Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Posts Tagged ‘Rapid City

Youth baseball parents prove easy to sucker out of money for 'elite travel team'

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The saying is that the two dominant emotions on Wall Street are fear and greed; for parents who trades in the futures of their children, the same can apply.

It’s not just sports. Look at the advertisements in any metro area child-focused magazine, and you’ll see plenty of preschools, camps, tutors, coaches and party clowns who sell, implicitly, the promise that time and (lots of) money spent with them will send your little brat on the primrose path to Harvard. Meanwhile, if you don’t shake out all your loose change to pay for these services — well, let’s not even think about that, though let’s remind you that all of your neighbors’ 3-year-olds are getting their Harvard applications under way while you refuse to spend $2,000 on a party clown that speaks English, French, Farsi and Klingon.

So if you’re planning to scam someone out of thousands of dollars, and you don’t know how to execute a pigeon drop on an old lady, desperate, worried parents are a great target. Such as, parents in South Dakota worried that their kids, what with being in South Dakota, were never going to be found by Major League Baseball scouts.

A group of those parents is claiming they were scammed out tens of thousands of dollars by a man who said he was putting together a select team that, thanks to his major-league connections, would give their kids wide exposure to people who could put them on the fast track to Harvard, er, the major leagues. Media reports put the money lost at anywhere from $25,000 to $33,000, though I suspect that’s a bit low. A baseball camp organizer said he lost $18,500, and individual parents report paying — in cash — up to $6,300 for the travel team that never was.

What’s not low is the sense of betrayal, anger and gullibility shown by these parents, and the waste of time for children who were pulled off of other travel teams for the alleged elite of the elites, Team South Dakota.

The complaints, including a lawsuit filed by the guy running the baseball camp, are against Jason Anderson, the alleged mastermind behind Team South Dakota. Even before the complaints against him started, there were other complaints — namely, that his travel team was gutting well-established summer leagues. But who could argue against a guy who said he was a former minor-league baseball player, in the Angels’ system, and could bring Rickey Henderson to town for a camp?

What is readily apparent is that the parents (and the camp organizer) were so in love with the idea of South Dakota’s own ass-kicking, big-time youth operation that they blindly handed over money without asking who was this guy parachuting into the Black Hills with promise of future baseball stardom. Anderson has not responded to any allegations, including one I’m going to make: That he might not the person he says he is. I base this on the fact I’ve combed the Internet and cannot find a Jason Anderson who played in the Angels’ system. I can find Jason Andersons who have played for other teams, but not a Jason Anderson who played for the Angels. (Inside Dakota Sports reported July 16 that Rapid City, S.D., police have opened a criminal investigation, and that Anderson has warrants out for his arrest in Panama City, Fla., and Monroe, Mich., on fraud and forgery charges. As of now, Anderson is nowhere to be found.)

So what you get are heartbreaking stories about a mom bringing her kid and her family to a park for a tournament, and finding out they were the only ones there.

On the other hand, my heart breaks less because the parents let their fear (of their kids being left behind) and greed (this guy is our ticket to stardom!) overwhelm their good judgment. If you want to spend thousands of dollars for your 9-year-old to play travel baseball, there are plenty of outfits whose only fraud is promising you that they can make your kid a major-leaguer. At least they’ll offer actual practices and tournaments. Best you put your fear and greed in check before draining your bank account for the promise of sports stardom. Otherwise, you may well just hire that multilingual party clown.

(Hat tip to SportsJournalists.com for alerting me to this story.)

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Rapid City's Little League success has another South Dakota city seething

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In most things South Dakota, Sioux Falls is king. It’s the biggest city in the state and one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States, thanks to your credit card payments. It’s in the politically dominant East River, as in the part of South Dakota east of the Missouri River. But when it comes to baseball, Sioux Falls is constantly in the shadow of smaller, more hickish, West River Rapid City.

As another Rapid City team makes its way to the Central Region finals of the Little League national tournament (this time it’s Harney, which beat Rapid City’s Canyon Lake, the team that in 2008 became South Dakota’s first representative in the Little League World Series), Sioux Falls has had it with those Black Hills bucketheads stealing all the attention. If Rapid City’s 12-year-olds are on ESPN, the rest of the nation might think they’re better, smarter and cuter than the ones in Sioux Falls!

So for some, the Sioux Falls Empire Baseball Association, the existing, independent league, wasn’t good enough.  A few coaches petitioned to start a Little League-affiliated circuit in Sioux Falls (to be fair, so did parents and coaches in other South Dakota cities). Matt Richardson, an assistant coach who is one of the people behind the effort, made no bones about not wanting to play second fiddle to those mouth-breathers across the state: “We are the largest city in South Dakota. We only think it’s fair that we have Little League baseball, because we have just as good, if not better, talent in Sioux Falls than Rapid City has.”

Alas, it’s not so simple to start a Little League circuit. Getting affiliation with the national organization is the easy part. Winning over the hearts and minds of the locals, and field time from the local park district, is hard. The Sioux Falls Park Board is still having the new Little League jump through hoops to show what it makes it so different that it should get precious diamond space at the possible expense of Empire baseball. In February, a few months after the effort started, things were already so bad the local Argus-Leader ran a can’t-we-all-just-get-along editorial.

While Sioux City stews (Stioux City?), Harney is basking in the glory of putting Rapid City on the map, again, by representing how well the state produces and exploits ball-tossing, stick-wielding 11- and 12-year-olds. Suck it, Sioux City!

Written by rkcookjr

August 3, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-team Little League!

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Last year a group of all-stars from Rapid City, S.D., made it to South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series. Suddenly parents all over South Dakota are asking, why can’t we exploit our kids like they do in Rapid City?

From the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader:

So when Rapid City’s Canyon Lake Little League became the first team from South Dakota to reach the nationally televised World Series, [Matt] Richardson and Brian Eastman – assistant coaches in the Sioux Empire Baseball Association – decided it was time that Sioux Falls had its own Little League.

The city is on its way to having a league by next year, and other area towns are getting caught up in the excitement.

Brandon will make the switch this summer, while Dell Rapids, Harrisburg and Brookings could have leagues in place by 2010, joining Huron and several West River communities that already have associations.

“We are the largest city in South Dakota,” Richardson said at the start of the process. “We only think it’s fair that we have Little League baseball, because we have just as good, if not better, talent in Sioux Falls than Rapid City has.”

Damn right! You’re not going to let those inbred peckerwoods from Rapid City show you up! If you don’t prove your 11-year-olds can beat their 11-year-olds, then you ain’t shit, Sioux Falls!

thesimpsons-margevsthemonorail_1157690485Little League representative Lyle Lanley leads Sioux Falls supporters out of the most recent parents meeting.

This is getting to be such a divisive issue in Sioux Falls (where Little League can’t start until 2010) that the Argus-Leader ran a can’t-we-all-just-get-along editorial so there wouldn’t be the War Between the Leagues.

In this interview with the Argus-Leader, the Little League backers say they were struck that the local league had no all-star game or championship. And that the players can’t wear major-league team logos on their uniforms. And that was pretty much it, beyond the faint hope of playing on ABC.

Little League certainly appreciates the interest, what with its membership being on a long-term decline. But inviting in Little League just for World Series glory? Note to the Sioux Falls Little League backers — the kids don’t care! And if you’re worried about scouts not being able to discover the talent on your diamonds, don’t worry. Scouts will find talent no matter how remote. They don’t just wait to see whose games are announced by Brent Musberger.