Friday, May 16, 2008

Little League Player Benched Because Mother Failed to Work Concession Stand

When I read this today I just had to post it here. From the "yes this really happened" file....


Little League Player Benched Because Mother Failed to Work Concession Stand
Thursday, May 15, 2008

A 7-year-old Massachusetts boy was benched during his Little League baseball game because his mother failed to show up to work the league's concession stand, and the mother isn't happy about it.

Jodi Hooper of Freetown said she was unable to fulfill her obligation at the concession stand because she couldn't get time off from work, according to MyFOXBoston.
Dave Brouillette, head of the Freetown Youth Athletic Association, told MyFOXBoston that the concession revenues are necessary to fund the league's programs and that he has to enforce the rules, which require parents show up for their assigned concession stand shifts or risk suspensions for their children.

Brouillette told the station that he wasn't able to see his own son play because he had to cover the concession stand shift for Hooper, according to MyFOXBoston. Hooper told MyFOXBoston that she believed she could make up the assignment at another time if she missed one.

TV news report...

OK.. I understand the parents have an obligation and the league loses money if the snack bar isn't opened. But is this baseball league actually defending benching/punishing a 7 year old kid for this? OK we don't really know all the facts here. Maybe the Mom didn't let anyone know she wasn't going to make her shift. Maybe she's done this before and had been warned. There could be a number of items. However, I do not agree... at all... with benching a young kid as a punishment to the parents for not showing up at the snack bar.

In all my years involved with youth sports I have NEVER heard of this happening. The Mom obviously contacted her local Fox news affiliate because she knew it would get immediate traction.

Hopefully the result will be the league changing it's policy. How about making parents pay an extra $30 when they register their kid. If they don't show up for snack bar duty, they lose their 30 bucks.

Don't take it out on the kid.

Coach Bob

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Breaking Tough News To Your Baseball Team

One of the more difficult tasks as a parent is breaking bad news to your kids. We need to be sensitive to their age and awareness being careful to put things in perspective while trying to position the result as a learning experience.

When a kid doesn’t make a baseball team it can be very tough on them. Especially for younger kids who experience this for the first time. They may feel like they’ve failed themselves and you. They may also be subject the boasting and needling of peers who made the team.

First, take the pressure off them. They didn’t fail anyone. They tried there best and that’s what’s important.

It is important to try to turn a negative into a positive in these situations. If you feel your child didn’t perform at a level to make the team then you can offer a plan to prepare and improve for next year. Position it as an opportunity to get better at the game.

Some may feel their child has the abilities to make the team. Most of the time there is tough competition for the few spots on a baseball team. Some times there is a small difference in talent and ability between the players that make it and players that don’t. The positive explanation for your child in this situation is that they are a strong player… and there are many strong players in their age group. If you keep trying and keep practicing you will increase your chances of making the team next year.

Kids should never be told they didn’t make a team because they weren’t good enough. Rather they should be told they are a “good player who needs to improve in some areas and here is what we’re going to do to help you improve”.

You should also prepare your child to answer questions from his peers… have an explanation as to what he’s going to do to improve his chances next year.

Don’t be shy about asking the coach or group who selects the teams to give you some feedback on areas where your child needs to improve. This will help you develop a plan with your child to help give them a chance next year.

The bottom line is to plan ahead what you’re going to say to your child with the goal of turning it into a positive. As tough as it may seem these are some of life’s harder lessons. Teaching your child positive ways how to handle these situations is the best thing you can do for them.

Coach Bob

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Many Faces of Youth Baseball Umpires

Let me start by saying most of the experiences I’ve had with umpires while coaching youth baseball have been positive. These folks do a great job and help keep the game alive at the youth level.

During my years of coaching youth baseball I’ve experienced many different umpire personalities. Helpful, harmful, sometimes clueless, totally sharp, loud, subtle, entertaining, annoying… umpires come in many different packages.. all of them human. Here are just a few experiences with our favorite blue fixture of the diamond…

