The Coast News Group
Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve speaks during a press conference Feb. 13 to address the sign-stealing scandal that has engulfed the team. The Astros cheated to win the 2017 World Series, as Los Angeles television station KTLA wasn’t shy about pointing out in the chyron. Screengrab via Twitter
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Sports Talk: Baseball’s black eye once again finds its way to North County

The youngsters were playing catch and that’s when their chatter hit home.

“I used to like the Astros,” one tyke said to another. “But not anymore because they are cheaters.”

The Houston Astros’ shenanigans are on the lips of everyone in baseball, from Little Leaguers just embracing the grand game to those performing it at the highest levels.

Houston had a problem playing fair and once again a North County coach’s team is left in its wake.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, a Cardiff resident, lost to the Astros in the 2017 World Series. The Astros banged a trash can to alert their hitters on what pitch was next and Roberts’ Dodgers were the fall guys.

Just maybe the Dodgers don’t win that Fall Classic anyway.

Then again if the Astros aren’t trading in inside information, it’s possible the Dodgers have had that championship parade, with Roberts in the lead car, for the first time since 1988.

“There’s nothing we can do to change that,” Roberts said.

He’s right, but it’s also an eerie case of history repeating itself.

Another baseball scandal, this one at the Little League level, had a North County angle.

The Oceanside American Little League advanced to the 2001 Little League World Series. At a tournament where the game is to represent its purest form, Oceanside landed on the wrong side of fate.

Oceanside advanced to the semifinals, 12 innings shy of being crowned the kings of the kids. But when playing a squad from the Bronx, New York, it faced a pitcher with a fastball which topped 70 miles per hour.

Lefty Danny Almonte’s velocity was amazing and so was his birth certificate. It stated he was 12 years old, while actually he was 14.

Almonte blew away Oceanside, just like he did every overmatched team in his path. Oceanside claimed third place at the LLWS, but in the first place, it never competed on a level playing field.

Welcome to baseball. As Oceanside American manager Daryl Wasano later told his elementary school players, welcome to the school of hard knocks.

“Sometimes, life isn’t fair,” said Wasano, who resides in San Marcos. “Things that should happen won’t. Things that shouldn’t happen will. Unfortunately, you just learned it at a much younger age than most people do.”

Baseball, a game built around failure, is tough enough without someone cooking the books.

It’s a sport that builds character and reveals it, too.

Somewhere the Astros’ moral compass failed in their quest to be champions. That distinction was earned in a tainted manner in which the players will never escape. The title ring fits, but it’s a red flag underscoring their deceptive approach rather than a celebratory piece of jewelry.

Angels catcher Max Stassi, a member of the 2017 Astros, understood the ramifications of his actions when reaching spring training.

“Especially (for) the kids that look up to us,” he said. “We’re supposed to set an example and do the right thing. We didn’t do that.”

But everyone can going forward and wouldn’t that be a swell way to toast the national pastime. On numerous North County diamonds, starting this weekend, adults can shine as another Little League season kicks off.

It’s a chance to do be a role model instead of losing sight of fair play, while chasing a trophy which will do nothing but gather dust in the future.

The real triumphs come when exiting the field, head high, knowing you helped youngsters strive for a better tomorrow within the rules. Then hopefully next season a game of catch doesn’t including talking about another cheating baseball squad that got caught.