Friday, August 11, 2006

Who's right?

The dad of an aspiring young baseball player is upset that the opposing team intentionally walked the batter before his son. The father feels that the coach walked the team's slugger knowing that his son was weaker. The coach was picking on the weakling. His cry of injustice has been heard by the likes of Rick Reilly.
I've played Little League baseball and coached Little League baseball. I've had the hitter in front of me walked to get to me. I've intentionally walked a hitter to get to another. It is part of baseball, youth or Major League.
But wait, the kid who eventually strikes out is a cancer survivor. Now it is much more than a strategic move to get around the team's slugger. Now it is "society's incivility." The kid has already experienced the hard lessons of life, why does he have to be taught this one? What are we teaching our kids? Words like jackassery are tossed around because the kid is weak and was picked on.
Okay. Now, let's step back from all the emotions and try and look at this situation objectively. First from the view point that one of the main goals of Little League baseball is to teach kids how to play baseball. Intentionally walking a power hitter is part of the game. Ask Barry Bonds, David Ortiz, or Albert Pujols. All have been walked to get to the next batter, who, presumably, is less likely to come through with the hit. Strategically, the coach is making the right move.

Second, let's look at it through the eyes of society--the strong picking on the weak. What I see, is a father who has good intentions for his kid, but is just as mean as he believes the opposing coach is. The father expected his kid to fail because he was "weaker." The father placed this label on his own kid. Your kid surived cancer, he's not weaker. He might not be as good of a baseball player, but he certainly isn't weaker than the other kids.

Believe me, I hate to see people getting bullied. I've had words with other coaches who allowed their team to showboat or run up a score. In baseball, youth or Major League, there is a code of conduct for how to treat the opposing team when you are stomping them. And trust me, if a Major League team felt that they were getting shown up, you can count on a few fastballs high and tight. But in this case, I see it as a coach who is put in a no win situation. If he pitches to the slugger, and the slugger wins, he's let his team down on the athletic side of things. Those kids aren't going to know that the coach "did the right thing," whatever that means. They will remember losing.
And in doing what he did, he opened himself up to criticism that he is a mean ogre.

In terms of education, we must always walk this line. We live in a world that can't hurt anyone's feelings, even if what you are saying is the correct thing to say. We are teaching kids that it is okay to blame someone else for their failures. That society is uncivil if it beats you at something. We are teaching our kids that the world must accomodate them, instead of persevering. No one is smarter than another person. We are all equal in every way.


At 11:22 AM , Blogger graycie said...

Read Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut.

The attitude you describe is pervasive and hurts every kid who is taught that he/she is entitled -- whether it's to never having feelings hurt or to receiving taxpayers' money to live on. I'm about ready to declare, "Ain't nobody entitled to nuthin.' Ever. Just shut up and do what you're s'posed to."


At 8:57 PM , Blogger School Master P said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who believes there is a bit of a smear job going on with this story.

I blogged about this today as well, because the way the story was being presented was irritating me so much - before I even got to the computer and read about it in detail, I just knew that the sports pundits and media broadcasters were only interested in finding a guy they could blast for a while.

From the sound of it, the kid will be just fine, and his dad has made things far worse than they might have been before. Hey, your kid struck out. If you want him to live as normally as possible, dust him off and get him back out there next year.

At 6:58 PM , Blogger Coach Brown said...

We must be on the same wavelength because I blogged about this and I have the same opinion.

Anyone who disagrees should read the last few lines of the article.

At 7:48 PM , Blogger jg said...

I've been thinking about this a lot and finally think I've made up my mind. First off I love the last few lines. Good attitude and that's important.

My final conclusion is I want more information. I figure there are two situations:

One, the cancer survivor is seriously hampered by the damage of the cancer and he is far and away less skilled than his teammates. I'm talking more than just not so good at baseball but actually disabled from the cancer treatment. If this is the case shame on the coach for walking the star to pitch to this kid. That's like when the autistic child works with the basketball team all year and then finally gets his 3 minutes on the court but instead of letting him take some shots the other team double teams him everytime for an easy steal. Not cool.

The other option is he is just not that good and unfortunately has had cancer too, but the cancer didn't really impact his ability in baseball. If this is the case then I don't blame the coach at all. Yes I feel bad for the kid but that's the way things go.

I very much hope it was situation two.

At 2:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were to criticize anyone it would be the other coach. It is simple baseball knowledge that if you want your power hitter to see better pitches then you place other good hitters around him.

Why would a coach put this kid behind their power hitter? Seems as though he may have been trying to take advantage of his cancer recovery and make other teams feel bad about pitching around the slugger to get to him. Forcing teams to pitch to the slugger. Hey what do ya know and article is written to make the other coach feel like crap.

If the kid was that weak and wasn't a good hitter then put him in the 9 hole and you don't have a problem. You put him in the middle of the lineup during a championship game that matters and you have to expect this.

A coach is not going to put an autistic kid into a championship game in the final minutes when the score is tied if he hasn't played all year. Unless he has shown he can take the pressure. Now this would all be different if the score wasn't close or it was the championship game, then the coach may have acted differently but that was not the situation.


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