This is the second installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a Sunday thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson.
Neighborhood kids playing in neighborhood parks, this is where we live and this is our heart.
“Why are you guys covering Little League?”
That question comes every year, or at least for the last 13 years or so, and often not put so nicely, like we owe the clueless a daily rundown of what’s happening with Arizona’s football team at the expense of all else. 13 years. That’s how long we’ve been covering the boys and girls of summer in Tucson. Continually.
I think the math comes out to around 400 total Little League games from Tee-ball to Seniors in that time span. Boys and girls. I would guess even 300 games is far more than any newspaper has covered in the last 50 years combined. 200 games in that time might be a stretch. But why do we do it?
No one has ever paid us to cover these games. We get a few free drinks and a hot dog every now and then but that’s it. I even stopped selling photos of the kids playing a few years ago. All photos are free now and they always will be.
Friday, September 29, 1950. That’s the day Tucson Lions Club secretary J. Sydney Pearson made a presentation on bringing Little League to Tucson to three other local civic organizations including the Kiwanis Club. Eight board members were selected from those four organizations and the rest, as some say, is history.
Some big names have played Little League since that day. The 1958 International All-Stars, for instance, had a roster with names like Rich Alday, Eddie Leon and Frank Acosta. Manuel Gastellum was the team manager that year. We can randomly pick out a roster from every year with similar names. Legends really. Some local high schools have benefited from a strong Little League system like Canyon del Oro with future MLB standouts Brian Anderson, Chris Duncan, Shelley Duncan, Ian Kinsler, Colin Porter and Jason Stanford playing at was once called Dennis Weaver Park.
More recently, the Rincon Little League program had players like Nick Gonzales, drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020, and Andre Jackson, who played in the MLB Futures game out of the Dodgers organization. There are probably dozens more across the city with some names lost to time.
Covering Little League is an investment. I was once told by a former writer (most are former) that it was unfair that I knew a lot of the local high school kids before they started high school sports. I’m not sure how hard work and investing time in our community became “unfair” but you have to consider the young age of the source. Those who want to get paid for every little thing they do will one day have very little to do.
Investing in children is the least our community can do and we were born here. This is our community.
Besides the time investment, it’s just the right thing to do. My younger brother Javier has put in long hours this summer, trying to keep up with results on a daily and nightly basis. We both try hard to empty our tanks every night. Some nights we have a little extra and we spend that on other things that come across our phones and computer screens.
And I used to coach club sports. I did that for a long time. Everyone gets paid in that world. I was one of the foolish ones because I lost money making sure everyone on our teams were able to compete in tournaments. In Little League, some kids get paid to work the snack bar and some get paid to umpire during the regular season but most of that all ends come All-Stars. You will never, ever find a tournament director in the club sports scene working for free. Never. ‘Free” is not part of the AAU mentality.
Little League. No one is asking for a $1,500 tournament fee. No one is getting a kick-back from a required stay at a hotel. No one is charging you to enter a park and no one is making you throw out the food and drinks you packed for your family. Enjoy yourself.
Newspapers across the country have forgotten what it’s like to be a neighborhood paper of record. Box scores, line scores, and stories of local legends and future legends are almost a thing of the past. One box score could sell a few dozen newspapers on any given day with parents and grandparents rushing out to get copies. I know I did with my own kids.
Oh, the first UA football game is Sept. 4.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org