Their three coaches were scrapping and clawing the whole game, and it was obvious they had really devoted a ton of time to teaching their kids the game.
Bob, I know this is Little League day and not the Friday free for all, but I just had to tell you this one. I was following a car with specialized Virginia tags, like those depicting areas of the state. This tag read:
Bob Levey: Must be a Little League Dad who's talking about hunting foul balls that have gone in the woods
Washington, DC: Are there any girls in the playoff teams? I play Women's Baseball and I'm just wondering if we can look forward to gaining some future talent for our league here in Washington.
Bob Levey: The catcher and shortstop for Massachusetts, Vicky Waterman, is a very good player, and the fact that she starts for a final four team speaks for itself.
Washington, DC: I'm looking to get involved coaching local girls softball---I used to coach several years ago back in MASS but haven't found an opportunity here to get involved. Any suggestions as to whom I should contact about girls youth softball leagues in DC? Thanks!!
Bob Levey: Same people and web sites and phone I listed earlier.
washington, dc: bob, does allie play any other sports? which sports do you think are more popular than baseball in washington? are there any good "little league" programs for other sports in the area?
Bob Levey: You WOULD have to raise this, wouldn't you?
Bob Levey: Got to run and get ready for batting practice, gang. Hope, hope, hope for the home team. I'll be back with you on Friday for our weekly anything-goes chat, called "Levey Live: Speaking Freely." It appears from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time.