Sports

Worcester, Louisville KY Players From 2002 LLWS Never Felt Exploited By ESPN, Share Their Experiences With Turtleboy Sports

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We wrote an article a couple days ago after Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun Times wrote the following scathing, cold takes in his column about the Little League World Series:

“Some of what I have seen so far in this tournament seems to rub up next to exploitation, almost like low-level child abuse.”

“Thirty or 40 years ago, any rational parent would have said this is too much for kids.”

“The Chicago kids got smoked by a long-armed pitcher who stands 6-2 and weighs 168 pounds.”

Las Vegas has a kid named Payton Brooks, who is 4-9 and 75 pounds. When he came to bat, he looked like a large puppet.

Telander’s complaints can basically be summed up as follows:

1. Televising games on ESPN is too much pressure to put on 12 year olds.

2. Disparities in size, which can comically be seen at any middle school dance, creates an unfair game.

3. ESPN is exploiting children’s emotions, particularly those who cry, by focusing on them in defeat.

So my question was, is this true? I don’t think it is for a second, or else kids and their parents wouldn’t participate. Telander doesn’t know squat either, and he obviously spoke to NO ONE before writing this ridiculous column.

Well, as many people remember Worcester’s own Jesse Burkett Little League made it to the World Series Championship Game in 2002, losing to a team from Louisville, KY 4-0. Before getting there Worcester lost their first game to Hawaii, before winning a nail biter against Missouri, and facializing Texas 6-0 to get into the elimination round. Ryan Griffin’s sixth inning three run home run in their game against Harlem, NY put them in the finals.

So this was a team that experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Who better to ask about whether or not Telander’s claims have any merit? Luckily thanks to the power of the world wide internets and Facebook we were able to communicate directly with several players and coaches from both the Worcester and Louisville teams to get their thoughts on this topic. Most of them are around 24 years old now, meaning the kids you are watching on TV right now, like Mo’ne Davis, weren’t even born yet. How old does that make you feel?

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Micah Golshirazian played for Worcester. He was the fastest player on the team and was often used later in games as a pinch runner.

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Here’s what he had to say:

TB: How did you react to your team’s loss to Kentucky? Looking back at that loss did it help you learn anything in the long run (i.e. how to handle setbacks, resilience, etc)? How did it compare to the win over Harlem?

MG: It was definitely one of the two toughest loses to swallow in my entire athletic career to date. The only other one that stands out is my final high school baseball game. I was so young at the time, the only way I knew how to react was to cry after losing to Louisville. My tears were short lived however, as the spirit of my teammates, coaches, and fans quickly uplifted me. I knew I was still a winner regardless of the games outcome. I was just sad to see one of the greatest experiences of my life come to an end. I can’t even remember Griffin’s walk off against Harlem, or any of the celebration. Funny how that works. It was a remarkable victory for our team.

TB: At the time did you feel a lot of pressure as a 12 year old? Do you feel like that sort of pressure is too much for kids that young to handle? If you have a son would you want them to experience what you did?

MG: To be honest, not much pressure at all. I think most of the pressure comes from coaches and parents. I was lucky to have four awesome coaches who not only taught me the skills of the game, but more importantly how to have fun even at the highest stage of competition. My parents were there to root for me and cheer me on regardless of the outcome and never criticized me on my play. They were my biggest supporters. Winning was not the be all end all for the 2002 Jesse Burkett LL all stars and we left everything out on the field. I hope any kid is as lucky and privileged to share the same experience I had.

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TB: What did the adults around you say to you after the Kentucky game? Did it help you get over what happened?

MG: Biggest memory of that game is standing in front of the fans with my teammates and listening and watching them cheer and support us. We were all disappointed in the outcome of the game, but we also stood tall and proud. We represented not only Worcester and the state of Mass but also of New England. There was nothing to be ashamed of. After all, top 4 in the world ain’t too shabby.

