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“Slaughter” is something of a technical term in Little League. If a team leads by 10 or more runs after four innings, umpires invoke something called the Slaughter Rule, and the game is called.
So it’s not mean or crass to say that Capitol City slaughtered Northwest Washington Little League at Fort Lincoln Park on this past Saturday, Opening Day for the city’s 2002 Little League All-Star tournament for 12-year-olds. That’s just telling it like it is.
The drubbing was worse than the final score, 14-0, makes it seem. The Capitol City kids ignored the odd and pathetic taunts of an adult fan on the Northwest side—”No stick!” “Lookers!”—and scored early and often, with a barrage of line drives and long balls. But no Northwest hitter reached base, or even got the ball out of the infield. Only 12 Northwest batters made it to the plate before the game was called, and 10 struck out.
But the young lambs from Northwest shouldn’t feel singled out. Cap City, which takes in kids from the upper-crusty Ward 3 neighborhoods around Chevy Chase, has been doling out one-sided beatings for a long time. In fact, the league’s all-stars, one of eight such squads now in D.C., have won city championships in 14 of the past 15 years.
Ann Kane took in the victory over Northwest like someone who’d seen it before. Kane was president of the Capitol City Little League, a position she still holds, before the current dynasty began. Back in 1983, she helped found the league. At the time, she’d only recently moved to D.C. from her native Illinois to do social work.
“I was appalled that kids in D.C. weren’t playing baseball here,” Kane says. “There was soccer but no baseball [in Chevy Chase]. I wanted to coach kids, but being on a soccer field didn’t do it for me. Where I come from, kids play baseball. So I decided to do something about it.”
That first year, there were four teams, several dozen players, and no national affiliation. The tie-in to Little League, which is headquartered in Williamsport, Pa., came in 1986. The community’s interest in the fledgling youth-baseball union was immediate and robust.
By 1991, there were more than 1,700 kids involved, making it not only the biggest Little League program in the city but also one of the biggest in the world. So big that the powers that be in Williamsport divvied up Kane’s league among several other confederations, including the Northwest league. But Cap City’s downsizing—the league now has about 500 players and 45 teams, including T-ball and girls’ softball—didn’t curtail the dominance of its all-stars.
Kane says there’s no secret to the league’s monopoly on all-star championships. “Our kids work incredibly hard to get ready for all-stars,” she says. “Maybe we work harder.”
The schedule is grueling. In the two months between the end of the regular season and the all-star tournament, the team practices every day for three hours. Moms and dads who are overjoyed when their kids are named to the all-star team can turn ornery when they find out how much rehearsal is required.
“A lot of parents don’t like that we’re practicing every single day,” Kane says. “Yes, it’s a lot of time, but I tell them that if they wanted their kid to learn to play the piano, they wouldn’t want them only practicing here and there. Baseball is a tough game, and it takes time to learn how to play it.”
The kids aren’t the only ones putting in the long hours. Kane hails the work of Tom Domansky, manager of the all-stars for the past decade. Domansky is a cardiologist, and when he’s not managing 12-year-olds in cleats, he’s running the clinical-trials group at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. (His pager went off in the first inning of Saturday’s game, so Domansky had to let an assistant coach run the team while he made a phone call. “I was on call, and a patient wanted to talk. What can I say?” Domansky says with a laugh. The patient is doing fine, he adds.)
Kane’s postseason schedule gets ridiculous in a hurry. Cap City has three different all-star teams, and she believes it’s her presidential duty to attend every game. Her itinerary for last weekend: Saturday morning in La Plata, Md., to watch the boys 9- to 10-year-olds’ all-star team, which had already won the city championship, lose in a regional tournament; Saturday afternoon at Fort Lincoln Park, to see the 12-year-olds whup Northwest; and all day Sunday in Easton, Md., on the Eastern Shore, to see the Cap City girls softball all-stars play in a regional tourney.
“I really view this as service to my community,” says Kane, who will begin a new career as a D.C. public-school elementary teacher in the fall. “Chevy Chase is a weird place, where on one block you’ll have a kid who goes to St. Albans living next door to a kid who goes to Maret living next door to some kid from another school. But everybody in the neighborhood plays in Capitol City Little League, and that really provides a sense of community that otherwise wouldn’t be there. At some point, something will come along in my life that will be more important, but for now, this is how I give back.”
She’s certainly not in it for the money: All Kane’s time and efforts are volunteered.
“Whenever a parent gets mad at me or says I’m doing something wrong, I just tell them, ‘OK, go ahead and take another zero off my salary!’” she says.
Little League, unlike the U.S. Constitution, regards the District as a state. Since 1997, the city champs have earned a trip to Bristol, Conn., site of the regional Little League tournament, to play champs from 11 mid-Atlantic states. After Saturday’s game, some Cap City parents approached Kane to ask about driving directions to Bristol and hotel accommodations. This was still just the opening day of the 10-day D.C. tournament, but given the slaughter they’d just witnessed, it probably wasn’t a bad idea. —Dave McKenna