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When I played baseball in the West Highway Little League back in the 1960s, there were no Major League Baseball team names.

There were no “Dodgers,” no “Giants,” no “Mets” or “Yankees” squaring off at Marine Park or Coney Island Creek in Brooklyn. It was “Cake Center,” “Karnival Sporting Goods,” “Bankers Trust” and “Blumberg Auto Service.”

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These establishments ponied up a couple hundred bucks to sponsor the teams and I believe they’d get a plaque at the end of the year at the West Highway awards banquet, which would usually have a Mets player show up and encourage us youngsters to play hard and play fair. At least I think that’s what Ed Kranepool said back in 1966.

These days, Little Leagues all over America use the nicknames of MLB teams. But one nickname is apparently being phased out in some parts of the country.

Guess who?

Bang the drum slowly or the trash can loudly if you said the Astros. Yep, in California and in Pennsylvania, some Little Leagues or entire districts are dropping the Astros from the roster. You can still be a member of the Tigers or the Marlins, but that might scar a kid for life.

I understand the message the leagues are trying to send to the young ballplayers. They don’t want 10-year-olds cheating on the field.  They don’t want to be guilty by association in having one of their teams called “Astros.” And I’m guessing some parents might object to their kid yanking on an Astros jersey Saturday morning before heading to the field.

Is it an overreaction on their part? Perhaps. Most kids know what the Astros did was wrong. 

They might mock it by banging on a trash can in their dugout but I don’t think a kid is going to use his iPhone to deliberately try and steal a sign, assuming they even use signs.  

I think kids like to tie themselves to winning teams, just like their parents. And cheating or no cheating, the Astros have been winning the past few years.

But here’s something the Little Leagues should be aware of —retribution.

William Hill and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook came out with odds last week on the amount of times Astros hitters will be hit by pitches this coming season. There’s one prop bet on who will be the first Astro to get plunked (Alex Bregman’s the 7-2 favorite).

When this came out, I thought it was a genius move by Nick Bogdanovich and the folks at William Hill. We know there’s going to be a lot of hard feelings, especially from teams that the Astros beat en route to their titles. The Yankees and Dodgers immediately come to mind. You’ve seen the quotes from Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres ripping the Astros for cheating. And when Houston visits Yankee Stadium Sept. 21-24, the fans will be out for blood.

Mind you, there’s a big difference between throwing at a guy’s derriere and throwing at his head. No one should be a proponent of hurling a beanball at Jose Altuve. And frankly, I’m not sure what purpose it serves to drill him in the back or in the ribs. All you’re doing is giving Houston baserunners and a chance to score runs and beat you.

And what happens when the Houston pitchers retaliate? What happens when Justin Verlander throws at Judge and the benches empty? What if Judge breaks his wrist in a fight and he’s out for the year? Maybe Bogdanovich should put up a prop on the total number of basebrawls the Astros will engage in this season.

If Little Leaguers see that, are we going to have 12-year-olds who have no idea where they’re throwing the ball, plunking each other? Is that what we want to see them emulate? So the leagues better police themselves on the field and make sure the kids know that throwing at batters is not part of baseball at their level.

As for the big leaguers, it doesn’t change anything from what has been done. For me, revenge is beating the Astros and if it’s 10-2 or 11-1 when 5-2 or 4-1 would have sufficed, I’m O.K. with that even if it would go against the game’s code that you don’t run it up on the other guy.

But baseball has its own brand of justice and I’m guessing the teams that face the Astros will deal with them in their own way. Some may go the hit batsman route. Others may opt to run it up when and if they get the chance. I just hope no one gets physically injured in the process.

As for the Little Leaguers who won’t be Astros this year, remember, it’s not about the uniform, it’s the person who wears the uniform that matters.

Don’t cheat the game. Or yourself. Make Ed Kranepool proud.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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