Little League World Series: Top 10 Youth Sports Stars & Adult Failures
As the Little League World Series begins to enter its final stages, hope springs eternal for 12-year-old athletes nationwide. While overworked, over-pressured baseball players shine on ESPN and parents live vicariously through their athletic children, youth sports stars have become something of an obsession.
Sports Illustrated and ESPN annually feature the brightest stars of our country's youth, and colleges are forever scouring the middle school ranks to discover the next great thing.
Unfortunately, this generally leads to burned out kids who lose their passion and never quite achieve the greatness once expected from them.
For these ten youth superstars, legacy has captured them both for their large-scale success as children and for them large-scale failures as adults. Some of them still have a chance to recapture that former greatness, but for others, greatness is gone.
#10: Bobby Carpenter
As you can see, Massachusetts hockey prospect Bobby Carpenter was given the title "The Can't-Miss Kid." As you can also see, some NHL scouts "say he's the best U.S. prospect they've seen. Ever."
Carpenter became the first U.S. native to jump straight from high school to the NHL. He was selected with the 3rd overall pick by the the Washington Capitals, and he would actually go on to post stellar rookie numbers with a 53 goal, 42 assist season that earned him an All Star selection.
After appearing to live up to the hype, however, Carpenter was soon traded multiple times before landing with the Boston Bruins where his numbers dropped sharply. Carpenter won a Stanley Cup with the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils, and enjoyed an 18 year career in the NHL. However, Carpenter never achieved the superstar status those NHL scouts once projected he would.
#9: Tamir Goodman
Sports Illustrated, hard at work again, donned Baltimore basketball star Tamir Goodman, "the Jewish Jordan." Goodman was the real deal, but his orthodox Jewish heritage forced him into a compromising position.
Goodman starred at Talmudical Academy where he reportedly averaged roughly 35 points per game. His standout play captured the attention of the nation, as well as the University of Maryland who offered him a scholarship.
Due to his strict religious homage, however, Goodman turned down Maryland's offer because he would have to play and practice on Friday and Saturday nights which directly conflicts with his orthodox observations. Goodman instead accepted a scholarship to Towson University who managed to schedule around his requests. He posted pedestrian numbers his freshman year, but Towson brought in a new coach who clashed with Goodman.
Goodman took his talents to Israel where he enjoyed both productive and unproductive stints with multiple teams. He retired from basketball in 2009, effectively ending the hopes that the "Jewish Jordan" had arrived.
#8: Cody Webster
In the 1982 Little League World Series, the boys from Kirkland, Washington shocked the world by defeating Taiwan, who had captured 10 of the previous 13 LLWS Championships.
Kirkland was anchored by the 5-foot-7, 174 pound Cody Webster who was catapulted into legendary status with his two-hit, 12 strikeout gem against the Taiwanese. In that same game, Webster hit the longest home run in LLWS history, and captured the hearts of a nation.
Soon there after, Webster became the subject of national conversation, but his baseball career never quite took off. He would go on to play briefly in college, but never quite lived up to the hype many pinned on him after 1982.
#7: Sebastian Telfair
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Rather than accept a scholarship to one of the countless colleges courting the young basketball phenom, Coney Island native Sebastian Telfair hopped straight from high school to the NBA in hopes of converting his dominant play at the high school ranks with him to the association.
Telfair was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, but he never found his stride in the league. His most productive came with the Timberwolves in 2007 when he averaged a measly 9.3 points per game.
Had Telfair taken time to develop his game at the collegiate level, there's no telling how good he could have been. Unfortunately, he has fallen into a long list of failed high school stars in the NBA.
#6: Jon Peters
Sports Illustrated has a nasty habit of putting young athletes on their cover, only to see them wash up before they reach their once promised stardom. Texas baseball phenomenon Jon Peters is a prime example.
Peters became a national star after he won his 34th consecutive game, breaking a nationwide record. He would go on to reach 51 consecutive wins before Sports Illustrated profiled him.
By coincidence, by curse, or by misfortune, Peters lost his first game after S.I. ran an issue featuring him on the cover. Peters blew out his arm shortly there after, and never recovered from his "bad mechanics."
He attended Texas A&M, but was unable to pitch due to more injuries. Later on, he transferred to Blinn College where he was once again suffered a major shoulder injury, effectively ending his baseball career forever.
#5: Marcus Dupree
In 1981, Philadelphia, Mississippi high school football star Marcus Dupree became a sensation. As a senior at Philadelphia High School, Dupree broke Herschel Walker's touchdown record and drew the attention of virtually every notable college football program in the country.
