July 9, 2007
It’s the All-Star season for Pony baseball, and it’s the second week of the main tournament for the Pinto league (coach pitch). Benton didn’t play baseball this spring, but a good friend of his (whose parents are good friends of ours) did play. We went to a few of his games. He was good enough to make the “B” team for the All Stars from Oak Hill (Oak Hill generally fields 4 All Star teams). It’s been fun being in the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association area, because it’s a really well-run organization, and every player really does improve dramatically over the course of the season.
The regional tournament that got played in north central Austin — fairly close to my office — had both the A and B teams from Oak Hill. The A team was undefeated through all of the invitational tournaments, but finally lost early in the regional. The B team stayed in the winner’s bracket until Sunday (lengthy setup here, I realize), when they lost. That meant that this evening was the Oak Hill A team vs. the Oak Hill B team — the winner would win the loser’s bracket and, thus, advance to the next round of the tournament. For Oak Hill, it was kind of win-win — one of their teams would advance. I know a few kids on both teams — more on the B team, coincidentally, so I shot over after work to watch.
I really sort of wish I hadn’t.
It was a hard-fought game that, ultimately, the B team lost.
Below is the e-mail I sent to the coach (who was also the pitcher) for the B team. I copied the Pinto League commissioner…and I’m posting the letter here. Being raised by a dad who was, at best, a reluctant fan, I’m increasingly realizing how lucky I was!
I just got back from the Bobcats baseball game. I’ve caught 4 or 5 Bobcats games this All-Star season, partly because we’ve got a good friend who was on the team, and partly just because I enjoy watching the sport. My oldest son played Pinto fall ball for two seasons and spring ball last year, and had a blast the whole time. But, he decided to take this past spring off. He often wants to go out and throw a baseball around in our cul-de-sac or grab a bucket of balls to go hit, and he enjoys going to the occasional game — Pinto or UT. All that is to say that, when he plays, he plays for genuine enjoyment of the game, and he’s never been one to hang his head when he gets out or when his team loses.
It really was sort of depressing to watch this evening’s game. Not because the Bobcats didn’t advance, but more because of the behavior of the parents. I’ve been around Oak Hill baseball enough for the past couple of years to recognize a number of the parents in the stands as being regular season coaches or assistant coaches. Many of the parents were entirely too concerned about winning at the expense of being concerned about good sportsmanship and the many life lessons that participation in sports can teach. Coaching from the stands, yelling at the umpires (or at least grumbling back to the stands about the calls), and even grousing about who was playing what position when. Clearly, of all of the adults there, you’ve put more time into coaching the team this All-Star season, so it was great to see you setting such a great example.
The coolest thing I saw was after the close call at the plate when the Bobcat player was initially called safe, then the home plate umpire appealed to to the other umpire, who overruled him and called the player out. Several people in the stands went ballistic. You wandered over to talk to the umpires — about the call, I assume — and then, just before you walked away, you made some sort of joke and then walked back to the dugout laughing as the umpires chuckled as well. Clearly, you don’t take the game too seriously. I could empathize with the position you were in — the fan-parents who were stepping near (if not over) “the edge” were riled up, and any pointed comments pointing that out would likely have simply set them off farther. They didn’t set a good example for their kids, nor for the many kids who were watching their brothers play from the stands.
My family is moving to Ohio next month. Midway through this past spring season, my son asked if there was going to be Fall Ball in Ohio, as he’d like to play. I sincerely hope that, if he does, he winds up with a coach like you. Heck, I don’t know if you were really steamed by a few of the calls yourself, or if you were fighting like crazy to bite your tongue to not be the fifth adult to tell one of your players that it was his “last chance” when he came up to bat in the sixth inning. From the outside, you were a role model for the kids on your team, as well as the adults in the stands. Unfortunately, many of those adults seem too old to identify a good role model when they see one!Best of luck with your future coaching.
That’s the only thing I could think to do. At one point towards the end of the game, the father of one of the players, who is one of my closest friends, leaned over and asked, “Do you think the kids feel the pressure?” Honestly…he was one of the parents I was referring to in the e-mail I wrote (although far from being one of the worst). My only comment was, “I think they are…thanks to the parents.” Several of the kids — his son included — were in tears after the game. One of the mothers actually stood in the dugout telling all of the boys, “It’s a shame that you had to lose because of those bad calls, but you played a good game.” Another mother was pacing up and down (out of earshot of the kids on team) saying, “That’s bull****! That’s bull****!”
I do recognize that these parents have put a lot of time into the game over the past month — the kids have had 2.5 to 3 hour practices every weeknight and a tournament every weekend, with many of the tournaments running from Thursday to Monday. I wasn’t a part of that, so can I legitimately judge their behavior?
Yeah, I can. There’s no excuse.