3. Don't teach pitchers the curveball, a slider or a split-finger – ever. As Price says, "All you need to pitch successfully in Little League is a fastball and a changeup. And sometimes, you're doing the batter a favor by throwing the change because they can't hit the fastball.'' There is plenty of time to teach breaking balls after the arms have matured. Just ask the Reds pitching coach.

4. As one wise man once said, strikeouts are fascist – Price also advises that you should remind your ace that he should not try to strike out every batter. Grounders are more fun for everyone. Watching batters swing and miss repeatedly not only is dull, it puts fielders back on their heels and leaves them unprepared for when the ball is finally hit. That leads to even more errors, and who needs that in Little League?

5. Most important, let everyone play – no one signs up for Little League to sit on the bench. Make sure everyone plays as many innings as possible and gets a crack at several positions. The important thing is not to win, but to play.

That said, feel free to park the booger-eating spaz in right field, where he'll do the least damage.

Box score line of the week
Just when you thought it was safe to look at the standings, the Yankees came roaring back, winning 10 consecutive games and rising back above .500. They reached the .500 mark Sunday with a rare performance from Randy Johnson. The Big Unit winning wasn't rare (it was his 250th career victory), it was the way he won. He didn't strike out a single batter, the first time in five years he had failed to do so. His line:

6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

It was just the fourth time in 487 career starts that the Big Unit has not struck out a batter.

Lies, damn lies and statistics
Just to show you how much times have changed, the original "Star Wars'' cost $11 million to make in 1977. The current episode cost $115 million. Meanwhile, according to The Sporting News, the Yankees' payroll in 1977 was $3.7 million. The Evil Empire's payroll this year is $206 million. And if you think the "Star Wars'' franchise has been around for a long time, consider that Rickey Henderson already had stolen more than 40 bases in the minors when Luke Skywalker first appeared on a movie screen. … The most amazing stat of the year so far? The Angels have allowed just three inherited runners to score (out of 39). … It's not like when Whitey was in St. Louis – the Cardinals have been caught stealing more times (11) than they've been successful (eight). … David Wells allowed as many runs against Oakland Wednesday as Roger Clemens has allowed all season (seven). … Nice to see that with global warming, the war in Iraq and Social Security concerns, Congress still is making steroid use a priority. Oh, and with all the attention on baseball's "terrible'' steroid problem, it's interesting that the athlete caught with a whizzinator last week plays in the NFL.

From left field
Kenny Rogers extended his scoreless streak to 30 consecutive innings by shutting out the Twins last week. Heading into this weekend's start, he hasn't allowed a run since April 21 (Cincinnati's Paul Wilson has allowed 26 runs in that same span). That's impressive, but it still falls 15 innings short of cracking the top 10 longest scoreless streaks in modern big league history. The 10:

Continued...


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