Friday, June 10, 2005

A study in contrasts, as they say.

Got to see the best and worst in youth sports this evening.

Had a game tonight involving the team that I've already ranted about--worst coaching staff in the league. A collection of the biggest jerks you can imagine, all gathered together on one team.

I had two umpires scheduled for the game. Two is good--almost extravagant. If I can manage to schedule just one umpire to every single game on a given day, things are going well. Two umpires to a game is fat city. I had two 15/16 year olds assigned to call a game involving 9/10 year olds. Standard practice. The teenagers work the younger leagues and gain proficiency before they move up to the older leagues. Based on the bahavior of the coaching staff of the Indians, I decided to put myself in as a third. More umpires = less grounds to challenge calls, and putting an adult on the field would give them some defense against the boneheads on the Indians.

I'm glad I did it. To give you some background, the reputation of the Indians' staff is such that the district umpire supervisor was at the game to jump in in case no adults were on the crew. He called me as I was walking across the field to get to the diamond. I told him I was on the way and he said fine, but he hung out at the game to "observe". Now, I say I'm glad I was there. Had I not been there, Gary (the district guy),would have jumped in and done a better job than I could dream of doing, but he had a game to go to a bit later, so he couldn't have done the whole game.

Given that, I'm glad I decided to do the game. The Indians were ahead the entire game, but cried like babies at every call. Eventually, we got to "that" call. Base umpire awarded an extra base to a runner due to a ball thrown out of play. All hell broke loose. I waded into it and rather assertively announced that the call was correct and we needed to get back to playing ball. They retreated, but continued to mewl and whimper behind the fence. They played that game where you say things to one another within earshot of the umpire. I'm married, so I'm immune to that, but it was beginning to get to the guy I had calling first base. I didn't realize that until we were talking during a break between innings. I'd have called time and issued him his one and only warning had I known. As it was, during this break first base coach went and whined to the district guy. I could see the body motion and hand language and knew the district guy was telling him to sod off, but Snake Eater Jr., being a pretty smart guy, maneuvered himself in that direction and was able to report to me that the district guy backed us up.

They were subdued after that, but after the game ended I realized that first base boy (who looks just like a large Ken doll) was still looking through the rule book. He walked by the league commissioner and announced "I still want to talk to you about this".

I've heard of sore losers, but I've never heard of sore winners before...

Now here's the contrast:

The other team, the Mariners, had only nine kids. Some were apparently ill, don't know about the others, or even if there were others.

Just before the game their third baseman unloads lunch next to the bench. The coach is caught in a conumdrum: In regular season play you can put eight players on the field, you just take an automatic out every ninth batter. However, local rules state you must field nine players in playoffs. If he calls the game off, it's a forfeit. If he plays one full inning, it's a reschedule. Does coach go up to the kid and say "Tough it out for the team boy"? (there's a place for that, but not with three-foot high kids). Nope. He goes to the kid's mom and tells her he'll rely on her judgement. Talk with the kid and let me know. Kid has just barfed, so he feels ok. Play ball.

Kid lasts the first inning, so the coach asks him how he feels. Ok. Start second inning.

Make it to the top of the fourth inning and the poor kid loses it again just as the first pitch of the inning is about to be thrown. I called time and the coach talked with the kid for a minute. He came back to me and told me that the kid felt he could last the rest of the inning (games are six innings, but are considered complete at four if they have to be called for any reason).

They were losing at this point. The coach told me the kid had given him four innings and he just couldn't ask him to keep giving. He went on to say that if they were still losing at the end of the inning, he'd take the loss. Game over. If they managed to pull ahead, he'd find some way to keep the game going for the sake of the other team.

I went over to the Indians' bench and told their manager what was going on. Now, if ever there was a moment to be gracious, this was it. Instead, he tried to stare into my eyes and said "He needs to find out why the rest of his team isn't here". Ok, Mr. Manager. It's the fourth freaking inning, he's offered to let you win, and you think he needs to start making phone calls that he's probably already made. There's a stomach virus going around (in case you missed the third base incident...). He has what he's gonna have and the top of the fourth inning is a bit late to suggest that he needs to interrogate his missing players. You get the Einstein Award, sh*t for brains.

The bottom of the fourth found them still behind, the coach called the game and it was done.

Your assignment: Compare and contrast the behavior of the two coaches. One was ahead the entire game and cried like a baby at every call, the other was more concerned with the well being of his kids and accepted a loss rather than keep an ill child on the diamond.

Oh, and lest you be led down a different path, the bad coach mostly raised hell with his kids and the good coach was very involved in the game and called for time frequently to go out and talk with his pitcher, make adjustments, etc. He was as involved with the game as you could be.

My consolation is that the bad coaches had applied to coach All-Star teams and I managed to get their applications pulled and now bad manager has apparently announced that he's finished with Little League and won't be back. Not a loss, trust me.

1 comment:

JACK ARMY said...

I used to referee soccer in San Antonio and saw stuff like this all the time. It is sad that some grown men don't understand how to coach boys. It's not the same as coaching other men. Also, they don't seem to get the "it's a game" concept. Sad.