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County Hall Corner: D.C. Corrupts Even LLWS

Most of us who live paycheck to paycheck (or, in my case, from Social Security deposit) do not understand what makes the rich tick. Yes, we know that they can get to wear the finest clothes, go to the nicest restaurants, travel wherever they want, etc., but the rich generally take all that for granted. What gives them a rush is power. Money can open doors, make things happen that they want to happen, and, if necessary, even make its own rules.

Unfortunately, we see this on display in our nation’s capital. Like other communities around the world, residents in Washington, D.C., enjoy Little League baseball. However, the D.C. area is an upper-class community. It is not because of the weather that eight of the ten highest-income counties in the nation are clustered in this area. Given this, kids interested in baseball would probably have a lot going for them in the way of special trainers or baseball camps to become better baseball players.

So, it should not have been particularly unusual or surprising that in last year’s LLWS competition, the team from the Washington, D.C. division was just one game away from heading to Williamsport to represent the Mid-Atlantic Region in the Little League World Series. However, there was more to this than met the eye.

An article in the Washington Post in August of 2023 noted, “A bench-clearing brawl of sorts has broken out over alleged cheating in a Little League serving one of the District’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Not among the kids, of course.”

The issue involved Northwest Washington Little League (NWLL) president Ricky Davenport-Thomas stacking his league with the best players even beyond its area. Essentially, he was ignoring Little League’s strict eligibility rules to poach talented players from other city Little Leagues.

And it worked. The NWLL was equivalent to an all-star team playing against the regulars. Many NWLL games went into a mercy rule because they almost always had double-digit leads by the third inning or sooner. Yet, as the competition got better, they ran into trouble. The NWLL got to the Mid-Atlantic tournament, where the winner would go to the Little League World Series, but they lost in the finals.

Late last month, the Wall Street Journal picked up the progress of this scandal in hearings and a “blue-ribbon panel.” Truth be told, this is an issue that everyone wants to hide under the rug, and this is a great example of how it is done in Washington, D.C. Someone gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Then, there is an investigation, and there will be experts who are called in (“blue-ribbon panel”). From this will come the decision that buries the issue.

In this case, the hearing selected a special counsel, which appointed the law firm Steptoe, which specializes in government investigations and high-stakes litigation. We are to ignore “the fact that a Steptoe partner’s child was on an NWLL team was completely unrelated to Steptoe taking on this case and its work on the case,” stated the new Northwest Washington Little League president Ashleigh Coniglio. So, even though a parent whose son was on the team is going to be one of the “investigators,” we can be assured that everything is going to be above board.

I sincerely doubt that the rest of us could get away with this conflict of interest. And I bet I can give the outcome of the “blue-ribbon panel” — after a full study of all the evidence, no actual fraud is evident, so let’s all move along now, nothing to see.

This is how things are done in our nation’s capital. Even with Little League, if we want to make the equivalent of the 1927 New York Yankees that could annihilate all comers, we can change the rules to accomplish our goals because… well, because we can. And if we are challenged about anything, we will have our own judge and jury, so we will always win in the end anyway. (That is, until they came up with a pretty scrappy Little League team from Media, Pennsylvania that gave them a real 16-3 beat down in the semifinal and 2-0 in the final.)

Steve Haywood’s article “Our Ugly Ruling Class” in on the D.C. Little League scandal summed it up beautifully, “Yes, that is how ‘things often go’ in Washington, but the real scandal is that we are governed, but these endlessly grasping, petty, and self-entitled people. Draining the swamp isn’t enough. Salt the earth inside the Beltway and pave it over.”