Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I have baseball rants just stacked up, awaiting permission to land on this blog. The season is drawing to a close and people are getting more and more worked up.

Let me be as clear as I can on this. The purpose of organized youth sports is to teach the kids. It's to teach them teamwork, it's to teach them to work and strive for a goal, it's to teach them humility--accept defeat (but strive to win) and be gracious in victory. And (this is a generational thing...) get them off of their video game butts and out into the real game.

Right now we're in the playoffs. Oddly, the regular season isn't closed and will resume after the playoffs, but that's where we are now.

The playoffs. Ah, yes. The chance for glory. The chance for someone coaching nine-year old kids in a rural town to make the cover of "Sports Illustrated". Yeah. And an equal chance that all of the local pigs will sprout wings.

When these guys die their obituaries might just mention that they worked with local youth in sports, but I can promise you that their win/loss records won't be a part of the obituary.

What sort of world do these boneheads live in?

There is one Minor League (9/10-year olds)team that is absolutely infamous. One manager I know, who is somewhat edgy himself, referred to them as "psychos". Abandoning all decorum as an umpire, I told another manager that the manager of the team in question is a pain in the a$$. He told me the guy lived two doors down from him and I had no idea just what a pain the guy could be. In other words, everyone in the league knows these guys are over the top.

Called a game for them a week or so ago and thought I was going to have to throw down with the first base coach. I had a talk with the commissioner after that and it turns out that the manager and both coaches had applied to be All-Star coaches. He yanked their applications, which means their kids probably won't make the teams now, either.

My biggest bone with these guys is that their attitude permeates the team. Coaches are supposed to set an example, and set an example they do. The parents and even kids on the team are boneheads. I had some nine-year old kid telling me in no uncertain terms what bases I should be covering that game. I felt like I had a hamster tugging at my pants leg or something.

Put myself on the schedule to call their game tonight. Not to "get" the manager, but because Minor League games are generally called by 13-year olds and these guys lean on them mercilessly. As it was I ended up shuttling umpire gear to another field and arrived about five minutes before game time. Someone had jumped in to call bases and the game was already underway, so I dropped off the gear and went down the hill where I knew another umpire was on his own.

We had a good game. It went both ways, one team dominated for the first two innings, then the other team came roaring back. Some of the usual stuff, where the first base coach waves his arms calling the runner safe when I knew he was out (and called him so), but very civilized. One or two comments from parents, but that's part of the deal.

Our game ended, so we walked up the hill to the concession stand for something to drink (it was brutally hot). The other umpire's brother was playing a game there and his mom is the team manager. So I hung out with him and watched the game.

Batter swings for the ball, umpire calls strike three. Now you can huff and puff all you want, but judgment calls are final. Someone not touching a bag is a concrete fact and can be appealed. Balls and strikes are judgment and are final. Period.

Psycho boy starts shouting that it was a foul tip, he heard it strike the bat. Walks past the umpire, entering the field without asking for time, and starts shouting at the other bench and pointing at people "It was a foul tip. Did you hear it? How about you? Did you hear it?". It wasn't my game, I was just a spectator, but I had on umpire gear and basically nobody knows exactly what authority umpires have and don't have so I blew and told him to get his posterior back to his box. When he got back to his box I called the plate umpire back to the backstop and told him I was here and would back him to the hilt and if that guy even looked at him funny again he was to eject him. Next batter struck out and psycho boy's team, the number one seed, lost to the last place team. Maybe there is a God.

I left right after the game, so I apparently missed the "good" part of the evening. Since it wasn't during the game and didn't involve umpires it falls into the "none of my business" category, but I understand it involved parents from the two teams and sodas from the concession stand. I can only conjecture. But this goes back to my assertion that the example set by the coaches sets the tone for the team. Granted, it possibly was set off by someone from the winning team, but I suspect not. I've experienced psycho boy's parents and they are not a class act. They lost to a team they theoretically should have clobbered, so I'm sure emotions ran high. In short, I strongly suspect the parents followed psycho boy's example. Nice, eh?

I already have a two-man crew scheduled for their next game. I'm going to be there to make it three. Not to "get" psycho boy (but I will eject him in a heartbeat), but because the more umpires, the less chance for controversy. And I want a loud, large adult as part of the crew...Yes, I fill that role admirably.

Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself as a moderator, pushing back parents and coaches who are in danger of wreaking havoc on their own kids' games. I should just be an umpire. But I can't allow adults to urinate all over their own kids' games just because they sucked at sports and want to live vicariously through Junior.

I love baseball. Unfortunately, it takes an adult to really screw up a kids' game.

Think I'm pissed? Yep.

Just wait 'til Friday.

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