TB: The Chicago Sun Times published an article by Rick Telander suggesting that kids are exploited by ESPN because of the drama it creates. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

MG: I stand in the middle here. Depends on the situation you are placed in. My parents and coaches didn’t put any added pressure on us to win as long we played our hearts out and left nothing on the table. That’s how we were raised to play the game. Then you have a case like Danny Almonte, a teen age kid who was completely exploited by his father and coach.

TB: Do you still talk to any guys from the team? Did you play in high school or any other levels? If so where?

MG:  Haven’t kept in touch with the guys since I left Worcester before I started high school. I played 5 years of varsity baseball in high school at Maimonides School right outside Boston.

 

Teddy Daly played left field for the Worcester team. He is pictured second from the right in the front row:

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TB: How did you react to losing to the Kentucky team, and do you feel as an adult that you were exploited as a 12 year old?

TD:I get insulted when people say that these kids are “exploited” by ESPN and the LLWS, because it is absolutely not true at all. People who think these children are being “exploited” don’t understand what it was like to be on that stage, playing in front of those fans, under those lights, and they never will. It is sad, because if you ask any Little Leaguer what their dream is. That is their dream. The LLWS was one of the best times of my entire life and I wouldnt change any part of it. It shows the triumphs of winning and the celebrations of a pure hearted 12-13 year old kid, but along with that there is another side who must be deemed the loser, and with that comes the tears and the disappointment they felt. I know I did. We made it to the American Championship game, where we lost to the future World Series Champion team from Louisville, KY. After the loss, I know I cried, and I am pretty sure it was filmed. That is what happens to a 12 year old who’s season, that lasted a good 3 months comes to an end. Its an ending of an exceptional season that not many can say they have been apart of. I put it to you this way, they show the NCAA Championships, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, and the Super Bowl all on television, and I know that at the end there are players who have shed tears. Nobody seems to think they are being exploited.

TB: Do you think the LLWS puts an unfair amount of pressure on kids who are only 12 years old?

TD: I think that yes, the LLWS does put pressure on kids, but that’s because you have shown you are the best of the best. When you want to succeed in anything, whether its sports, personal relationships, professional careers, there will ALWAYS be pressure on you. Pressure should be looked at as a good thing, not just a bad one. It shows you, what you can handle and what you can’t. But the experience that isn’t shown on the cameras, the one behind the scenes, that is what the LLWS is all about. You meet kids from all over the world. You make life long friends with kids from Texas, Kentucky, New York, Japan, Mexico, Curacao, etc. that you would have never made without this tournament. The events they set up for us while we weren’t playing. The hospitality the town of Williamsport shows these kids is amazing. You play in front of thousands and thousands of people, and there is NO greater feeling in the world.

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TB: Was it intimidating going against pitchers like Zach Osborne and Aaron Alvey, who could pitch in the mid to high 70’s?

TD: Playing against the world’s best players is absolutely intimidating, facing off against the pitching of a Zach Osborne or Aaron Alvey. They were two very gifted players, but talent doesn’t go away after that age. Kids get bigger and better, throw harder, hit faster. I absolutely believe playing against that level of talent at such a young age definitely helped me become a better baseball player as I evolved in my athletic career. I have played against guys who are now in the major leagues, such as Timmy Collins of the Kansas City Royals. Nothing could have prepared me better for competition like that except for the LLWS.

TB: Did losing help you learn to react to setbacks in the long term?

TD: Winning and losing both teach you valuable lessons, and have taught me many things. You may not always be the best, you may fall down, and you may want to quit, but the measure of a person is what they do after they fall. Specifically referring to our 2-1 loss to Hawaii to start the tournament. We could have folded and given up, but we didn’t. We won our next two games and made it to the Semi-Finals. I have always carried that mentality with me, whether it was playing baseball, working in the professional life, or even in coaching, which I have been doing for the last 8 years. The lessons the LLWS also taught me was about family. You spend months with the guys on your team. They aren’t just your teammates, not just your friends. They are your brothers, and no matter how many years pass that will never change. We had to deal with loss a few years ago, when we lost one of our brothers (starting center fielder Zach Ford), but without the LLWS and that summer, we would never have been able to deal with the loss. We came together and had each others’ backs, as we did back in 2002. Those are the things that you learn and you cherish from the LLWS.

