At first blush, trying to find something positive about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal is like the proverbial “finding a needle in a haystack.” However, after considering all the associated events of the past few months, one silver lining is the response by Little League organizations across the country. From California to Pennsylvania, Little Leagues have acted to prohibit their youth teams from using the “Astros” name.
While player sign-stealing has been a practice utilized by Major League Baseball (MLB) teams for decades, MLB has specifically prohibited the use of electronic equipment to steal signs during games. According to MLB’s recent report on its investigation of the Astros, the team utilized video equipment in its premeditated scheme to cheat opponents. Compounding the illegal actions undertaken by Astros’ players and personnel is their abject failure to recognize the scope of their culpability.
While Astros’ players who ultimately carried out the cheating scheme have been reluctant to accept full responsibility for their wrongdoing, Little League leaders have taken the opportunity to remind the public that their teams know “right from wrong.” Moreover, “parents are disgusted,” Long Beach California Little League president Steve Klaus told the Orange County Register. “They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability…with the Astros, you’ve got premeditated cheating.”
In Pennsylvania, Dave Cresci, President of Lehigh Sports Association, noted that: “we feel strongly that our decision to prohibit the use of Astros as a team name at any level is the right one. It’s in line with the values established in and reinforced by the Little League pledge which we recite before every game. When our kids take that oath before each game, they pledge to play fair. It’s not something we take lightly. It’s something we imbue in the kids at our practices and at games.”
While the Astros’ scandal has damaged the team’s reputation and caused its manager and general manager to lose their jobs, MLB’s reputation has been tarnished as well. Nevertheless, this unfortunate situation has reminded Little Leaguers of a very important life lesson: the need to play by the rules. Little League leaders across the country are using the scandal as a tool to teach about sportsmanship, and the simple axiom of knowing right from wrong and acting accordingly. Clearly, these Little League organizations have created a silver lining in the Astros’ sign-stealing cheating scandal.