The return of an American tradition

Posted 7/8/21

Last year we saw pretty much all of our sports be impacted some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the saddest items on the list had to be the Little League baseball All-Star tournament that was canceled outright. Now, local leagues were able to

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The return of an American tradition


Last year we saw pretty much all of our sports be impacted some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the saddest items on the list had to be the Little League baseball All-Star tournament that was canceled outright.

Now, local leagues were able to squeeze in seasons in the summer and the kids got to hit the field. That was the good news and what was the most important thing. However, to not be able to see our kids participate in the All-Star tournament made the summer feel a whole lot different.

Luckily, things are on the fast track to normal and most leagues have wrapped up their regular seasons. This week will mark the beginning of the All-Star tournaments which is a welcomed return to the summer calendar.

I love summer baseball for our Little Leaguers. It’s exciting to have the community gather together to watch the kids try to earn a spot to regionals and maybe even to Williamsport. It’s fun seeing the kids get to represent their communities and to play for a little bit of added incentive.

Without it last year, the summer felt kind of hollow. Sure, it was around that time that sports started rolling again, but missing that piece tore a big hole in the summer calendar.

So, I’m excited to see the return of Little League All-Star action. I know in terms of the actual World Series, the organization has tentative dates scheduled and all signs point toward the kids getting the full shebang this year. But until it’s confirmed, let’s continue to do our part and enjoy each day that we get this summer.

It’s been a minute since I have touched on this subject for obvious reasons, but in the three years that I have covered sports in Rhode Island, the Little League product has impressed me beyond what I would have expected.

Whether it is Cranston Western, Warwick North, Continental American, there are just so many elite programs in this area and every year there seems to be a team with a legitimate shot of making the trip to Pennsylvania. Heck, every few years one of those programs do make it that far.

The consistency is impressive and so is the talent. To be able to churn out some of the best teams in New England on a regular basis, especially in an age range that is so young, is unbelievable. It really has been a pleasure to watch.

Will one of these teams make a run this summer? It’s hard to say considering we are just getting back at it for the first time in nearly two years, but if history repeats itself, then there is a very real chance that ends up being the case.

Play ball.

On a somewhat similar note, the American Legion baseball season is also underway.

For our coverage area, I believe the most compelling team has to be the Cranston-based Gershkoff Auto team.

For the past three seasons, Gershkoff has reached the finals but came up short. Each season they entered the playoffs as one of, if not the top favorite to win the title. All three years Gershkoff has been topped by Upper Deck, including last season when local legion teams created the one-off RI Elite League.

This has to be Gershkoff’s year, right? Much of its core is returning, these kids have got to be highly-motivated, they must have learned quite a bit over the past few years.

But again, look at the Buffalo Bills of the 90’s who lost four-straight Super Bowls. Anything can happen in sports, even if it does not make sense.

Will this be the year that Gershkoff gets over the hump and takes it to Upper Deck? We’ll have to wait and see, but I am excited for another Legion season. Also, not that last year felt different, but it is nice to see the American Legion affiliation return to the state … just another step closer to putting this pandemic in the rear view.

Warwick will also be represented again this year and should have a chance to make some noise. The kids on the New England Frozen Lemonade team caught fire down the stretch in the regular season and were seen by many as the dark horse heading into the playoffs. Although NEFL came up short ultimately, they guys proved that they are very much a contender in this league.

I would love to see a possible Warwick-Cranston rivalry blossom, especially if there are potential playoff implications on the line. Should be fun to follow.

One last item here to touch on.

Last week at Wimbledon two female tennis players got into an interesting post-match spat.

During the match, Jelena Ostapenko sought medical attention for an injury and refused to continue to play until she was attended to.

Her opponent, Ajla Tomljanovic, took exception to Ostapenko delaying the game and even told the referee that she believed that she was faking her ailment, I’m assuming, as a way to get some extra rest.

Once Ostapenko was aided and cleared for action, play resumed and Tomljanovic went on to win. When they met for their post-match handshake, Ostapenko told Tomljanovic that her behavior was disrespectful and disgraceful with Tomljanovic barking right back at her. Based on the cheers from the audience, it was clear that the crowd supported Tomljanovic and also believed that Ostapenko was not being honest with her health.

I don’t really have a take here, but I just thought it was a crazy sight to see. Wimbledon is one of those historic tournaments, similar to the Masters in golf, where you just never think you’d see this type of behavior.

These settings are first-class and take pride in that. For players to be so outwardly hostile was fascinating to watch. In a way, it was refreshing to see two competitors be so passionate, even if it bordered on inappropriate.

The association did not hand out any punishment and let the two players be on their way, which I believe is the right call. Admittedly, I do not follow professional tennis closely, but this was a highlight that definitely reeled me in.

My Pitch, sports column


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