TB: How did you handle losing such a high pressure game as a 12 year old?

TD: I handled losing to Kentucky pretty probably tougher than anyone else on our team. I cried. Not because we lost a baseball game, but that was the last time I was going to play with these guys, my brothers, for the foreseeable future. I recently moved and had to play for a different league once the next Spring season hit. That feeling though, went away within about 20 minutes, once our families and friends were waiting for us to congratulate us on what we accomplished.

TB: Did the adults in your life say anything to make you feel better, like the RI coach did the other day for his players?

TD: Adults in my life were absolutely there to make me and my team feel better. There was a little less coverage of the postgame speeches and all that back 12 years ago, but all three coaches gave us speeches and they truly made us realize all that we had accomplished. Specifically, my father, who was the pitching coach of that same LLWS team, he was also my coach throughout the majority of my athletic career. He has always been there to support me as both a coach and a father. Not too many kids can say they shared the LLWS experience with their father as their coach, and I can. His support definitely helped me when I have ever been down, including after the loss to Kentucky. He is not just my father. He is my mentor and my best friend as well. A big reason why we have the relationship we do to this day and have for the past 12 years, is due to the LLWS.

 

Andy Fallon was the leadoff hitter and third baseman for the Worcester team. He was also one of the smallest players in LLWS history, and this image was featured in national advertisements for a major company that I can’t remember right now (might be Nike):

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Here’s what he had to say….

TB: Do you think the LLWS puts too much pressure on 12 year old kids?

AF:  I don’t think the LLWS puts too much pressure on 11/12 year old kids. As a former player, I would say most kids thrive off the beautiful fields, thousands of fans, and ESPN cameras. It was a little motivation to give it your best effort. This is what every little league player signs up for. The opportunity is once in a lifetime and a dream come true. Plus, what 11/12 year old doesn’t want to be on TV.

TB: You were one the smaller players in LLWS history – Was it intimidating going up against kids like Aaron Alvey and Zach Osborne who could pitch in the 70’s?

AF: Yes, I was one of the smallest players in LLWS history. Was it intimidating going up against kids like Alvey and Osbourne? No way. Those kids were great but I loved the competition. You never know in the LLWS, any player on the field can change the game with one swing. Thats what Little League Baseball is all about and I think thats part of the reason it attracts so many fans every year.

TB:  Did losing teach you any long term life lessons about how to handle setbacks?

AF: Losing/failing is part of baseball and life. It stinks. Nobody wants to lose. But if it taught me anything it would be to always stay positive, learn from the experience, and find a way to be better in the future.

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TB:  How did you handle losing to Kentucky as a 12 year old? Did the adults in your life say anything to make you feel better, like the RI coach did the other day?

AF: I would say that the loss to Kentucky in the US Championship game didn’t affect me too much. I was able to handle it well. It’s such an accomplishment to even make it to Williamsport that its hard to be upset if you’re playing in a championship game to represent your country. It’s no coincidence that Kentucky won the LLWS. They practiced 12 hours a day, worked the hardest and had amazing players. Truly the best team won it all in 2002 and they earned it.

I can’t think of a particular adult or speech that compares to the speech of the Rhode Island coach. I remember our coaches telling us to be proud because our run to Williamsport was something special. They would tell us all the time. As 11/12 year old players you start to believe it. Its something I’ll remember forever.

 

Ryan Griffin was the catcher for Worcester. The first home run he ever hit was a walk-off against Harlem that put New England in the Championship Game.

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TB: Do you think 12 year old kids are emotionally prepared to play in such a high stakes environment at such a young age?

RG: Part of the reason people tune in to watch the LLWS is because of the emotions the kids display. You don’t get the same level of excitement from the pros 99% of the time. And the opposite end of that is true too – the kids show more emotion after a loss.

