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Pasadena Little League Leader Looking to Keep Kids Engaged Amid Shutdown

Published on Friday, March 20, 2020 | 6:44 am
 

The Little League coach admits he’s just spitballing the idea right now.

But James Yin, vice president of Pasadena American Little League (PALL), is wondering, in these coronavirus times, “What do we do if things don’t go back to normal anytime soon or ever? Is there a way to keep these kids connected now?’’

Yin is actually more than just wondering. He has some thoughts — still in their nascent stages, he stresses — about keeping kids engaged in healthy and stimulating and team-oriented activities as the country rides out shutdowns and cancellations and general gloom … and particularly for youngsters, add in restlessness.

But Yin is also reaching out to the public for help to turn his ideas into reality — with some 500 Pasadena Little Leaguers, scattered over 35 teams, now sidelined indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of the baseball season.

“I hate to see us just let the season go by without taking the opportunity to make something of it,” Yin wrote on Thursday to PALL President Kevin Lewis and former league President Dale Pearson.

“When life gives you lemons, let’s make lemonade. At minimum, we can have kids interact [camaraderie] and hopefully we create something fun and new [competence and competition].

“It may not be the old way, but there is a way to build something that takes advantage of this evolving new reality in our community.’’

PALL hit the pause button on its season last Thursday, with teams having played only four or five games so far. The last games were actually played on Wednesday the 11th.

The league is under the umbrella of Little League International (LLI), which operates more than

6,500 programs worldwide. LLI is recommending that leagues implement “a temporary suspension/delay of all league activities until no earlier than May 11” – extended from LLI’s originally suggested April 6.

That’s a long time for restless Little League kids, who range in age from 4 to 12, to sit idle.

“What if we did some kind of online group event where players do baseball/sports-themed activities together that tests them intellectually and physically?’’ Yin wrote.

“A sports trivia game where they study a certain subject – say, Jackie Robinson facts and we play Family Feud style or some online variant we are capable of pulling off.

“I would start small and it could get bigger, where teams compete against one another. We could do skills competitions.’’

Yin said he’s also imagining some more physically oriented activities — “something that can be done live and in view of the camera. It would be a home version of pitching to a standardized target; or hitting to standard target on a wall using tee/soft toss; something easily replicated live at home.’’

“It’s basically like playing video games with your teammates where you are the actual player answering questions or competing live against someone in front of everyone virtually,’’ he wrote.

But in a chat Thursday with Pasadena Now, Yin admitted, “Thinking about doing it and doing it are two separate things.’’

That’s why he’s reached out to his fellow Little League leaders, and is now reaching to the public as well — hoping for tips or other ideas on how to make his virtual field of dreams come true.

He’s asking anyone with ideas to write him at VP@pallbb.org.

“I talked to some of our guys, and they’re like, we just don’t know how to execute it,’’ Yin said. “It’s just kind of a sad situation for the kids – it’s like, we just started, we had like five games and we’re just getting everything started and then we had to stop.

“I was thinking, the kids like playing Fortnite, they like getting online, and being together, they like playing games together, so I was just kind’ve thinking of some kind of thing like that.

“You know, the kids are out of school right now, and teachers have these group chats. … Maybe we could do something along that same line.’’

Major League sports can’t fill the gap for kids, either. Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR and UEFA soccer have all suspended operations. Even the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments – March Madness – have been canceled, as has the Masters golf tournament.

If there’s an upside to any of that, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that his league’s shutdown could serve as a wake-up call to younger people, that the coronavirus is a real threat.

“When we went off the air last Wednesday night, it was a larger decision than just the NBA,’’ Silver told ESPN on Wednesday. “It got a lot of people’s attention. I think for young people in particular, who are a large part of our audience (and) who frankly weren’t taking [public health recommendations] seriously … They were like, ‘Wow, the NBA is off. Something is going on here.’ ’’

Yin experienced a version of that first-hand with his son Lucas, 9, a fourth-grader at High Point Academy.

“We told him that Little League is going to be canceled for a month, maybe longer, maybe the whole season’s going to be done, and he’s, like, whoa, really?” Yin said.

The Little League shutdown is emotional for parents, too. Just read the latest post on PALL’s Facebook page, quoting Lewis, the league president:

“Our president and his son went to check on the field today. As like many players, It is his last year of Little League, and he was having the time of his life. We watched this guy go from a timid baseball player to a confident first baseman in less than two months, and we will always be grateful for those moments.

“The coaches, the parents, the players, it was all so wonderful, and we could not have asked for anything better.

“ ‘As president I just hope I get to see him wear those pinstripes again this year, but no matter what, I am incredibly proud of him.’ ”

The Facebook posted ended by saying, “To the PALL community – we hope you all hang in there, be proud of your players, may we learn from these lessons and come out of this stronger than we were before. Baseball has the potential to bring us all together again, when the time is right! Thanks for the support PALL! Stay Safe and Healthy. See you on the field again!’’

***

Again, you can email James Yin at VP@pallbb.org.

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