Sunday, December 5, 2021
Dec. 5, 2021

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Hoping for some resiliency after heartbreak for Cascade Little League kids

Commentary: Micah Rice

By , Columbian Sports Editor

They say a picture tells 1,000 words. But the photo of Cascade Little League’s players was worth just one — heartbreaking.

Cascade had seen its season end in one of the toughest ways Friday.

Trailing the Idaho state champion at the Northwest Regional, Cascade rallied in the final inning. The tying run was apparently scored when Mason Hill broke for an unguarded home plate after a crazy play that included two errors and a rundown.

But the game’s final out was called when an umpire spotted Cascade third-base coach Brendan McCarthy tapping Hill on the back to spur his break for home. The contact was subtle and innocuous, but enough to break the rule that forbids a coach from touching a baserunner while the ball is in play.

Suddenly the game was over. After seemingly grabbing a lifeline, Cascade had to grasp that its season had ended one game short of the regional championship game and chance to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

While the Idaho players rejoiced, Cascade’s players were inconsolable.

Shortly after the game, a photographer working for The Columbian sent along a photo that showed several players. But none were identifiable. Each’s face was hidden behind their hands or batting helmet as tears undoubtedly flowed.

My heart sank. As Sports Editor, I’ve seen dozens on shocking and agonizing defeats described in the pages of this newspaper. But those involved mostly professional or college athletes. Their disappointment serves to enrich the drama and tension that make sports great.

It’s different when the athletes range from 11 to 13 years old.

I wondered how I would feel if those were my children on that field. As parents, we want nothing more than to give our kids the world, but the world isn’t given over so easily. It gives a few challenges in return, but also opportunities.

I hope the Cascade players will turn disappointment into strength. Friday’s loss was a rough one, for sure. It might be the toughest each of those players ever has.

And so the next time, whether it’s a game on the line or something more important, I hope they have a grace under pressure that comes not from never losing, but from bouncing back and saying “Come on world, is that all you’ve got.”

I have no doubt they will. Since I first covered sports 17 years ago, I’ve learned a few things about young athletes — they’re tough, resilient little suckers.

Covering youth sports is a small but unique part of what we do at The Columbian. Most of the time, community interest doesn’t extend beyond the immediate family of the players. What stories we do write are about victories or, if we’re lucky, an inspiring human-interest angle that resonates beyond the basepaths.

But sometimes a team captures the community’s affection as it represents Clark County on a national stage. That happened when Hazel Dell reached the Little League World Series in 2000. It was beginning to happen for Cascade.

And when a small team becomes a big story, one day we are faced with writing about when that team’s quest ends. It’s not always a happy moment.

But the journey never ends when the game does. Years from now, I hope we get to tell more stories about those players on this year’s Cascade Little League roster.

And I hope those stories are rooted in resiliency and strength that weren’t shaken by Friday’s heartbreak.