TB: How did you handle both victory and defeat at that age?

RG: You spend your entire summer together and just get to play baseball. No kid starts thinking they’re going to Williamsport – you hope to win a few games and maybe your district tournament. Eventually you end up in the regionals and the World Series and you get to live in dorms and goof around all day and have people from your home town come to support you. It’s amazing to have a few hundred people from your town come to watch you play baseball when you’re 12 years old. All of a sudden you’re getting new uniforms and finding out you’re going to be on ESPN and it’s by far the coolest thing you’ve ever done. Then all of a sudden you lose a game and find out the best summer you’ll ever have is over – that’ll make any 12 year old cry.

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TB: What do you think about ESPN’s decision to focus on kids who are crying?

RG: People love to see the kids at the LLWS care as much as they do. ESPN wouldn’t show the LLWS if they couldn’t make money off of it. They will show kids celebrating and kids crying because that’s what makes the whole event worth watching. And while they will make money off of the kids, the kids don’t care. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that is one of my best memories. A pessimist can say “well they made money off of these kids” but anyone with common sense or who has participated will say that it’s a great event that the kids will always remember and that millions of people enjoy watching.

 

Shane Logsdon played for Louisville, and still lives there today. For the Louisville team he played left field and pitched. He is in the front row of this picture, second from the right:

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TB: As someone who has played in the LLWS, did you feel the pressure was too much for a 12 year old to handle? What position did you play?

SL: I wouldn’t say I felt under pressure, more so a nervous feeling of playing in front of the crowds that we did, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary lol. so.as for you question no I don’t believe the pressure is to much for a twelve year old to handle, they are there to have fun, and in my case I did very much so.

TB: You guys won it all, which obviously made the whole thing more enjoyable. How do you think you would’ve handled defeat?

SL: If we did get beat I would definitely say I would have cried just how the kids are doing today and there’s nothing wrong with that – they are kids. That’s what kids do, especially in circumstances such as that. You practice and train so hard all summer long to get to that point and then to be defeated really sucks. The article from Chicago is ridiculous “exploiting children” come on now they are being covered on ESPN, they think that’s cool lol.

 

Aaron Alvey was one of the greatest players in LLWS history. He still holds the record for strikeouts (44), shutout innings (21) and consecutive no-hit innings (12). To get to the championship game he out dueled Fort Worth Texas’ Walker Kelly in a nine inning game, and hit the game winning home run in extra innings. Kelly’s 21 strikeouts and Alvey’s 19 still rank first and third in American LLWS history. He hit the game winning home run against Worcester and went on to pitch a complete game shutout against Japan, and hit a home run to give his team the 1-0 victory in the international final. Here’s some other cool stats. Worcester’s Frank Flynn still holds the all time record for complete games, Alvey’s teammate set the record for most strikeouts in LLWS history, and MLB manage Lloyd McCelndon was the greatest hitter in LLWS history by far.

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Here was our brief conversation with him:

TB: Did you feel a lot of pressure as a 12 year old, knowing that you were on national television? How do you think you would’ve handled losing? 

AA: It was a ton of pressure but nothing that any other kid in this world has every opportunity and with social media today it’s going to happen regardless at the age I have a 12 and 13 year old you are very much aware of what’s going on so it’s not like little kids.

There were rumors that Aaron Alvey was in Worcester for the parade the players received upon their return. In this interview with WB News (at about the 2:00 mark) it appears he was indeed in the house. However, rumor is that this may in fact have been a 20 year old Worcester man pretending to be a 12 year old who just happened to look exactly like him, including the same height and weight:

Moving on. Tom Daly was the pitching coach for Worcester, and father of Teddy Daly. You may remember him from his world famous Worcester accent, which people who aren’t from around here can’t seem to get enough of. If you’ve been to Leitrims in the last 10 years and had too much to drink, it was most likely him dragging you out of there, as he is a long time police officer and detective.

