Little League is an a sports association of inclusion, with teams finding ways to accommodate those who might not play elsewhere. There’s even an entire division for players who are mobility impaired.
Yet a Little League in Massachusetts has taken a hard line against one 12-year-old, and not because of anything he’s lacking. Rather, he’s just too good on the mound … or at least with "too much power.”
As reported by MassLive.com, the web home of the Springfield Republican, 12-year-old Westfield, Mass. native Tanner Beebe is a member of a team in the Westfield “Minor League” division, in which all his friends and other 12-year-olds play. Like any number of players in the division, Beebe is an aspiring pitcher, and appeared dominant early in the season. That’s when a league official clocked him tossing 60 mile-per-hour strikes from the traditional Little League mound -- roughly equivalent to an 80 mile-per-hour MLB changeup -- the league stepped in and banned him from pitching.
The reason for the ban is that technically Beebe is too old to pitch in the Minors division. Yet the Westfield League has traditionally let 12-year-olds continue to pitch regardless of age or size.
Beebe isn’t a threat for his size -- he stands approximately 5-foot-1 and 90 pounds -- but he is for his talent. Yet, rather than see him promoted to the higher “Majors” division, Beebe and his father, with support of league officials, agreed that he should continue playing in the Minors. There’s a good reason for that, too; before this year Beebe had focused on lacrosse, so he is only making his baseball debut at age 12.
Beyond that, Beebe’s father, Chris Beebe, serves as his coach in the Minors, meaning that the 12-year-old would have to leave his father’s team to continue pitching legally. Chris Beebe vociferously defends the family’s decision to place their novice son in the Minors, pointing out that developmentally he was “a full five years behind the 12-year-olds in the majors.”
That the youngster emerged as a pitching phenom was a surprise to everyone, yet now it has landed the league in hot water. When Westfield Little League officials appealed to the Eastern regional chapter of Little League in Bristol, Conn, the Connecticut association refused to grant any leniency and allow him to continue pitching.
The report to the Little League Eastern office followed a slee of complaints about Beebe's dominance on the mound, with parents reportedly taunting the 12-year-old during games.
The entire snafu has left Beebe playing in the field and outfield, all while his arm sits idly by, for at least another year. While disappointed, the youngster appears to be keeping the right attitude about the entire unfortunate situation.
“I’m getting in trouble and being punished because I’m too good,” Tanner Beebe told the Republican.
“My goal was to get better at pitching this year. Now, my goal is become the best shortstop and catcher I can. That’s all I can do.”
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