I recently had the opportunity to read Charles Euchner's new book, Little League, Big Dreams: The Hope, the Hype and the Glory of the Greatest World Series Ever Played. I don't usually recommend books, but this is one I will give a solid thumbs up to.
Euchner's last book, The Last Nine Innings: Inside the Real Game Fans Never See, was a pretty good one itself, a study of the incredible seventh game of the 2001 World Series, and of the little things that make baseball what it is today. (Amazon.com has The Last Nine Innings for $15.61 right now, if you're interested).
But Little League, Big Dreams is even better. It goes inside the Little League World Series, which is just getting bigger and bigger every year, and wonders if maybe it isn't getting too big, which I've also been considering. In 2004 and 2005, the ratings for the LLWS were higher than those of Major League Baseball games that aired that week, and every year, the event has become more of an event and less of, well, some kids playing baseball.
But you don't just get the story of what some would argue is becoming exploitation. There's also a lot in there about the nuances of a Little League game, the worry over kids getting hurt at such a young age, the way the coaches handle everything (good or bad), and the fact that at the heart of it, it's still Little League baseball, and these are still just kids playing the game because they love to.
My favorite part of the book deals with the umpiring and messiness surrounding a Florida-California game in the 2005 LLWS, a story which involved former major leaguer Dante Bichette (a coach for Florida). It's the type of bad blood and controversy that is usually reserved for the big leagues.