Today I was coaching third base in Little League. Nomar Jr hit a sharp grounder to third, which was fielded cleanly by the 3rd baseman. She (yes, a girl) air mailed the throw to first which resulted in Nomar ending up at second and a run scoring. The opposing coach came out and yelled at this poor girl, instructing her to not attempt any more throws to first.
I was incensed. It's youth baseball, the point is to teach the kids how to play. How the hell is she supposed to learn if the asshat coach is instructing her not to try in an attempt to improve his chance of winning the game. Last year in Pee Wee ball I expected the kids to attempt the throw to first even though there wasn't a kid on the team that could actually throw it that far. It didn't matter - they can learn what to do, even if they can't actually do it yet.
The next inning he was yelling again when she was not in position to take a throw at third because she had ranged to her left to try and field the ball. Actually, I thought she made a decent play. You can't expect a 9 year old to instantly know the shortstop will make that play. As soon as she realized he was going to catch it she headed for third. The shortstop threw the ball to third, hitting her in the back. If anybody was at fault (and really, nobody was) it was the shortstop. The kid fielded the ball and threw it to the correct base. That is really all you can ask for at this age. I came very close to speaking up at that point, but I didn't. Where are her parents? I can guarantee you the first youth coach the treats my kids that way will hear about it immediately. There won't even be any waiting for the end of the game. I did wait for her to pass after the inning and I told her I thought she was doing great. I'm sure it was the only positive reinforcement she heard all day. Part of the reason I volunteer to coach is defensive - to avoid asshat youth coaches that are trying to make up for their own failures as athletes. My concern is not the kid's ego- that will survive. It's the thought that a potential lifelong love of a sport like baseball can be ruined in childhood by some hyped up parent determined to win at all costs.
I have three simple goals for every team I coach.
- Have fun.
- Improve as a team every game.
- Improve individually every game.
The interesting thing is that when we focus on those three things, we tend to win a lot of games anyway.
Oh, and we did win the game 7-4. Nomar Jr. was 2-3 with a walk and 3 RBI's, including the game winning RBI.
Tomorrow we play for the league championship against a team with 3 illegal players. The city knows, they don't care as they don't have time to police the rules. The rules specifically say that you can't play in another league at the same time. The purpose is to avoid superstar studs from AAU or American Legion baseball who are way above the talent level in the city league.
The illegal players are all playing AAU concurrently to the city league. We've played them twice and managed 1 hit in two games. I don't think I could hit their pitching. These kids are throwing 60 mph from 36 feet away. If you do the math, that is about the same reaction time for the batters as they have in professional baseball.
Little League - 60 mph traveling 36 feet = .409 seconds travel time
Pro ball - 90 mph traveling 60 feet = .456 seconds travel time.
Shit. it's actually more difficult to hit in Little League!
And what lesson are these kids learning? That it's OK to cheat, as long as you win.
Great job coach.