Wade Boggs visits Little League World Series
By GENARO C. ARMAS
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) Now batting, catcher Wade Boggs?
The Hall of Fame third baseman squatted behind the plate in his Little League days while growing up in Florida. Boggs even caught an 18-strikeout game one time, but that turned out to be the highlight of his catching career.
"That's when the tools of ignorance came off," the lifetime .328 hitter joked Thursday after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Little League World Series.
The hot corner worked out for him, too. He won two Gold Gloves at third and a World Series in 1996 while with the New York Yankees.
He never won a championship in Little League, though, so he made sure to tell the pint-sized sluggers in South Williamsport to soak up every moment at the tournament.
"I look at these kids, the smiles on their faces ... it's like summer camp for 10 days," Boggs said.
His ceremonial first pitch went high and way outside - too far out that Boggs probably would have laid off smacking the ball the other way to right.
No matter, Boggs got a warm ovation from Little Leaguers - most of whom weren't even born when he played his last major-league game in 1999.
"They're the foundation for the major leaguers for tomorrow," he said. "That's where it starts."
Boggs played 11 of his 18 seasons in the majors in Boston. So, he offered his perspective on this season of struggle for the Red Sox in manager Bobby Valentine's debut. The Red Sox have been beset by off-field distractions, pitching woes and injuries, the latest being rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks' broken right wrist.
"It's a mess," Boggs said. "You don't see a light at the end of the tunnel with it. Every day, it's something different.
When asked later by a reporter, Boggs said he didn't know if the game had "passed (Valentine) by," and that Valentine's sarcastic style wasn't understood while he was managing overseas in Japan.
"That's Bobby Valentine. He's always been like that," Boggs said. "He's the same Bobby Valentine. It's a tough market to manage in. Everyone knows that. I'm sure Bobby knew that going in."
RUN IT OUT: A new rule in tournament play allows runners to advance to first safely on an uncaught third strike. In the old rule, the play would have simply resulted in a strikeout. But Little League president Steve Keener said the rule was tweaked this season because players were used to running out third strikes that were dropped or got past the catcher while taking part in other leagues or travel ball. It's also a rule in the majors.
Keener has another motive, too - that it might discourage managers from calling on pitchers to throw the curve ball on an 0-2 count. Little Leaguers aren't forbidden from throwing breaking balls, though some critics have voiced concern about the stress of throwing curves on young pitchers.
Keener said it might be an unintended benefit to the new rule.
"If the coach calls the curve ball, he better make sure his catcher can hang on to it," Keener said. "I can't prove it, I can only speculate, but I think that coaches might be a little more cautious about calling for those types of pitches because you don't want to start over."
LETTERS OF NOTICE: Little League headquarters earlier this year sent notices to all its local leagues to remind them of mandatory reporting rules over allegations of child abuse in each state. Keener said the letters went out in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State in State College, about 60 miles southwest of the World Series complex.
Keener noted that Little League for years has paid for criminal background checks for coaches in all local leagues. The background checks cost the parent organization nearly $400,000 a year, and Keener said the money comes from Little League's television contract with ESPN.
REPLAY REVISE: A tweak to the replay rules this year will allow officials to reverse a foul call to fair if held up by review.
The rule would only apply to balls hit beyond the infield, Keener said. In such an instance, umpires would decide where to position runners.
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Updated August 16, 2012