Let's Talk Little League

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Let’s Talk Little League
     
      So my oldest son plays the game. He enjoys playing it and like many other fathers and sons, it offers great time for bonding and such. He is 10 years old. This is his third year playing but his first year of kids pitching and keeping score. He previously played coach-pitch ball before. I have always volunteered as an assistant coach every year and I enjoy it for the most part. Full disclosure, I am writing this article out of totally biased frustration. The cat is out of the bag (whatever that means)… Let’s get started.

      First off, not enough kids today actually WANT to play baseball. I’m beginning to notice hands on at how as kids get older, less want to play. I mean when kids are 5, 6, 7 years it seems like there is an abundance of “daddy’s little man” and “put er’ there tiger” expressions. This year our team started out with 11 and to get that was like begging people to do it. Of course as the season drew closer one kid dropped out due to parents not wanting to actually pay for it. Another kid it just seems like never shows up. The mother always has something going on or a reason why she can’t bring him. The head coach is really good about offering to pick up kids if needed but she just doesn’t allow it. This causes problems on game-days when that kid is one of 3 of our capable pitchers and we need him.
      The attitude kids have nowadays (and at this age) is strange because I can remember being ten years old and being hyper and active and full of what at the time I thought was knowledge, but I remember being respectful toward adults. We have a team with about 5 kids who play hard and want to get better and play as a team. When you see these kids perform well it’s exciting because you’re watching them have fun. Go to the other 5 kids though and you have the bad news bears. These kids didn’t come to play. They came to make excuses. They didn’t come to win, they came for the snacks to follow the loss.

Motivating The Bad Seeds
      So how do you motivate kids who have no interest in the game? We started off just trying to have fun, then we noticed the bunch who likely have ADHD and can’t stand in the outfield for more than a minute without looking for cloud pictures in the sky. And I’m not insensitive to kids with short attention spans but am just irritated by it. We have 10 kids on this team. Let’s say they’re in the middle of a game and they’re losing by a few runs. We really need the defense to come through so as coaches we are yelling things like “Be ready infield” and “Outfield, be alive out there!!!” The ball is hit onto the ground and gets past the third basemen on a diving effort that slips into the outfield edge of the grass. It is practically at the left fielder’s feet and he doesn’t even realize it because he has the glove covering his face, twisting his waist left to right as fast as he can. 2 runs score on this play and before he realizes he has a play, he picks up the ball, throws a horrible throw to third base that rolls halfway to the catcher and we have an inside the park 3 run homerun. You can’t sit em, we have nobody to replace him. And also he is not the only one in the outfield dancing and picking flowers.
      So aside from the kids we try to hide in the outfield that pick grass, throw dirt, toss their glove into the air, pick their nose, stand there with their arms crossed, bite their nails, we have a team that is hard to speak to. Before a game recently we gathered our team to discuss the previous loss and what we needed to focus on.  We told them to be quiet and listen. Of course immediately upon speaking it seemed like half the team had something to say. Most of the time a smart ass remark. As coaches we’re aggravated. We’re telling the outfielders that their job is to back up the infield. Back up your team mates if they can’t get to the ball then you have to! The common response is “I don’t wanna play in the outfield, it’s boring, the ball never gets hit out there” and I always tell them that the second they think it’s not coming out there is the second it comes out there. We just want the message to sink in and not be interrupted while we try to convey it.

Is It Just Me?
       Is it just me, or is there always that one kid who just absolutely will not hustle? Refuses to move with urgency? Refuses to apply the basic fundamentals to something as simple as stepping and THEN throwing? The kid who you have to tell time and time again where his position is despite the fact you’ve told him at least twice every practice and every game? Is this an attention thing where he just likes the reaction? The kid that you have to teach him how to stand in the batter’s box and hold a bat, and keep reminding him to keep his back elbow up and to step when he swings? Stop standing on the plate already! And tie your shoes for the one millionth time!  The kid who never seems to ever have a complete uniform? Comes to practice but doesn’t bring a glove, then comes to the game and doesn’t bring his hat. The kid who just won’t leave his shirt tucked in.  Or how about my favorite (not). The kid who constantly asks to play other positions they’ve never played during a game between every inning? (This is one of the kids who plays in our outfield). Okay, I’m done complaining about the kids who do not want to take winning seriously now.

Oh, You’re The Coach To!?
      How common is it for a coach (not me in this scenario, but the head coach) to have to go out of his way on his own time to make phone calls to the athletics committee to have a field dragged, or have a field lined for a game? It seems like this year our team drew the short straw or something. Our field is in a horrible neighborhood. It’s in a bad neighborhood I grew in and moved away from for that very reason. When you go there you get the vibe that someone may have overdosed by the swing-set recently and homeplate may or may not smell like cheap booze.  Recently we had to play a game about 2 hours after it rained. My son and I were sure it was cancelled but it didn’t so we show up to the field and it’s in terrible shape. Homeplate is ¾ submerged in water, second base has a huge puddle and the pitchers mound is a soupy slop of a mess. We were raking dirt for 45 minutes before we ever measured out the bags. We probably shouldn’t have played that game. The point here is, the coaches do a lot of extra stuff they probably shouldn’t have to do.

Closing Statement

      The parents can often be great to have cheering and whatnot but at every game there are the parents who just want to see their kids do well, but also are trying to coach from the crowd. If you’re one of these parents please stop it. Did you volunteer when you signed them up and you were asked? No, you didn’t… You said no because you want to watch so please do what you intended to do and just watch. Batter hits a dribbler that turns into a double. You’re telling your kid playing defense to throw it, coaches are yelling to hold it, and the kid hears all of this. Whose fault is it if the kid throws it? I’m looking at you parents. Sit back in your lawn chair and stop stepping on our toes. This has been the least fun of the three years we’ve been doing this. Easily the most aggravating. My son is even aggravated. I can see it in his face when he is playing second base and stops the ball and throws the 3rd base and the basemen drops it. Not saying my kid is perfect but he is one of the better kids on the team, which is why he is in the infield. We still have a good time as father and son but with the other kids there not taking it seriously we are just a little burned out I think. Hopefully as he gets older he will still want to play and there will be only kids who actually want to play.  Here is to hoping Bryce Harper successfully makes baseball fun again…


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