In recent years there have been a number of negative media reports about the Little League World Series. That too much pressure is placed on these 12 and 13-year-olds is a common theme.
ESPN, the network that televises the games, ran a documentary in 2010 entitled “Little Big Men” as part of its “30 for 30” series. The documentary looked back at the 1982 Little League World Series champions from Kirkland, Wash. The team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history, but much of the film focused on the difficulties the team’s star pitcher experienced from being thrust into the limelight.
Another negative is the tactics some programs use to try to capture Little League Baseball’s ultimate prize. In 2001, the Bronx team’s star pitcher was too old. Last summer, the team from Chicago had players on its roster from outside its boundaries.
Little League World Series participants have also been the victims of negative social media posts. For example, a college baseball player was dismissed from his team after an inappropriate post about Mo’ne Davis, the girl from Philadelphia who was the pitching sensation of the 2014 tournament.
The criticism is warranted in some situations, but like many things in life, you must endure the bad to reap the rewards. And the good of the Little League World Series is really good. Look no further than David Belisle who coached the team from Cumberland, R.I., at last year’s Little League World Series and previously, in the 2011 tournament. Belisle’s inspirational speech after his team was eliminated last year has been played repeatedly this year. He delivered a message about pride, effort and love.
Prior to wrapping up the speech with a cheer by the team, Belisle said, “I love you guys. I’m going to love you forever. You’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time — a l-o-o-o-ng time. I’m getting to be an old man, I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys. You’re the boys of summer.”
ESPN invited Belisle back this year to serve as an analyst during its game broadcasts. I enjoyed the insight he provided as a former Little League coach. He rooted for all the players during the games he worked. Then, Belisle delivered another moving moment. He stopped by the broadcast booth, with his youngest son, Johnny, during the evening game on Sunday, Aug. 23, to say goodbye. The tournament was far from over, but he needed to go home for the start of school.
Belisle, admittedly fighting back tears, showed his thanks. He appreciated the opportunity to return with his son, who had played in the 2014 tournament, to Williamsport, Pa., a place of such joy and fond memories.
The heartfelt message may have been lost on those who don’t know what the Belisle family endured this past year. His wife, Nancy, died in February following an 18-month battle with cancer. Belisle, the father of four sons, almost passed on the ESPN offer because he didn’t know if it was best for his family.
Belisle coaches hockey at Mount St. Charles Academy, a Catholic high school in Woonsocket, R.I. His father, Bill Belisle, is a hockey coaching legend at the academy. David joined him on the bench shortly after his prep career at Mount St. Charles.
David Belisle has given a great deal to the sports he coaches. This summer, the game of baseball provided him a gift.
The Little League World Series will continue to be scrutinized by some, but if you need a reminder of the good this annual tradition provides, look no further than words of praise delivered to the New England youngsters by their coach a year ago.