Dupree committed to play for Barry Switzer's Oklahoma Sooners, where he shined as a freshman. He earned multiple all-conference honors, but he earned his celebrity during the 1983 Fiesta Bowl. Dupree reportedly suffered four separate injures during the game, but still managed to rush for 239 yards and was named MVP.
However, Oklahoma lost the game to Arizona State, forcing Barry Switzer to publicize Dupree for his poor work ethic. Dupree became angered, and transferred to Southern Miss. Instead of sitting out a year as required for all transfers, Dupree joined the USFL.
He was signed by the New Orleans Breakers where he continued struggling with durability issues. Dupree had unsuccessful stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams, and retired after an unspectacular two season stint with the Rams.
#4: Michelle Wie
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Michelle Wie became a professional golfer at age 15 with hopes of one day dominating the LPGA and paving a path for women in the PGA. Five years later, however, Wie's young career has culminated in failure.
Wie became a national phenomenon at age 10 when she qualified for an amateur championship tournament. As her career progressed, she captured the attention of massive sponsors, and her momentum soon carried her into stardom.
Her stardom far outweighed her play, however, as Wie has won only one tournament on the LPGA tour. Wie tried her hand in a PGA Tour event, but finished 14 shots back.
Wie's career has since been marked by controversy with such ordeals as inappropriate attire during an LPGA event as well as a wrist injury that many believed was an excuse for her to pull out of a tournament.
Fortunately, Wie is only 20 years old and still has time to resurrect her once promising career. She has the skills and potential to one day revive the LPGA.
#3: Freddy Adu
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14-year-old Freddy Adu was the latest in a very, very long line of young soccer players expected to become the "savior of soccer in America." Adu became the youngest player to both appear and score a goal in an MLS game after he was drafted by D.C. United in 2004.
Since being drafted as the next phenomenon of soccer in America, Adu has made headlines for his failures rather his success. He has become a journeyman, playing for multiple teams in Europe, but failing to become a mainstay with any of them.
There is still hope for Adu, who just recently turned 21. He has shown flashes of the promised greatness throughout both his international and club careers, and if he can just put it together, the U.S. could have a star for the 2014 World Cup.
#2: Danny Almonte
Arguably the greatest player in Little League World Series history, Danny Almonte fell from grace faster than any other child sports star in history.
At "age 12," Almonte stood at a commanding 5-foot-8 and tossed a 70 mph fastball, which allowed him to virtually dominate the LLWS ranks. Leading the Bronx team to the U.S. Championship, Almonte threw both a no-hitter and a perfect game, cementing his spot among the all time great little league baseball players.
However, multiple teams who had fallen victim to Almonte's devastating repertoire began questioning his true age, and Sports Illustrated eventually took matters into their own hands and discovered that Almonte was in fact 14, not 12.
Since the aftermath of the 2001 LLWS, Almonte has fallen into oblivion, playing baseball for random semi-pro leagues around the U.S. and Mexico, but the one-time phenom has given up hope of one day playing in the MLB.
#1: Todd Marinovich
From the moment he emerged from the womb, Todd Marinovich's father began breeding his son into "the perfect quarterback." Marv Marinovich, whose NFL career was cut short, made it his life's goal to produce that perfect quarterback by raising his son in "the perfect environment." All you really need to know about Todd Marinovich's childhood can be found in this excerpt from a Sports Illustrated feature:
"He has never eaten a Big Mac or an Oreo or a Ding Dong. When he went to birthday parties as a kid, he would take his own cake and ice cream to avoid sugar and refined white flour. He would eat homemade catsup, prepared with honey. He did consume beef but not the kind injected with hormones. He ate only unprocessed dairy products. He teethed on frozen kidney. When Todd was one month old, Marv was already working on his son's physical conditioning. He stretched his hamstrings. Pushups were next. Marv invented a game in which Todd would try to lift a medicine ball onto a kitchen counter. Marv also put him on a balance beam. Both activities grew easier when Todd learned to walk. There was a football in Todd's crib from day one. "Not a real NFL ball," says Marv. "That would be sick; it was a stuffed ball."
Marinovich became a high school football star, shattering California state passing records on the way to a scholarship to play at USC. However, Marinovich developed a serious habit for marijuana during his high school days, which eventually led to his demise.
After earning College Freshmen of the Year honors from the Sporting News in 1989, Marinovich began struggling to balance a drug habit with his playing career, and bolted for the NFL in 1991. He was selected with the 24th overall pick by who else but Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders where he endured very mild success before both his play and drug habit imploded. Marinovich's NFL career ended after just two seasons, and has since been arrested on multiple drug related charges.