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Local Little Leagues OK with Astros team name

When baseball and softball players in Medford’s Little Leagues take the field in the coming weeks, it’s unlikely, said their organization presidents, that they’ll be thinking about the scandal surrounding the Houston Astros.

Neither have the heads of the Medford American and Medford National leagues spent much time fretting over the hot-topic issue.

A few leagues from California to Pennsylvania were in the news in the past week because they’ve elected to “suspend” the Astros team name from their leagues.

Houston was caught using video to steal signs from opposing catchers and relaying what pitches were coming to Astros hitters in 2017, when they won the World Series. The club was punished by Major League Baseball and has been roundly derided for taking the age-old practice to an unacceptable level.

The Boston Red Sox are under investigation for similar antics in 2018, but no action has yet been taken by the MLB office.

Kerry Curtis, in his third year as president of Medford American, and Andrea Noble, the new Medford National president, said they won’t restrict their coaches from using whatever team names they desire.

That stance is in line with Little League International, the Williamsport, Pennsylvania-based governing body for baseball and softball around the world, according to a recent story by The Associated Press.

“I don’t think what Major League Baseball players do has a tremendous impact on what our Tee Ball teams are doing,” said Curtis, who also will debut as the North Medford High baseball head coach this spring. “It’s frustrating to see that happen at the major-league level, but really, in terms of Little League, it’s not going to impact us. Other leagues can do what they choose and that’s fine. I don’t want to get wrapped up in that stuff.”

Medford American expects to have about three dozen baseball and softball teams in Majors, Minors, Rookies and Tee Ball leagues, while Medford National will likely come in around two dozen.

Tryouts and team registrations are ongoing for ages 4 to 16.

The Astros haven’t been a particularly popular team name in recent years.

“Nobody has chosen the Astros in the last five years,” said Noble, “and I don’t think anyone will choose them this year.”

“If they want to choose the Astros, I guess that’s fine,” she added. “We haven’t really talked about it.”

If more than one coach wants the same team name, they work it out, said Noble.

“They do rock, paper, scissors or something, then let the board know and we order their jerseys,” she said.

A couple Medford American teams were called the Astros last year, said Curtis. The Mariners, Giants, Dodgers and other West Coast teams are most popular.

Baseball leagues have historically used MLB team names. Softball teams are more likely to branch out and make up their own names or mix in college teams. The Red Raiders was used recently in the wake of Southern Oregon University’s success.

“Really, with Little League, the purpose of it is for kids to come and have fun and learn the game of baseball and enjoy that environment,” said Curtis.

Most kids have favorite players over favorite teams, he surmised.

“How that affects the kids, I don’t know,” he said of players involved in the scandal. “I haven’t heard anything from the kids about it.”

“My son is a baseball fan, and he hasn’t said anything about it,” Curtis added. “Of course, they don’t read the media and the social media that we probably see.”

Noble hasn’t heard kids discuss the issue, either.

“My own son plays baseball, but he doesn’t really watch pro baseball,” she said. “He heard about (the Astros) and he’s like, ‘that’s dumb.’ It hasn’t been a big topic of conversation.”

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com