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All-Stars' manager made the right call

Published Sep. 27, 2005

I didn't make it to Inverness last week for the salute to Citrus County's Inverness All-Stars for their third-place finish in the Little League Senior Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich.

I'm sorry because it didn't give me a chance to meet the team's manager, Pete Maggiore, and shake his hand.

Maggiore, for those of you who haven't noticed, is the guy who pulled his all-female team out of the competition to keep them from playing against the Santa Cruz Valley, Ariz., team, which had three teenage boys on it.

We aren't talking about pre-adolescent tee-ballers here, folks, we're talking about what are physiologically, in most cases, young adults.

We're talking about an all-girl team in a program that was created for girls whose largest player is 5-8 and weighs 140 pounds, and whose smallest is 5-2 and weighs 100 pounds.

My personal strong beliefs in gender equality aside, it is time for someone to cut through the political correctness crap down to where the rubber meets the road and use common sense.

Little League baseball, for years, was an all-male province, and there was quite a hubbub a few years ago when a couple of teams wanted to put girls on the field. It's not clear whether it was a direct reaction, but the softball league was created as a girls' alternative.

But any court decision these days is bound to be taken to the most absurd extremes, so it followed that boys would someday be granted entry into the softball league _ legally sound, but stupid.

It's the age factor in the seniors' competition that is key.

Physiological equalities in pre-adolescence begin to shift strongly at puberty. There are exceptions, but statistically boys become bigger and have more muscle mass and, testosterone being what it is, are more likely to be aggressive.

One of the boys on the Santa Cruz team is nearly 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds.

Do you let your kids take the field and just figure you'll play it by ear when your 100-pound player is blocking the basepath and is the only thing between that 200-pounder and the world series trophy?

Or do you do what Maggiore did, and use your brain?

Whether old liberals like me like it or not, and whether it is fair or not, there are some things that just aren't going to happen. No female boxer is ever going to beat Mike Tyson. No heavily female professional football team is ever going to beat the Buccaneers (at least not this year's team). No man is ever going to do a full routine on the uneven parallel bars _ twice.

Thinking that all of us can do all things equally well, no matter how philosophically sound and comforting the concept is, works much better in the abstract than it does in reality.

But I'm positive there are those on the Inverness team who think the girls should have played and might have won without getting hurt.

That's why adults are held responsible for that kind of a decision, and that's why the responsible adult _ whose reputation, conscience, and maybe house and car in today's lawsuit-happy world, are on the line _ is the one who makes the call.

I've heard grown men say that Maggiore and his coaches should have "Let 'em play . . . if they want to be equal, let them find out what it's like."

Maybe so. Let an adult woman decide to fight Tyson (in the ring, I mean), let an adult woman like Billie Jean King play, and beat, Bobby Riggs.

But if you're an adult in charge of kids, if I have placed my kid in your safekeeping expecting you to act for me in matters of his or her safety, then use your brain.

The team brought home a slightly smaller trophy, but none of the players were on a gurney or in a wheelchair.

And they learned a lesson about principle and judgment more enduring than any trophy.