“Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant” by Mark Kreidler
Baseball, Little League
July 1, 2008
4 of 5 stars (Very Good)
When the Little League baseball team representing a small town becomes the Little League World Series champions, life in that town will never be the same. This is captured eloquently in a book by Mark Kriedler about the town of Toms River, New Jersey Beginning with their improbably 1995 championship over the Japanese team, Toms River has been “on the map” for Little League excellence, and this book covers the 2007 Little League team for the town. This is not just a recap of the season, as there are many anecdotes of past teams, what has happened in the town and to former players and coaches.
What struck me the most about this book was how in very different ways, the author has shown what is right with Little League baseball and what is wrong with it at the same time. The pride that the kids have for their team and town, the beauty of the game itself (after all it is still baseball) and the incredible following that this level of baseball can generate are all great and illustrated in this book.
But there are drawbacks as well. The players seem to not be just kids any longer and are carrying a whole town on their back. In order to play for the Toms River All-Star team, which is who will eventually represent the town in tournaments, the players have to sacrifice a lot of their childhood for daily practice and drills as well as travel and games. While the author doesn’t share the horror stories of overbearing parents, some of the sections and passages bear out what seems to be more of a trend of treating Little League baseball like the Major Leagues. One passage that seems sad to me is about the baseball training facility opened in Toms River. An instructor at the facility tells of parents who are asking him to teach their 9 year old son to throw curveballs. Curveballs at NINE? Maybe I am old fashioned but this just seems to be detrimental to the purpose of kid’s sports.
Kriedler does a nice job of describing the important games of the 2007 season and that struck a nerve with me as well. It felt like an analysis and breakdown of the game, something that is often seen during the telecasts of the Little League World Series on ABC and ESPN. (It should be noted that the author has done work with ESPN) To me, this is another example of treating kid’s sports as importantly as adults and I don’t agree with that philosophy.
Because the book generated these kinds of feelings and opinions from me while reading it, I do give it good marks if that was the author’s intention. At the very least, the book does accomplish the mission of illustrating what a small town will undergo when it becomes the home of a championship team. Baseball fans and readers who enjoy stories of small towns will like reading this book.
Did I skim?
Pace of the book:
The pace was very good, both in the recap of past glory for the Toms River teams and the 2007 season which was described.
Do I recommend?
Yes. This book is a great blend of both what is right and what is wrong with Little League baseball and youth sports in general.
Book Format Read: