OK we know the purpose of the Little League draft is to make the teams as even as possible.
So now it is time to expose what really happens at the draft. The scandals. The back room deals. The temper tantrums.
I had such high expectations of drama and intrigue. But I was disappointed. It was more like a civil poker game. Just not as exciting as I hoped.
Set in a characterless Round Table in a neighborhood strip mall, the twelve men gathered to build their teams. Bearing clipboards, spreadsheets, or hand-scrawled chicken scratch, they did their homework and were ready for the test. Make no mistake, there was a lot of preparation done before this fateful night. Some coaches have been discussing and playing out scenarios in their heads for this draft for almost a year.
There is debate, there’s some voting, some drinking of beer (not too much, they need sharp wits). There is some bluffing, a bit of arguing, posturing, and chest beating. But it is surprisingly civil. So far.
The draft begins and the first round goes as everyone expects. The coaches throw out some rhetorical questions to each other about strategy, but no one discloses. "Are you going for speed?" "Why are you taking this pitcher over that one?" Coaches start to second-guess themselves over the second round, but I think this is just an act. Nerves are high.
The third round goes smoothly. Then someone picks a kid with an injury issue. This throws everyone into a tizzy, consulting notes and asking themselves, "Is his arm OK?" There is general discussion about the injury. The coach who picked him knows he is taking a chance on a kid who may or may not be able to play. Somehow this seems to lift some of the pressure everyone is feeling and there is a sense of teasing and complimenting. There is a positive vibe about all the kids picked so far.
The next round requires more strategy. There is one coach who absolutely cannot sit still. He jumps up, sits down, paces.
There is an iPhone registering texts. Ding!
Coaches are whispering to each other in an otherwise silent room.
I hear two phrases worthy of quoting here:
“If that team beats me I’ll quit.”
And my favorite, “I’m looking fricking prescient.*”
As they move into the final two rounds, coaches take longer to decide their picks. There is more second guessing, and changing of minds.
As the draft ends, one coach runs out of the room celebrating his last round draft choice, shouting “I love that kid!”**
And then it was over, just like that. Not one fight.
One thing that became clear to me is that each coach values different things. One likes a team built with kids who have a larger physical size. One likes players who have proven good past performance. One likes older players over younger. Past experience in the division level seems to matter: have they played at this level or did they just move up? Effort the player shows is important. Most coaches consider the player’s family style and how much they are involved and volunteer. And I hate to say it but yes, the MILF*** factor for potential team moms was also mentioned. It was quiet but I heard it.
Far from being the contentious process I was expecting, it was actually a fairly good-natured display by people who really care about baseball and the kids in the League.
Like baseball, the draft is a game. I think every coach that night thought they won. Now the games start, and we will see who had the most successful strategy.
I’m not sure which coach thought he got the MILF team mom, but I intended to find out.
*Since my husband asked me what prescient means, I guess I have to put a definition here.
prescient: adjective, having or showing knowledge of events before they take place : a prescient warning.
** I have since been informed that this comment was completely sarcastic. Apparently I missed some of the subtleties and sarcasm, but I don't think it impaired my general impression of the draft.
*** This is for my friend who was not sure of the meaning of MILF: a reference to Wikipedia's definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MILF