Ahh,were it THAT easy to become a better player....
When this show premiered in the early eighties,I was in the first of my two interesting,albeit for me largely unproductive in a performance standpoint(i.e. 0 for 17 at the plate,a fielding percentage of .081 and three stolen bases. Did score a number of runs,tho!),years in little league. I'd watch just about anything sports related,particularly baseball. The local network,usually an NBC affiliate in Kansas City,paired this show with "This Week in Baseball",hosted by legendary broadcaster Mel Allen("How about that!"),and both shows practically made my Saturdays.
The basic construct was this: a group of bright,perky,can-do kids playing little league(played by kid actors,of course)are mentored by Cincinnati Red great Johnny Bench. When someone was having a problem with any particular of the game,a fellow big leaguer(often a friend of Johnny's)would materialize out of seemingly nowhere to help out. With just a little demonstration from the star(which would follow a forty second synopsis of the guest's career to date),the kid with the problem in question would go from being an awkward little leaguer with ordinary problems on the field to a near-perfect performer! Wow! If it only was that easy to get good at the American past-time,I might've been able to play the sport well into high school,maybe college,maybe even(dare to dream?)the big leagues! Alas,my baseball career ended after I turned twelve,and not too long after that I stopped watching this show. I don't know how much longer it ran,but it would seem that this show would close shop some time before the eighties was over.
Don't get me wrong:this show was wonderfully campy(one of the co-stars was the once hugely in demand San Diego Chicken!;Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda regularly appeared as the Wizard of the Diamond!)and a pleasant,informative use of a half hour's time for any kid who loved the sport. Johnny's rapport with the kids(and it was,initially,a put-off to find out that these kids were not authentic)was surprisingly un-wooden and easy. The only thing that would've made me enjoy this show more would've been an appearance from a Kansas City Royal of the time(George Brett,Willie Wilson,Frank White,Hal McRae among them). I kinda hope that maybe some producer out there might try this type of show,if not the exact model,again. If I had kids in little league,I'd at least introduce them to this,seeing if they'd get the kind of warm,fun charge out of this as I once did.
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