2010 Central Mass. Cal Ripken District Tourney Recap

The 2010 12U 50/70 Division Cal Ripken Tourney for Central Mass. is now wrapped up with the Littleton Tiger All-Stars being knocked out before the finals after several well-played games.

Friday’s game vs. Groton was a 6-5 win for Littleton thanks to a walk-off home run by Cole A. Mikey P. pitched for 5 innings and collected the Win in a good defensive game against the local rivals. Saturday featured a double-header with games against Douglas and Sutton. Douglas won the first game in a 7-0 shut-out. Littleton came back vs. Sutton with a 6-5 nail-biter win in which Sutton held the lead into the 5th inning. This win put Littleton solidly in 2nd Place in the Tourney. Sunday offered another double-header with games against Uxbridge and Milford. The Uxbridge game was a heart-breaker, with Littleton losing 7-3 after holding a 3-2 lead into the 6th inning. This loss knocked Littleton to 3rd Place and out of contention for the Finals. The last pool play game was against the dominant 1st Place Milford team which summarily took command of the game and defeated Littleton 16-0 in 4 innings.

Overall a combination of inconsistent hitting and costly fielding errors (both physical and mental) served to hold the Tigers back in a couple of games, but the boys had fun and played well which is all that matters. As with AAU, it is clear that teams that can draw from a large talent pool either due to geography or town size will always have an advantage. The key is to play with heart and not take the outcome too seriously. While it is always more fun to win, playing ball well is the most important thing.

Stay tuned for the Western Mass. State Championship in two weeks when these teams will have one more shot at each other before all the boys say good-bye to junior baseball and face a new adventure growing into the full-sized diamond.

The Final Season

It has been more than a month since Matt first went on the Disabled List with a stress injury to the growth plate in his throwing arm. The 12U North East Baseball season wrapped up with a wimper rather than a bang, since the team was not the same after the injuries of both Matt and Rohit greatly reduced the pitching rotation and the batting order was also not the same. Matt continued to support the team from the bench, hopeful that his arm would recover in enough time to join the roster of the 12U Littleton All-Star Tigers for their final year in the Cal Ripken District and State Tournament series.

After a week of practices including attempts to throw right-handed instead of his natural left, Matt’s arm rebelled and became painful once again. He has been continued on the Disabled List at the order of the orthopedist for a minimum of another 2-4 weeks, which effectively removes him from play during the Tiger’s final season. Again, Matt will support the team from the bench rather than the field, which is a bitter disappointment for Matt and a loss for the entire team. But team-work and sportsmanship mean more than just showing up when it’s your time to play. The good news from the orthopedist is that this injury is a common one among young, competitive baseball players and is only due to the combination of the growth stage of Matt’s body combined with the stress of playing on the bigger field. Next season should be a different story.

The 12U Littleton All-Star Tigers will take the field in the Mass. District 3 Championship games to be held in Uxbridge from Friday 6/25 through Monday 6/28. Because the Tigers will be playing in the 50/70 Division, they automatically advance to the Western Mass State Championship games in Milford starting July 9 regardless of how they do in Districts. This year the Tigers will be defending their Championship title, and new teams have been added to the District as regionally the Cal Ripken program continues to grow vs. Little League.

Stay tuned for game updates starting tomorrow. Go Tigers!

Nutritional Supplements Are Not All That

The July, 2010 issue of  Consumer Reports has a new finding on protein shake supplements that are popular with athletes, and it’s not good news: they actually contain dangerous chemicals that may destroy one’s body rather than build it.

For years, the nutritional supplements industry has promoted many versions of protein shakes to those seeking to lose weight, add muscle, boost metabolism, etc. In the recent investigation by Consumer Reports, all 15 protein drinks which were tested had at least one sample containing heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. For those who don’t know, heavy metals have no nutritional value and remain in body tissue where they accumulate over time with negative health effects.

