Sunday, August 15, 2010

Youth baseball a mixed bag

I played Babe Ruth baseball, high school baseball and a little in college. After college, about 1970, I coached a Babe Ruth baseball team. When my son got to be 6 I started coaching again. I coached him until he was 14 and then I turned him over to Coach Bill Lord. My son went on to play shortstop at Lincoln High School and played at Tallahassee Community College. I am watching Sunday night baseball on ESPN as I type out this BLOG.

I was a baseball park president for 3 years. I had a great time doing that. It was just like running a small business. I had over 200 kids in my program. I had a budget of approximately $75,000. We trained umpires and worked them in our program. We took teams to state tournaments that caused us to have to raise $25-30k more at the end of the year.

My son was an All Star at every level he ever played. We should have rejoiced in that fact. However it was more of a curse than a blessing. We have had to cancel or fracture many vacation plans due to his baseball. We have had to hit the road, annoying friends and neighbors and relatives to raise many thousands of dollars to send his team to the next level.

I have done baseball up and down and I am here to tell you that it is frought with politics, unfairness and cheating. I remember a rather docile appearing lady who approched me, the park president, about coaching a team in our park. Coaches were hard to come by. We had a rule in our park that Fathers could not coach their own sons. They could be assistants and coach their sons but not head coaches. Well this lady, behind my back, turned her team over to someone else, called him the assistant and recruited his son and several of his friends to play on that team. In other words they loaded up a team. Someone wrote a letter to the editor to point out this cheating. I immediately fired both of the coaches and declared their sons ineligible as All Star selections. They left our park and played elsewhere. I never heard their names again so they did not do all that well. I remember telling this woman to consider what she was teaching her son,
" The rules are for everyone else, but you."

Then there was the man who approached me with a new air conditioner for our little concession stand. I was delighted because we did not have one and it was hot in that thing. I arranged to meet him at the park at the concession stand to receive this magnanimous gift. When I met him he said, " Before we unload this unit and install it, I would like to ask how my son is looking for All Stars?" I told him that I did not even vote on All Stars. Only the coaches did. I just made sure that the voting was fair. I then suggested that he better keep his air conditioner as it seemed to have a few strings attached.

The youth baseball parks were divided into 6 parks in a distinct geography. I cannot tell you how many people I caught lying to play in our park. Once we got to District tournaments we had to have parents produce utility receipts to prove they were in fact living within the proper boundaries of our park. TPRD made the boundaries and enforced them. If we played an ineligible player then you forfeited any and all games you won.

It is enough to sicken you about baseball. However, you have to seperate the game from the players and most especially their parents. In retrospect I have to say that I never had a complaint lodged by a player or an incident of cheating by a player. It was always the parents that brought the untoward demeanor. I have had to bar parents from coming to games, call law enforcement on them and generally watch them like a hawk.

Now I see that the Little League World Series has begun. You can watch all sorts of little tykes in uniforms on national television. You can learn what their favorite color, hobby, big leaguer, brand of bubble gum, video game, is ad nauseum. This all has such an aura of purity, all americanism and innocence.

I am here to tell you that it is rotten to the core all along the way. Someone has acted contrary to fair play and the rules to that TV spot. I speak from direct involvement and experience. Now I wonder what the betting line is on St. Petersburg , Florida vs. Canton, Ohio? Just kidding. That is whole different post.

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