Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

I thought nothing could more boring, more odious to cover than slowpitch softball. Then I spent two of my afternoons this past week covering Little League baseball, and I learned just how wrong I’d been.

Watching your genetic material doing the activity must make it more pleasurable to watch, but to the objective outsider, Little League is long, slow, sloppy and dull. Games can take as long as a high school or short professional game, but with half as many exciting plays.

Now, I don’t blame the players for the snoozefest that is Little League baseball. They’re 9 years old — how much better could they realistically play?

I blame the umpires. With the umps’ very conservative strike zone, teams quickly reached double-digit walk totals, sometimes going from bases empty to run-scoring plays without ever taking the bats off their shoulders.

Plate-discipline might be an important skill for ballplayers, but confidence matters more. And as I watched the umps squeeze pitcher after pitcher with an unfairly tight strike zone, I could see the confidence draining from the pitchers’ face.

They weren’t just struggling to throw strikes — they were becoming afraid to pitch. And developmentally, a pitcher’s killer takes a lot longer to build and a lot less time to destroy than a hitter’s eye.

At this level of baseball, competition is the least-important element of the game. Physical and mental development — including having fun — matter so much more to the kinds of players and people these children will someday become. Umps shouldn’t hurt the players’ development in a misguided effort to call a “fair” game.

By calling so many balls, umps encouraged the players to just stand there, forcing the pitchers to throw strikes. That’s not discipline — that’s passivity. And it’s far more dangerous to a young ballplayer than getting a few generous strike calls could ever be.

Here’s what I wrote this week.

Summer Pride starts Monday

Little League championships starting this week

Huggins, Bollinger win at Tuesday Night Jackpot

Shane Fields making memories on the lake

McAlester Tennis Camp enters final week

Ray Harp keeps tradition going

Errors help Buffs beat Panthers

Rangers win PCLL Big 13 championship

Thunder walk past Timber Rattlers in AAA tournament

Muckdogs upset Mudhens in AAA tournament

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

And so my first year comes to a close. A year of covering football and basketball and baseball, track and tennis, softball and volleyball and wrestling. A year of bowling and rodeos and the occasional story about quidditch, disc golf or fishing.

I came to McAlester already a decent writer, but I had no idea how to really cover a daily beat. I learned how to do that this year, figuring out how to juggle multiple schools and sports, all of which had at least a somewhat legitimate reason to want coverage.

If I learned one lesson this year, it’s that you’ll never be able to please every single one of your readers, so there’s no point in trying. Instead, try to treat each story you do with professionalism, enthusiasm and rigor. If you can’t cover a team all that often, try to remember as much as you can about that team, so when you do return for a second story, it feels like a second story, not another first story.

Whenever I asked coaches at smaller schools if they were satisfied with how much coverage they got, for the most part they said yes. I’m the only sports writer at the McAlester News-Capital, there’s no way to cover every game and every team equally, and coaches seemed to understand that. Because I approached my small-school stories with the same care I did with McAlester High School, I think those coaches respected me. They knew that whatever degree of coverage I could provide, it would at least match my approach to MHS athletics in quality, if not in quantity.

Journalists need to develop sources to do their job — people who will from time to time share information with a reporter that he or she wouldn’t otherwise know. I don’t know how you do that on a government, science or crime beat, but in a sports beat, I think a lot of it comes down to following through on the promises you make (even if they’re fewer in number than they could be), and giving your best effort when it comes time to write.

Here’s what I wrote in my final week of Year 1.

Mays open their home to Sunbelt

Buffs’ Cumbie knows Sunbelt

Sunbelt, Day 5: Oklahoma Gold beats Blue

Sunbelt, Day 5: Texas too much for Canada

Arizona wins 2013 Jr. Sunbelt Championship

Three HRs power Texas past Tennessee

Akins, Miners beat Buffs baseball

Justus Sheffield says goodbye to Sunbelt

Wrapping up the 2013 Jr. Sunbelt

Weekly McAlester News-Capital Roundup

The 2012 Jr. Sunbelt Classic was just about over when I drove into McAlester a year ago. The 2013 Jr. Sunbelt Classic ends Wednesday night, and my second official year as a sports journalist starts one week from today.

Man, how the time flies. Here, then, is everything I wrote in the penultimate week of my Year 1.

Ex-Buff helps Murray State win first title

Tennessee prepares for Sunbelt title defense

NCAA shouldn’t ban Adderall

British Soccer Camp comes to McAlester

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 1

Sunbelt, Day 1: Arizona walks off against Okla. Gold

Sunbelt, Day 1: Tennessee out-duels Missouri

Jr. Sunbelt Classic, Day 2

Sunbelt, Day 2: Tennessee outlasts Oklahoma Blue

Sunbelt, Day 2: Mississippi holds off Georgia