One popular brand which is widely promoted on sports TV and radio is EAS Myoplex. As it happens, the liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake contained high levels of arsenic and cadmium above the USP daily limit.  Likewise, samples of Muscle Milk Chocolate powder contained all four heavy metals with high levels in three; cadmium, lead and arsenic. 

These products frequently claim to be fashioned after mother’s milk, “nature’s perfect food.” Unless your mother lived at Love Canal, these claims might be stretching the truth as well as not being evaluated by the FDA.

It is particularly concerning that youth athletes are drawn to the marketing of these products, given that young bodies are more vulnerable to both injury and chemical exposure. Clearly a balanced, less-processed diet is a better and cheaper way to meet daily protein and other nutritional requirements: Milk, eggs, and grilled chicken do just fine, thanks.

Bitter Lesson on Being A Good Sport…

No doubt by now you’ve heard all about how the 21st Perfect Game almost became MLB history but was stolen from Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga by a badly blown call courtesy of umpire Jim Joyce.

In case you haven’t seen it, the clip clearly reveals the raw, instinctive emotion felt by all the players on the field who fully realized the magnitude of the historical moment they were in, only to see it snatched away.

Apart from also feeling something of the horror that the players and fans did, I used this as a “teachable moment” with my son Matt by pointing out the following things:

  • You always play by the rules: Even when the umpire is clearly wrong, he’s always right. You can argue it, but you also have to live with it and move on.
  • When you disagree with a blown call, keep it professional and respectful.
  • Always smile rather than frown; it uses less muscles in your face.
  • When the play is over, pick yourself up and move on to the next one.
  • Respect for The Game means always playing with respect for yourself, your team-mates, opponents and officials.

The play itself was a thing of beauty to watch. But two things really captured my heart in this moment: 1) Armando Galarraga’s smile even when he knows the call is wrong and just cost him a place in Baseball History; and 2) the Cleveland Indians runner who is just as dismayed as everyone else at being called safe. However, there were no tantrums, no outbursts and no ejections for loading disrespect on the umpire which was richly deserved for the call. Galarraga went right back to work and completed the shut-out, Nuf Ced.

The other thing that I really appreciate about this is Jim Joyce himself acknowledging that he blew the call and apologizing to Galarraga after the fact. Galarraga was also gracious in saying that the umpire was “only human” and people make mistakes. Granted, it dosen’t change the outcome. But it does show heart, which is what Baseball should really be all about.

Ken Griffey Jr. Takes A Bow

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. has suddenly announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. A class act and one of the best players of our recent times:

  • Fifth on the all-time home run list with 630
  • MVP and 11-time Gold Glove winner.

Griffey Junior was the overall No. 1 draft pick in 1987 and played 22 years in the majors with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. He hit a career AVG of .284 with 1,836 RBIs and also had the rare joy of playing on the same field with his dad as true baseball brothers.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

Dirt Dogs Scratch Up Single Win at Legends Tourney

This past weekend was the Legends Memorial Day Slugfest Tourney in Kensington, NH. Featured again were 12U AAU teams from around New England including NH, MA & RI. The NEB Dirt Dogs lost their pair of games on Saturday to Windham and the Royals. On Sunday they lost again to the Rams before pulling out a consolation win vs. the Legends. Highlights of the weekend were a pair of home runs by Scott and Jonathan which have been added to the Home Run Club totals on the Season Update page.

The late season slide has been compounded by injuries affecting key players, and consists of a pattern where the Dogs open an early lead before giving it up mid-game to a combination of predictable fielding errors and consistently limited production from the lower half of the batting order. Next weekend are the final games of the regular season, followed by the New England AAU Championship tourney on 6/13. For now, Matt remains on the DL pending re-evaluation by the orthopedic specialist a week after the AAU season is over. Hopefully he will be able to return to play with Littleton’s Cal-Ripken All-Star team, but for now it continues to remain a waiting game.