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MailTribune.com
  • Finding solace in the big Little Leagues

    Ashland's mini Cubs team does what the Loveable Losers can't — win
  • I hadn't thought about the Chicago Cubs for three days, and life was good. Or at least life was free of heart-crushing grief for the previous 72 hours.
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  • I hadn't thought about the Chicago Cubs for three days, and life was good. Or at least life was free of heart-crushing grief for the previous 72 hours.
    Then, a call came. It was my friend, Trevor Domayer. He had a suggestion.
    "I have an idea for a column," he said.
    I let loose a sigh that he had to hear over the phone. I get a lot of these "column-suggestion" calls. I whine like a little girl, but I usually end up using the tip. The weekly column deadline comes quickly, and I'm normally desperate for material, as I am lazy and lack imagination.
    But if you know Domayer, you are aware that frustrated sighs have no effect on him. In fact, I think he feeds off them. He's a Frustrated Sigh Vampire.
    "Hey, so you know how your Cubs team isn't very good?" he said.
    Pause as 104 years of futility, embarrassment, inept play, Steve Bartman, black cats, intoxicated announcers slopping beer on children during seventh-inning-stretch sing-alongs, overpriced tickets, intolerably hot sun baking Old Style into my hands during day games, 12-, 14-, 16-, 19-game losing streaks and the evil cackling of St. Louis Cardinals fans come flooding into my mind.
    "Yeah, I know, Trevor," I replied, my eyes drifting toward my oven, thoughts of a Slyvia Plath-type exit becoming more attractive as the minutes passed.
    Wait, I thought. It's an electric oven. Dammit.
    "How would you like to see a good Cubs team?" Trevor said. "One that, y'know, actually wins."
    "Umm "… "
    He went on to tell me that the 11-year-old Cubs of the Ashland Little League organization are killing it this season. Trevor is a Little League umpire, which must sate his Frustrated Sigh Vampire appetite.
    Apparently, this Little League team is some kind of well-oiled hitting, fielding, pitching and bunting machine. Which, of course, is everything the Chicago Cubs haven't been since Billy Taft was president. Taft? Are you freaking kidding me? Dude's claim to fame was he was so fat that he got stuck in a White House bathtub and had to be rescued.
    I arrived at Hunter Park last Saturday as the mini Cubs were taking the field against the mini Reds. It became immediately clear this group meant business.
    I was impressed with their intensity. The Reds, a fine team full of try-hards, were simply outmatched.
    The mini Cubs swung bats with bad intentions. They ran on nearly every pitch. They put their bodies in front of the ball with little regard for their own personal safety.
    I dug them.
    "My new favorite team," I thought.
    The league enforces a 10-run rule, which saves a losing team from getting slaughtered 45 - 2 over five innings. That's not good for anyone, spectators included.
    I suspect these mini Cubs will win a few games via the 10-run safety valve.
    Meanwhile, on the adjacent field, the mini-mini Angels were trading runs with another group of 9-year-olds.
    The Angels are in a lower age class than the Cubs. The league breaks them up into majors and minors. My friend Tiffany's son is a slugger with the Angels. Next year, he will cross the divide and try his hand with the major kids. I think he'll do well. He has Popeye forearms and a stout, compact frame. He's built for baseball.
    I cooked for a while in the 90-degree heat alongside Tiffany as we cheered her kid to victory. She had to leave for a bit during her tour in the "snack shack," which I assume is the concession stand. One thing about Little League, they get everyone involved.
    All the cliches you hear about vicious Little League parents spewing hatred and bile from the stands seems to be overblown. Most of the parents were perfectly happy to see their kids hack away at whatever crossed the plate and then tromp back to the dugout when they struck out. There is no use getting worked up about such things. Fun and sun is the name of the game at Hunter Park.
    "Good job," one mother said as her son ripped through some high heat, just missing the ball by less than an inch. "Get 'em next time!"
    The mini-mini Angel who struck out looked mildly annoyed by his failure at the plate. However, seconds later, he was goofing around with his homies in the dugout. It's as if he realized he has his whole life to get stressed out over meaningless crap like bills and voting. Why start when you're 9, eh?
    I left the park thinking my Chicago Cubs could learn a thing or four about baseball from the mini Cubs. Maybe all they need are supportive parents in the stands of Wrigley Field to bring us our first World Series since a fat man had to be pried from a claw-foot bathtub.
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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