The Baltimore Sun

The boys are back

Beijing isn't the only sports venue where Maryland athletes are competing against some of the world's best. The 2008 Little League World Series opens today with Hagerstown Federal Little League All-Stars one of 16 teams vying for the championship.

Hagerstown's appearance on the ESPN-broadcast event marks only the fifth time a Maryland team has made it to Williamsport, Pa., but it's also the second time that's happened in two years. Last year, West Salisbury made it by winning the Mid-Atlantic region championship, too.

The team from Western Maryland has been on quite the roll. Undefeated in regional play, it outscored playoff opponents by a combined 48-15, including an 8-3 win in Monday's championship game in Bristol, Conn.

No matter what happens this week, the 11- and 12-year-olds from Washington County have proved themselves to be among the best at their sport. It's a great tribute to them and to their parents and coaches, as well as a sign of just how popular youth baseball continues to be in Maryland.

Missed holiday

This weekend is prime time for back-to-school shopping, but parents and others who hit the shopping centers and big-box stores may find themselves feeling a bit nostalgic for the sales tax holidays of years past. Maryland isn't giving anyone a break on the state's 6 percent sales tax this year.

For the second year in a row, the General Assembly has decided against the tax holiday in deference to the state's budget woes. While such a modest form of tax relief has always seemed a bit gimmicky, this was clearly the year to have one - slumping retail sales could have used the boost.

Those of us who spend a small fortune on clothing and school supplies would have gained little more than the equivalent of a few lattes. But that still adds up to a collective $5.5 million or more. At least 17 states have declared some form of sales tax holiday this year to help hurting retailers.

Lawmakers may revisit the issue for August 2009, but by then the recession may have run its course and such a holiday would seem less strategic and more a case of pandering for 2010 votes.

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