Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I guess I like helping out with kids. I was a Cub Scout den leader for several years, I'm a Boy Scout merit badge counselor and committee member and I've also recently applied to be a committee member for a new Boy Scout Venture Crew (Used to be called Explorers. Apparently the "change of name for its own sake" bug has hit Boy Scouts now as well). I've helped out with my daughter's basketball team and I've even worked with Brownies, although the decibel level there is second only to an AV-8 Harrier on takeoff.

I hold a hard line on the Boy Scouts who are looking for advancement. Here are the requirements--accomplish them. I'll help you, but I can't do them for you. Doesn't make me the most popular person in a troop that is simultaneously trying to set records for the most Eagle Scouts and the least level of personal responsibility and discipline.

Doesn't make me at all popular in a troop where a mother/father team is heavily involved and their 13-year old addresses them by their first names and is allowed to use the word "f*ck" copiously in front of them with no recourse from either the parents or the troop...

Then there's baseball. I go out there and call games to make a baseball experience for the kids. Am I the best umpire in the world? Hell, no. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've watched a close play go by, wondered just what the hell I saw, and had all of two seconds to decide and make the call. I've blown calls, and I've admitted it. At the same time, batters strike out, pitchers throw balls and coaches make bad decisions. Yep, we all make mistakes.

Nice game last night. Partly my fault. I had to take my son to practice in another town and got to the game just in time to get things started. Didn't have time to read the coaches the riot act, which is something that regrettably needs to be done at the 9/10-year old level where the kids barely play baseball and the parents and coaches have a lot of maturing ahead of them.

Game time was preceded by the fringe of a thunderstorm and the temperature was 90+ degrees. Humidity is anyone's guess. Let's just say if it were any more humid I'd have been swimming across the diamond.

Team that I've had trouble with in the past is hammering the other team, so their coaches are just this side of magnanimous. The other coaches, unfortunately led by the league commissioner, were not happy campers. At one point there was a runner on third and a blooper was hit toward third. The third baseman took several steps toward home, right on the foul line, to get under the ball. Two outs, so the runner on third hauls for home, slamming into the third baseman just as he was about to catch the ball. The situation is crystal clear. The runner must make every attempt to avoid the collision, and in that situation the rules state that the runner can deviate from the baseline if that's what it takes. The fielder must be allowed an opportunity to field the ball. Period. Had he been allowed to field the ball the batter would have been out, ergo the runner is out. Period. Interference, the runner's out.

Let the whining begin. They cried like babies even though they had no hope of winning the game at that point.

Then, one of the last plays, a batter overruns first, makes a slight turn to second and comes to a dead stop. Ball arrives at first just as he is heading back to first and the coaches start yelling "Tag him!". I was incredulous. First baseman interposes himself between the runner and first and tags him repeatedly. I finally yelled at him "You can't do that, runner's safe". The losing coaches almost lost their minds. I mentally snapped and yelled back at them that you can't tag a runner who overruns first. "He made a turn!". Doesn't matter. The rules state only that a runner can overrun first as long as he/she immediately returns to first. We are cautioned never to read anything into the rules that isn't written. In other words, the rule says nothing about making a turn--only that the runner must immediately return to first. At any rate, making a bit of a turn then screeching to a hault hardly qualifies as an attempt for second.

The coaches cried and whimpered like infants (even though they were 12 points behind by now). Game ended and I was confronted by coach/commissioner who denounced me in front of every parent in the stands and some jerk who claimed expertise as a "former coach". I walked away. What the hell else could I do? Beat the moron up in front of his kids and parents?

Got home and damned if he doesn't call me to apologize (for one of the calls, not both, and with qualifications). I was gracious, but the damage is done.

A coach and league commissioner, who is supposed to set an example for his team, behaved abominably on the field. In full view of his team. Nice.

And now let's all recite the Little League Parent/Volunteer (as in coach) Pledge:

I will teach all children to play fair and do their best
I will positively support all managers, coaches and players
I will respect the decisions of the umpires
I will praise a good effort despite the outcome of the game

Some of our managers/coaches might even follow two of those points...

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