The Chris Wood Sportsmanship award began in 2005 at the Wyoming District 1 State/District Tournament in Laramie. At that time, I had initiated a 9-10-year-old division of the tournament. For that first tournament five leagues agreed to send teams. To have a reasonable bracket, the host league was invited to enter two teams.
The bracket was set with two pools of three teams each, with the top two teams from each pool advancing into a single elimination playoff. The usual Little League tie breaker would be used in case of a pool’s teams all going 1-and-1 against the other two teams in their pool.
The results in pool B were such that each team in the pool had one victory and one loss. During their second game in their pool, the Laramie team’s coach had his players play in a manner to adjust the score and innings played so that they would win the tie breaker by 0.01.
While I was computing the tie breaker results, the manager of the Laramie team came to me and told me that his coach had manipulated the innings played and the number of runs scored to win the tie breaker. He wanted to have the team that would have been eliminated awarded their spot in the bracket play. That young man was a 20-year-old college student by the name of Chris Wood.
I had previously expressed to my staff my desire to establish a sportsmanship award for our tournament. The staff members quickly encouraged me to establish the award and give it to Chris Wood. Henceforth it became known as the “Chris Wood Sportsmanship Award”.
The award is given annually to an individual who displays an act or acts of sportsmanship that exemplify the fair play ideals of Little League Baseball. The awarded individual is certainly not the only true SPORTSMAN of the tournament, but rather a representative for all of those involved in the tournament who best demonstrate the Little League ideals of fair play, as in the often repeated Little League Pledge.
I am truly grateful to CHRIS WOOD for his courageous act that initiated the award which now bears his name. THANK YOU CHRIS!!!!!
-- William A. Sedlacek, District Administrator of Wyoming District 1 of Little League
Steve was the manager of the Platte County 9-10 all-star team. They were in the championship game of the tournament against the team from Gillette. The Gillette team was the visiting team. The temperature was over 100 degrees. The game was in the top of the second inning and Platte county could not get an out. They had totally run out of pitchers.
I was working the plate when Steve approached me and said, “I have talked with my players and my parents, and would it be permissible to simply stop the game right now?” Steve’s concern for his players' physical and mental health took precedence over any concern for teaching a lesson in perseverance or personal pride. In the words of the Little League Pledge, “They had done their best!”
The Riverton 9-10 All-Star team had competed in the tournament for two years and had not won a game. The tournament was in Rock Springs, 200 miles from home, and they had been eliminated again. The players on that team kept coming to the games and continually asking what they could to help. They picked up trash, sold 50/50 tickets, retrieved foul balls, etc.
Andrea played shortstop for the Riverton 11-12 All-Star team at the District/State Tournament in Torrington. She was always positively encouraging her teammates and showing appreciation for good play by her opponents. If an opponent hit a home run, he would get a high five as he circled the bases, and then she would encourage her team to work harder to get the next out; exhibiting the short memory that a player must possess in order to be best prepared for the next play that he can do something about, rather than the previous play which is now over.
Shawnea was the do-all all-purpose player for the Powell 11-12 All-Star team at the District/State Tournament in Wheatland. When her team was on offense she kept the scorebook in the dugout for the coach, kept the proper batter alerted and ready to take their turn at bat, and constantly encouraged the team with positive feedback. On defense, her encouragement to her teammates and her respect for their opponents displayed her love and devotion to the game.
The Newcastle 9-10 team came to the tournament with a continual positive attitude. No matter what happened they just kept on playing hard for the love of the game. The assisting coach for the Laramie 9-10 team, VerDon Hoopes, put it best, “Whenever Laramie would score a bunch of runs and supposedly put the game away, the Newcastle kids just came out and scored some more runs to stay in the game. It didn’t matter if Laramie was supposed to be the superior team! They were there to have some fun and play their best.”
At the District Tournament in Bridger Valley, the Powell 9-10 team had finished second and would be going to the State Tournament the following week in Gillette. However, there was a problem. The Park County Fair was also scheduled that week and several of the Powell players had to show their animals at the fair if they were to be eligible to sell them at the auction after the fair. They had invested a great amount of time and feed in their hogs and stood to lose that investment if they went to play at the State Tournament. As the team and their parents were having a Bar-B-Que following the game and trying to decide if they would forfeit their second-place finish, Mr. Groves volunteered to buy the animals so that the team could go to Gillette to play in the State Tournament.
Lee has umpired for Wyoming Little Leaguers for nearly 50 years and displayed an encouraging attitude toward the players. In this particular tournament, he was responsible many times for getting players into positive playing attitudes with little comments to assist them in understanding what was called and why. He is always there to enable the players to do their best.
During a particular game with Dylan playing third base for the Lander team, an opposing runner started his slide into third base too early and injured his leg and ankle when his cleats caught in the turf. Dylan’s reaction was to show concern for his opponent, above his concern for getting the out. Dylan refused to leave the injured player and continued trying comfort him even after the EMTs had arrived. This display of sportsmanship was a positive affirmation of Little League’s mantra of fair, safe play that exemplified true sportsmanship.
As the host of the 2014 District 1 Tournament, the several communities that make up the greater community known as the Bridger Valley poured their very souls into supporting the guest leagues for the tournament. In the true spirit of Little League, they supported every team in finding accommodations and at every game they supplied score keepers, grounds keepers, umpires, food, practice fields, entertainment, at a level not seen before in Wyoming Little League. The group of small towns and communities that make up the Bridger Valley all pitched in to make this Tournament a pleasant memory that was spoken of by all of the participants for years to come!
Throughout the tournament, Kylee led her team to show an attitude of sportsmanship and fair play that is not often seen in the ranks of the 9-10-year-old teams. If someone on the team reacted poorly to a call, Kylee asked for timeout and went out to correct the “attitude” problem. When she was not pitching she was usually catching and protected the umpires from foul balls and wild pitches. When she “dragged” a pitch into the strike zone, she apologized to the umpire for her action. Kylee’s understanding of the SPIRIT of Little League was truly amazing in a 10-year-old young lady!
In the Championship game of the Wyoming State tournament, Connor was on second base when the shortstop turned his ankle while attempting to make a play. The ball was laying in the middle of the infield. As all the Laramie infielders, catcher and pitcher converged on the ball, third base and home plate were completely unattended. Connor could very easily have run to third and then on to home to score. Instead he returned to second base, declining to take advantage of his opponent’s injury. To him, the integrity of the game and fair play was more important than taking advantage to score another run.
Danika was the uncomplaining utility player, going to any position that the team needed her, on the field or on the bench, and giving her utmost to support her fellow players. If the team got down, she lifted them up. If they needed just one more strike out, she put every ounce of concentration she could muster into pitching the three strikes. If they needed her to play right field, she would do that job. She wasn't the best player on the team, but she was always ready to do whatever was asked of her to the utmost of her ability!
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