In the wake of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal that has opposing teams and fans calling not only for Major League Baseball to ban players but also for the Astros to surrender their 2017 World Series title, some Little League organizations have prohibited the use of “Astros” for their team names this year.
“Parents are disgusted,” Steve Klaus, president of Long Beach Little League, told The Orange County Register after the 48-team organization dropped the name. “They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability. … With the Astros, you’ve got premeditated cheating. … Our mission statement has the words ‘character’ and ‘integrity.’ It’s hard to develop integrity and character when you see [cheating] at the top level.”
The move shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Long Beach Little League previously eliminated “Braves” and “Indians” from their lineup of team names because “they didn’t want their players to wear images of Native Americans on their jerseys,” according to the paper.
As summarized by ESPN, a Major League Baseball investigation “determined the Astros used a centerfield camera for real-time video of catchers’ signs and subsequently banged a trash can to alert hitters of incoming pitches, confirming comments made by [former Astros pitcher] Mike Fiers… a few months earlier. The sign-stealing practice — which also included the more conventional method of using the video replay room to decode signs and relay them to a runner on second base — extended into the 2017 postseason, when the Astros defeated the [Los Angeles] Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series.” (Fun fact: In a widely publicized move, one MiLB team brilliantly trolled the Astros with this promotional give-away).
East Fullerton (Calif.) Little League also banned use of “Astros” after parents expressed concerns that the “name was equated with impropriety,” according to The Orange County Register.
But it’s not just California-based organizations that are dumping the “Astros.” In Western New York, the Central Amherst Little League ditched the name for the upcoming season, too.
“The actions of the Astros are really contrary to what we believe in as a Little League,” league general manager Keith Wingtold CBS affiliate WIVB.com. “We contacted our vendor, and luckily our vendor could pull some strings at the last minute so we were able to make a change. … We just felt like the Astros didn’t deserve to have their name on the shirts of our little kids.”
League treasurer Scott Gretch added that sports is all about “playing fair.”
“I think all kids inherently understand that, and the adults we have volunteering in the league encourage that,” Gretch said. “You know when you can lead off and when you can’t. You know when you can steal and when you can’t. You just have to live by those rules.”
Even young players agree with the decision. “I don’t think it’s right to represent a team that’s been cheating,” 11-year-old Long Beach Little League player Mick Peterson told The Orange County Register.
Other Little Leagues, however, are taking a more practical approach. “Our Board did not have any discussions around limiting availability of any team names outside of what was available from our uniform vendor,” Bret Varner, president of Orangecrest Little League in Riverside, Calif., told local reporters. “Issues that occur at the Major League level would not have any impact on our uniform decisions. Our decisions are based upon the available options from our vendor and team interests within our local community.”