Friday, May 26, 2006

My latest baseball email, word for word:


I hadn't planned to be Junior/Senior Commissioner this year. Last year's stint as Umpire Coordinator nearly killed me. I had every intention of sitting on my fat posterior and enjoying baseball this year, but I got a last minute call asking if I'd take the commissioner position and couldn't turn it down. I want the guys to have a quality baseball season. I'm not the best commissioner in the world by a long shot--I'm about to lose my mind over rescheduling games among other issues.

Having put my own shortcomings on the line I'd like to address two issues, one which some people will regard as minor and one which I will remain adament about.

The (seemingly) minor issue is the flag. I think baseball should be played underneath an American flag. As far as I know, the flag gets flown only when I put it up and I was dismayed to find that when I put it up last Saturday, the teams which followed never bothered to take it down. I can't make anyone put it up or take it down, but I think it would project a nice image if we flew the flag during games and then took it down and stored it properly until the next game. As a former Boy Scout and soldier I can give lessons on how to fold it if need be.

Ok, off of my soapbox. Now for the real reason I am writing this email.

I received a call from John ---- (umpire, and a damned good one) tonight about the game. John feels that the base umpire took a lot of heat and John told me that as far as he's concerned every one of the calls could have gone either way. He said that the guy called a good game. I have tremendous respect for John's judgement, and if he feels that the base umpire called a good game, I'm going to go with it.

As I said, I didn't ask to be commissioner and I know I'm not very good at it, but I am the commissioner for better or for worse. I purposely did not look at the schedule to see who played tonight, and I won't. This warning is for everyone:

I will not tolerate coaches, managers or parents giving umpires a hard time. If you want to discuss a call in a rational manner, that's fine (Bear in mind that judgement calls are not open to discussion, period). Little League Baseball is about imparting a love of the game, teaching kids how to play, teaching teamwork, teaching sportsmanship, encouraging them to put their heart in it and play hard, teaching them how to win with dignity and lose gracefully. When you die your obituary might note that you were active in youth sports--it won't post your win/loss record.

Part and parcel with developing young baseball players is developing young kids who have an interest in officiating the game as well. Jumping all over young, budding umpires does the game no favors. It just makes them quit. We are suffering from a serious dearth of umpires. By contrast, the Jaycees, where my daughter plays, have no shortage of umpires. The umpires there are treated with great respect despite the fact that I can tell you as a former softball umpire myself that they are not even as good as our 13-year old umpires. They don't call games in a "professional" manner and often make bad calls. BUT--they are afforded respect and never badmouthed in front of the girls.

Our job is to develop young boys (and girls). Beating up on the umpires does nothing to that end. What coach has never signaled a player to steal only to have the player picked off? Likewise, umpires sometimes boot calls. But until you're perfect, lay off the umpires.

John often briefs managers before the game with this line: "You get two warnings, and this is your first". I'm following in that vein. Yes, I know that sometimes something outrageous occurs on the field, but 99.9% of the time it's a good guy doing his best to call a good game.

Let's have a good time and play some baseball.


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