They are our Little League Boys of Summer, robbed of the joy of playing the game they love and by COVID-19.
The Elmora Troopers dreamed of reaching the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where the 2019 team finished fourth and returned home to a celebratory Elizabeth, N.J., filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
And now these young voices, and other young voices all across the area, silenced not by labor strife but by a deadly virus, offer a plea to the squabbling owners and players of Major League Baseball:
PLEASE PLAY BALL.
Former Trooper Yadriel Mateo, 1B/P, 13, fan of Javier Baez, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor: “Even though we might not be able to go to the games, we’re just gonna have fun watching it also, so …
“Please give us an MLB season.”
Trooper coach Jairo Labrador remembers breaking the heartbreaking news to his defending Mid-Atlantic Region champions that they would have to put the bats and balls and gloves away.
“It was pretty crushing,” he said.
Former Trooper Jayden Capindica, CF/1B/P, 13, fan of Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich:
“Us not playing, it’s already sad because we trained all winter, and then now the major league not happening, it’s just really sad.”
When innocence trumps the bottom line business of sports, kids can sometimes make more sense than grownups.
James Catalano, SS/P/C, 11, Harlem Little League Baseball, Brett Gardner fan:
“I would just say to them that they should stop arguing over money, ’cause like if you’re gonna play baseball, you should do it for the love of the game, not for the money.”
The death toll and the unemployment rolls have knocked the country, now in the midst of awakening to the plagues of racial injustice and inequality, to its knees. No one, least of all a teenager, wants to believe that baseball cannot play a part in helping all of us back up.
Former Trooper Jayson Labrador, 3B/P, 14, Nolan Arenado and Jeff McNeil fan:
“We definitely need the players and owners to come to an agreement — it’s America’s pastime and we need it for hope. Baseball needs to come back and … we need it.”
Trooper Justin Labrador, RF/2B, 11, fan of Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor:
“I would do anything to watch MLB players play right now.”
“Please give us an MLB season.” — Former Trooper Yadriel Mateo
His message to MLB:
“Get a baseball season back up.”
Reed Harris Butts, C, 12, Harlem Little League Baseball, fan of Aaron Judge:
“Wear a mask, stay sanitary and play.”
Why is it important to you?
“It’s important because I like baseball and I look up to those players,” Butts said.
No one seems to care how many games the players would play. Especially the star players.
Former Trooper Sal Garcia, SS, 13, Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso fan:
“I just love the way they play and I look up to them, and I try to replicate some things that they do.”
MLB better recognize that this is the generation that can either help revive the sport or further its relinquishment of national pastime status.
Jayson Labrador: “If baseball canceled the season, it would definitely hurt baseball in the long run, ’cause you see all the other sports coming back, and if baseball can’t come to an agreement here, it’s gonna hurt it with the younger generation.”
It should come as no surprise that the Little Leaguers side with the players.
“They make the argument the players are millionaires,” Labrador said, “but we continue to forget the owners are billionaires and them losing money is the same as all these businesses losing money with the COVID-19.”
It was 10 months ago when the Troopers’ dream season ended with a 4-1 loss to Eastbank Little League from River Ridge, La.
“We met so many new people from all over the world … seeing the field for the first time, it was just amazing … and playing pingpong with the other teams was great fun,” Capindica said.
The Troopers’ Opening Day parade was scheduled for March 28. Only boys ages 10-12 can compete to reach the LL World Series. The older boys were supposed to graduate to travel ball.
“They got robbed of their 12-year-old year which is the most important year of Little League, is that one year when you have your shot at Williamsport,” Jairo Labrador said.
No Little League season.
MLB: Give The Boys of Summer a season.