On Saturday, my youngest son had his final “machine pitch” baseball game of the fall season. His team was facing a club that’s basically that … a club, an organization, a franchise at the youth level. Immediately I noticed that the coach of this opposing team was the same coach (and, yes, the same franchise) that I wrote about a couple of years ago for Metro Sports. His antics were basically the same. So, I wanted to dig out this column and re-read it. Decided to re-post, as well.
LONG LIVE SHOWMANSHIP!
A memo to the Mallory Holtmans and the NAIAs of the world. Sportsmanship is dead. Take it from a parent who’s now one of those parents. Sportsmanship is being replaced by showmanship in our smack-talking, highlight-driven sports society.
Maybe you remember the story of Holtman. She was a power-hitter for Central Washington’s softball team. Late last season, Central Washington, which had never reached the NCAA Division II tournament, trailed Western Oregon by one game in the standings. Holtman and her Central Washington teammates happened to be playing host to Western Oregon for a doubleheader.
During the second game, Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky, who had yet to hit a collegiate home run and who was 3-for-34 on the season, hit her first homer. Only problem is that out of excitement or euphoria or whatever, she missed first base. When she turned around to go back and touch, she tore her ACL.
The possibility of her scoring was bleak. If she were to be replaced, the runner couldn’t finish rounding the bases for her. She’d have to do it. Holtman stepped up and offered to help carry her opponent around the bases for the home run. Tucholsky touched every base with Holtman’s help and recorded her first — and only — collegiate home run.
Sorry, Holtman, that type of sportsmanship is no longer acceptable.
Same with the NAIA and its “Champions of Character” program. As the name suggests, “Champions of Character” promotes sportsmanship on and off the field or court for players, coaches and fans.
Sorry, NAIA, I’ve failed in my quest to help your initiative. I’m now officially one of those parents. You know the ones, the ones who constantly yell at the umpire because he called the pitch to little Johnny a strike. Clearly, from the stands, you could tell that it was outside the black of the plate. Those parents also bemoan to the coach about why little Johnny isn’t playing. After all, if he played more, he could have a college scholarship in eight years.
There’s no telling how many times I’ve made fun of those parents at a game.
Last week, I pretty much reached the verge of being one of those parents.
Here’s the scenario: my son plays on a team in 3&2. During this one game, they weren’t playing so well. In the third inning of a game, they were down something like 17-0. Offensively, they were hitting the ball right at the defense. And, defensively, at times they looked like Buttermaker’s Bears.
It didn’t help matters that the other team’s third-base coach, who was a short, um, stocky fella (no offense to shorter, stocky fellas) sent the runners as far as they could go any time my son’s team overthrew the ball or dropped the ball or otherwise just weren’t ready to make a play.
Hence the scoring imbroglio.
Needless to say, one of my son’s coaches, who understands the concept of “station to station baseball” — when you’re scoring at will and you have a comfortable lead, as a coach you just send runners from base to base on each play — was questioning this shorter, stocky fella.
After the inning, our coach tried to explain his stance. (Keep in mind, this is a little league complex. From the stands you can hear when a kid dips into his Big League Chew.) A minute or so into the discussion, the shorter, stocky fella said how he’s just teaching his kids how to play baseball “the right way.” And then, as he walked back toward his team’s dugout, he delivered a sarcastic line I never would’ve expected.
“Hey, I’m sorry your kids can’t catch.”
What? “Sorry your kids can’t catch”?
Really, coach? “Sorry your kids can’t catch,” is the best you can come up with?
Oh, by the way, we’re not talking about high school players here. Or sixth grade. Or even third grade. No, we’re talking about first graders!
So, this rotund coach is sorry that my kid and his first-grade teammates can’t catch?
Sportsmanship — or lack thereof — rearing its head.
Of course, at that moment I became one of those parents, at least deep down. (Sportsmanship, huh.) So did everyone else around me who heard those words: “Sorry your kids can’t catch.” So did my son’s coaches. I believe our team scored the maximum seven runs in the inning. Seems, when pressured with runners running, the other team’s first graders weren’t the second coming of Frank White and Amos Otis, either.
After all, they are kids. Young ones just learning how to play the game. And, kids, who, through their coach’s words, are missing at an early age the message of people like Mallory Holtman and the NAIA’s “Champions of Character.”
It’s much better to embarrass the other team and talk smack. Long live showmanship! Just ask the short, stocky fella.