Steel Lake Little Leaguers having fun at state

Domestic goddess Martha Stewart is going to prison for five months for insider trading.

John Kerry and George W. Bush are embroiled in a presidential race that will take mud-slinging to a new low in the next five months.

Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant is a month away from going to trial for sexual assualt and a week removed from signing a seven-year, $130-million contract.

I know 25 kids who could give a rip.

It’s not because they’re juvenile delinquents or anything — far from it. These kids just have something else occupying their every thought. Two baseball teams from Steel Lake Little League started play last weekend at a pair of Washington state tournaments. The Steel Lake Little League Major All Star team, made up of 11 and 12 year olds, and the Steel Lake Senior League All Stars (14-15 year olds) won their respective District 10 titles to qualify for state.

A pretty big deal in Little League circles.

But what is even more impressive is both teams won without a “freak of nature” that seem to pop up on most Little League teams. By “freak of nature,” I mean a 12-year-old kid who is 6-foot and shaving. A kid who barely touches a pitch and it goes over the fence and throws the ball so hard that the catcher needs to add a sponge to his glove.

Both Steel Lake teams are exactly that. They are teams.

I got to witness the team-first concept up close and personal last week when I was invited by head coach Stan Lanier to throw batting practice to the Steel Lake 11 and 12 year olds.

I saw a well-oiled machine led by Lanier and his two assistant coaches, Marty Johnson and Pat Leach. The staff ran a two-and-a-half practice on two different fields that included both infield and outfield work, and plenty of hitting — hence my sore arm four days later.

The practice brought back some of the best memories of my life. It was 19 years ago that my Federal Way American Little League team finished one game short of winning the state championship. I remember that summer like it was yesterday.

“We are just having fun playing baseball,” Lanier said. “And we are having fun coaching these kids.”

That’s exactly how it should be and that’s exactly what I remember about Little League. The win-at-all-costs attitude is steadily moving down in age year after year — mostly because of over-enthusiastic parents.

Sure, it’s nice to win, and the two Steel Lake teams are doing a pretty good job of it. Odds are none of these kids will play Major League baseball. But this Little League experience will last a lifetime — just ask me.

The 11 and 12 year olds picked up a huge victory in their opener at the 2004 Washington State Little League Tournament Sunday. Steel Lake downed North Kitsap American, 5-3, at Bill Reams East Sammamish Park in Sammamish to move into the quarterfinals.

Steel Lake will take on PacWest Little League (SeaTac) at 5:30 p.m. tonight for a berth into the semifinals. Sunday against North Kitsap, Steel Lake got a pair of RBIs from Jeff Edd, a solo home run by Lucas Tisdel and an RBI triple from Kyle Lorenzen.

But Steel Lake did have a little bad luck. Starting pitcher Bryce Leach was hit by a pitch and had to be taken out of the game. Kenny Johnson came in and threw solid relief. Leach’s future in the tournament is still up in the air.

The Steel Lake Seniors didn’t fare as well at its state tournament in Vancouver. Kirkland National beat Steel Lake, 5-1, in their opener at Glenwood Park Saturday. But Steel Lake fought back Sunday with a 4-3 win to remain alive in the tournament. With the game tied 3-3, Steel Lake tallied a run in the top of the seventh and held on in the bottom of the inning. The Seniors played again yesterday in a loser-out game (after press time).

“We are playing as a team,” said Senior coach Fred Fazio. “We lose together and we win together.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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