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Charles Euchner's "Little League, Big Dreams"

I recently finished Charles Euchner's latest book, Little League, Big Dreams: Inside the Hope, the Hype and the Glory of the Greatest World Series Ever Played. Although not a fan of the Little League World Series for multiple reasons that include the parents involvement and the injuries and damage to their arms that many children sustain during the tournaments (and most recently, the inclusion of Joe Morgan), I enjoyed this book.

Euchner does a fine job interviewing various coaches and parents in regards to the tournament, the players, the rules, and various events that they had dealt with, while also presenting a history of Little League and it's World Series. I did not know a great deal of the history involved with the event, so that was certainly interesting information.

Learning about how the Hawaiian team basically out-trained and outplayed everyone over the course of the tournament was probably my favorite part, especially when there were quotes from other parents and coaches who couldn't believe how tired their own children were in comparison.

Speaking of fatigue, I'm glad that Euchner included a chapter on pitcher injuries and pitch counts. My biggest pet peeve with the LLWS is the sheer number of pitches that these 12 year olds are asked to throw in a short span of time. They haven't finished developing yet, and they are asked to throw upwards of 100 pitches or more much more often than they should. You can see that they change their mechanics as they get tired, and they also attempt to "rear back" to throw a little something extra. This is largely due to the fact that Little League is a game of homeruns and strikeouts, but that's an entirely different story. Anyone who has read Saving the Pitcher should know what effect altering your mechanics in a fatigued state can do to a fully developed arm, nevermind that of a child.

Euchner covered the bases of a great deal of issues, ranging from history to injuries to training methods and even the religious ideals of teams from different parts of the world. My favorite moment of cultural difference once again involved the Hawaiian team, who started to become homesick when they did not get to have SPAM, which I learned was a staple food. The situation was rectified, and the Hawaiian team was able to concentrate on eating after their proper meals.

This book was entertaining and worth a read, even to someone like myself who is not exactly a fan of the Little League World Series. Euchner has no qualms about criticizing the parents and coaches who seemingly exploit the children, and he has the same disposition towards the ESPN camera crews that refuse to zoom out for five seconds from the pre-teens. He balances this with praise where it is due; many of the coaches are aware of the problems inherent in a game played by younger players, and they do their best to avoid causing any type of damage to them. I recommend giving this book a look, especially if you're a fan of the Little League World Series and care to know more about it than you can find out by watching.