Little League World Series: 42,000 for a kid’s game

A team from LaGrange, Ky., and a team from Clinton County, Pa., met in the first round of the Little League World Series last night in Williamsport, Pa. It was an amazingly close game with two exciting plays at the plate by the Kentucky catcher, stopping what should have been two easy runs. And the Kentucky pitcher struck out 12 and hit a home run.

Kentucky won 1-0.

Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky: attendance 41,848

But here’s the exciting part. The crowd totaled just under 42,000 (41,848), breaking an attendance record for an LLWS game. And those records were set twice for championship games in 1989 and 1990.

Now the fact that the Pennsylvania team came from less than 30 miles away from Williamsport probably accounted for a big local contingent, but let’s face it: 42,000 for a first-round Little League game is astounding.

I took my son to the Little League World Series twice when he was just about the age of the players. We were living in New Jersey and the drive was about three hours. The most impressive thing about the event is that the games are free. You can just walk into the complex and watch any game being played. And there are tons of concession stands, so it’s got all the atmosphere of a big league game, and none of the expense.

Even so, there are major league teams that can’t draw 42,000 to a game. As a baseball fan stuck with watching the Washington Nationals, I don’t think I’ve been to a game this season where the attendance topped 32,000. But then, the Nationals suck. As I write this, just before midnight, their record is 59-63, but they’re kicking the butts of the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning of a rain delayed game, so they’ll be 60-64 by the time I finish this post. (Attendance: 37,841, mostly Philly fans from what I saw on the metro heading home around game time. I live four blocks from the ballpark.)

Major League Baseball has done everything it can to screw up its product. No, not scandals over steroid abuse. Its crime is greed: charging astronomical prices for a decent seat to see a bad team; food stands that require a second mortgage if you want to eat at the stadium; beer sales to obnoxious drunks who scare families from the ballpark; keeping playoffs to night games for network money so kids aren’t able to see their favorite teams win a championship. Do these idiots realize we’re in a recession, and a family can’t spend a hundred bucks to see a team that’s going nowhere?

And even though I’m a Yankee fan, there is something wrong when it’s a given that my team is ALWAYS going to be in the playoffs, while other teams owned by people who are just as rich as the Steinbrenners can only manage to give the fans a sub-.500 team year in and year out. (Case in point, the Nationals.)

Yeah, I hear the “But the Yankees have all that TV revenue and buy all the great players.” No, they have smart baseball people, and smart people do exist at other  teams. Read Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball.” Or if you can’t read, go to the Brad Pitt movie when it comes out next month.

The fans are there if the teams really want to give them something they want to see: 42,000 at a Little League game is proof of that.

UPDATE: It turns out that the attendance of 41,848 at Friday night’s Pennsylvania vs. Kentucky game in the Little League World Series exceeded the attendance of all but three major league games that same night.