Book Review: Little League, Big Dreams

With the Tigers actually playing meaningful games, it has kept me from tuning into the Little League World Series as much as I have in past seasons. The LLWS is currently taking place and is set to wrap up this weekend. When I do tune in though, I’m viewing the event in a different light since reading Little League Big Dreams by Charles Euchner.

The book is a journey to find the soul of Little League amidst the television, hoopla, sponsorships, and high pressure coaching and parenting that takes place. Euchner uses the 2005 LLWS and its teams as the backdrop for the story. The book touches on many topics including: the history of little league baseball and Williamsport, the years of preparation and training that coaches and players go through to reach the ultimate stage in children’s sports, the win at all costs tactics that some coaches employ – often at the expense of their player’s well being, the typical experiences of teams while they are in Williamsport and a detailed examination of the championship game.

As the father of a 5 year old burgeoning baseball nut, I found the book to be a compelling and disturbing read. What I thought to be most interesting was the extent to which some coaches will do to realize a dream – and often times it seems to be their dream at least as much as the kids. Coaches begin to recruit their teams with the express goal of reaching the LLWS. Ten, eleven, and twelve year old kids endure strict training regimens and grueling practices. Pitchers are asked to throw and throw and throw and throw until their arms have nothing left.

As Euchner aptly illustrates, how much is this really about the kids anymore?

But the book doesn’t necessarily dwell on the negative. The Danny Almonte scandal only receives a passing mention. Euchner illustrates the benefits that the kids receive. In addition to the free stuff that they receive, there are also the aspects of teamwork, and the fact that the kids are still playing a game. My favorite chapter may have been the one in which Euchner looks at what happened to the players after the World Series was done and how their experiences in the LLWS helped them.

Like Euchner’s last book, The Last Nine Innings, it is a baseball book that is accessible to fans and non-fans alike. Baseball fans will find this to be an interesting and quick read, but the audience that will probably glean the most from the book are those who have children who are participating in team sports. It serves as a great reminder that these are kids, and it is a game.