GOING TO BAT FOR ROMNEY — CANCER SURVIVOR REALIZES IT’S ONLY A GAME

Dennis Shaughnessey
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Did you hear about Romney?

No, not the governor of Massachusetts. I’m talking about Romney Oaks, a youngster who plays baseball for the Bountiful, Utah, Little League 9- and 10-year-old division. (What is it about Romneys and Utah?)

Anyway, Romney — the kid, not the governor — was involved in a little controversy of sorts. Seems his team was playing in a championship game that had all the ingredients of a made-for-TV movie. Bottom of the sixth, home team at bat and needed a run to tie.

With two outs and the tying run on third, up to the plate comes Bountiful’s big stick. A power hitter who’s been tearing up the league all season. Romney is on deck, but chances are the power hitter is going to end it right now.

Shaun Farr, an affable guy who coaches the other team, makes the smartest move in baseball. Walk the power hitter intentionally and take your chances with the other kid. Problem is, everybody in town knows that the other kid, Romney, is a cancer survivor who has a shunt in his brain.

Players on first and third now and still two out. Romney gets up to the plate and just like he’s done most of the season, he strikes out. Game over. Bad guys win.

And that is exactly how coach Farr is being painted. Like he’s the devil incarnate. Why? Because he wanted to win a championship game, not only for himself, but for his group of 9- and 10-year-olds who earned the right to be there.

Accounts say that little Romney was devastated. Hey kid, there’s no crying in baseball. Romney’s parents must have known when they signed him up that the folks in this league keep score. There are winners and there are losers.

Romney’s parents are outraged that the coach of the other team would actually pitch around the big hitter to get to their son. They’re upset that coach Farr would actually try to win.

“What are we teaching our kids?” asked Marlo Oaks, Romney’s Father. (I will refrain from making jokes about dad’s name here.) “Are we teaching them that it’s OK to pick on the weakest person?”

No, Marlo. We are teaching them that life is made up of little victories and little failures. Your son tried. I’m sure he did his best. I’m sure he watched the ball all the way in, just like his coaches told him. I’m sure he choked up on his bat. I’m sure he kept his eye on the ball. He swung, (I think) and he missed three times. But he got to play. He got to be in the game.

Coach Farr said he would have walked the heavy hitter no matter who followed. He did, however, stretch his credibility a bit when he said he didn’t know Romney was up next. Hey coach, you see that little clipboard you’re holding under your arm with all the names on it? That’s called a lineup. But no matter. You did nothing wrong. I would have done the same thing. Did anybody expect Farr to tell his pitcher to move up a few feet and throw underhand?

He is quoted as saying, “I was either going to have my kids and their parents upset because we pitched to (the slugger) and he wins the game for them, or I do what I do and this happens.” He also says he wouldn’t have made the move in a regular-season game, but this was the championship.

Let’s ask a different question. Why did Romney’s coach put him in a position where he was bound to fail? What coach puts their weakest hitter in the lineup right after the team’s best hitter?

Another question. Why didn’t Romney’s coach pinch-hit for him? In a league where intentional walks are allowed, I would think that pinch hitters are also allowed. I have a feeling that Romney’s parents still would have complained if their son was lifted for another batter. Far be it from them to let their kid endure a little disappointment in life. I know. I know. He has valiantly fought cancer and knows his share of disappointment.

What has been lost in all of this is Romney’s attitude. He told reporters that he will spend the offseason practicing so the next time he finds himself in this situation, he’ll get the game-winning hit.

Somehow I think we should remember the name Romney Oaks. He’s bound to do great things, no matter who bats before him.

What do you think? Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is dshaughnessey@thevalleydispatch.com.