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Here’s what he had to say…

TB: How did the kids react to losing to Kentucky, and what did you say to them afterwards?

TD: The Kids were devestated by the loss as well they should have been. They were six innings away from being US Champs, a chance to play Japan, a chance to be on Letterman, and meet the President. Their incredible run had come to end. The devastation lasted all of 30 minutes and then they were back in the compound raising hell with the kids from Mexico, and then got to go into the assigned area and have a great visit with their families. Life was back to normal in 30 minutes.

Our speech to the kids was almost verbatim to what the Rhode Isand Coach said. They were told its all right to cry, its all right to be disappointed, but only to be disappointed that this special group that had lived together like a family would not be playing together again. They were told not to be disappointed in the way they played or the outcome of the game. They were told that they played their best, left 100% on the field and were clearly beaten by a better team. We didnt choke or blow an opportunity by playing bad or coming out flat. We didnt lose a close game because someone made an error or didnt hustle They had nothing to hang their heads about but to lift their heads high for all they accomplished. First Massachusetts team to win in Williamsport, a great walk off over Harlem, appearences on Sportscenter, how well they carried themselves off the field, and how they exuded class and sportsmanship and became the team evreyone rooted for. They became the darling team of the tournament. They had no clue what was going on back home so we tried to fill them in on what awaited them back home and how they inspired a league, a city, a state, a community, and the whole New England Region. The first thing the kids did after the loss was to go to line up on the first base line and applaud the thousands of family friends and supporters that made the trip to Pa to share the experience.

TB: Do you believe that the kids learned any life lessons about how to handle defeat and victory from their experience there?

TD: They learned valuable life lessons. How to win with class,grace, and dignity. How to handle sudden celebrity that was thrust upon them at 12 years old. They knew on the highest levels that losing is part of life. They learned and experienced a grateful community with the parade and the year long community events. They participated in many charities giving back to the community.

TB: Some people have said that kids are exploited by ESPN because it shows them crying. Do you think 12 year old kids are exploited?

TD: The kids are not exploited by ESPN. Both ESPN and LL Baseball does everything to make this a very positive experience. It is what every little kid dreams of. The best way to describe it is when you want and aspire to something so much and when you finally get there it doesnt seem as big or as grand as you expect it. Well this wasnt the case it was more than you ever dreamed It was bigger then you could have imagined It was an incredible life experience that stays with all of these boys today now that they are men.

TB: Did the kids feel added pressure to perform because of the national stage? Did any kids struggle with this? If so, how did you help them through it?

TD: Our kids felt no added pressure to perform because it was a national stage. The most pressure was getting over the hump and winning the state championsship. We viewed evrything else after that as a gift. I dont know if that is the norm or we just had a special group of kids. I dont think we did anything to help them through anything. It was just steady coaching and guidance along the way.

Over all it was an amazing life experience I did a panel discussion on just this topic on channel 4 WBZ with John Henning debunking everything Dan Rea and some moonbat sports psychologist were trying to espouse. 

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So there you have it folks. Seven adults, six of whom experienced what it was like to be a 12 year old in such a high pressure environment, all agree that Rick Telander has absolutely no clue what he’s talking about. Ya see, it’s easy to just make shit up as you go along, and start the latest faux-outrage in an attempt to take something that is perfectly awesome, and ruin it. But if you actually ask people who experienced what it is you’re writing about, you can gain some valuable insight. This is called reporting, AKA hot takes. Apparently the Chicago Sun Times isn’t really into that. Luckily for you all Turtleboy Sports has been and will continue to be your source of hot takes on all things sports and entertainment.

P.S. Here’s a video of the Kentucky players’ introductions on ESPN. It made me laugh when they said who their favorite players were. This is from back when we all couldn’t figure out that everyone was on steroids. Somehow no one thought it was stranger that all of a sudden everyone and their mother was hitting 60 home runs a year.

Feel free to share you thoughts to keep the conversation going.

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