Youthful Ignorance…

I’m coaching a 9 year old travel team during a local town tournament. It’s one of the first tournaments of the summers so we’re all getting the rust out. We’re in the semi-final playoff game for our flight playing a strong team from the host town. The tournament is notorious for using teenaged umpires which is not the favorite of most coaches but for the most part the kids call a good game. However in this particular case we run across a strange issue. Our team is in the field ahead by one run in the 3rd inning of a 6 inning game. Bases loaded, 2 outs… ground ball to the 2nd baseman who makes an easy 4-3 play.. out of the inning right, with no runs given up right? WRONG! The umpire who has yet to start shaving shouts “out at first, runner on third scores”. The opposing team yells out… “Tie Game!”. My coaches and I look at each other with perplexed faces. I make my way over to the teenager and ask “blue, force play at first right? Runner doesn’t score, right?” He responds “coach, I made my call”. I maintain my cool and explain “son, with bases loaded, 2 out, if the defense makes a put out at any base the run does not score.”. To which he replies…”coach, I made the call, lets have a batter”. Now you would think the opposing coach would chime in with the right call.. but no such luck. Luckily for me I know the person who runs the tournament who by the way is also the head of umpires for their league. “Where is Mr. Doe today?” I ask. “He’s umping the game over on that field” the kid says. Now the other field is about 300 yards away. “ Son, I can’t a batter in the box until you confirm your ruling with the head of umpires. So will you please go ask him what the correct ruling is?”. The kid looks at me with fierce eyes knowing he doesn’t have a choice because teen umps are told to ask adult umps if the coaches question a critical call during the tournament game. The kid reluctantly stops the game and jogs over the other field to consult with Bill. After a quick discussion with Bill, he returns to our field and says “batter’s out, no run scores, let’s play ball”. “Thanks Blue” I say and I explain to my kids what happened. The games goes on from there with about 3 questionable calls favoring our opponents but I guess that’s to be expected. We end up winning the game by one run.

Having a Bad Day…

While coaching a 12 year old rec league team one of our players hits a ground ball to 3rd. I notice that he lightly tosses the bat back and lands about 5 feet away from the home plate umpire. The batter is thrown out at 1st. As he’s jogging back to the dugout the umpire calls me over from the 3rd base coach’s box. He calls the batter over as well and says to the kid in a threatening nasty tone “If you throw that bat again I’m throwing you out of this game”. Now this was an obvious over reaction to a simple mistake. This kid is a sold player who never throws the bat. There is really no need for this guy of about 58 years of age to strike fear into the heart a 12 year old over an accident. As the kid trots back to the bench noticeably shaken from lambasting. I say to the ump in private “Blue, I understand your point but I have to say your tone is uncalled for. That kid is a good player who never throws a bat. He made a mistake and I would appreciate it if you treat my players with the same respect you would expect from them.” He replies “I can talk to anyone anyway I like” to which I retorted in a calm tone “Your absolutely right.. you do have freedom of speech… but I have it also and if I use it to explain to the league how to you talk to kids I don’t think you’ll be getting too many more umpiring assignments”. With that he put his mask on and the game went on without anymore nasty scoldings. When my player asked… “I didn’t think I threw the bat…Is he going to throw me out of the game coach?”. “Nah” I said “that man is having a bad day and he took it out on you. You did nothing wrong… let’s play ball”.

A Perfect Pair…

My son’s 11U travel team is playing in one of the more competitive local summer tournaments. During one of games we happen upon a pair of umpires who happen to be brothers. These two proceed to put on the greatest demonstration of youth baseball umpiring I have ever seen. The home plate ump has strike and strikeout calls equal to Dutch Rennert (former MLB ump known for his demonstrative strike calls). Good pitches that resulted in strikes received his patented “OH YEAH!!” strike call. Ball were announces as “NOPE!!”. The base umpire punched out runners with splendid animation. It really gave the kids, coaches and parents a thrill to watch these two. After the game coaches from both teams took the time to thank these two for doing such a great job.

Coach Bob

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Learning Baseball By Example

I'm a big believer in kids learning by example. Watching others execute drills and plays helps ingrain a mental picture of the proper way to field, throw, swing, etc. When practicing with younger players I often like to have guest to demonstrate technique. For example when coaching an 11 year old team I would have 13 or 14 year old players help out with practice. I would hand pick kids who show a passion for baseball and can demonstrate skills and principles well. The younger kids look up to the older players and seem to give their undivided attention. I find that these sessions bring out the best in the younger players. In addition it gives the older kids a chance to gain more confidence in their abilities.

Another great thing a Mom or Dad can do is take your son or daughter to high school, college or minor league baseball games. These events normally allow you to get close to the action. Your player will have a chance to watch highly skilled players play the game. You will find that many young players will respond to this by incorporating some of the techniques they observe at these games.

We are lucky to have a minor league team within 30 minutes of our town. Each year I would invite players and parents from my team to watch at least one game per year. We would do this early in the season and I found that it set the tone well for the team. I also like to take my own kids to college and minor league games at least once a month. I truly believe this helped their baseball development.

Coach Bob

Friday, May 2, 2008

Little League.. What Are You Thinking?

I was reading through the 2008 changes to Little Leagues rules and found this curious note:

“A pitcher who delivers one or more pitches in a game cannot play the position of catcher for the remainder of that day.”

Can you believe this applies to ages 7 – 18? Are they serious? So if a 10 year old pitches to one batter and throws 5 pitches in the first inning he’s done as a catcher that day. Doesn’t this limit kids from becoming skilled at both pitching and catching?

So is it OK to pitch 5 innings, throw 80 pitchers then catch the entire game the next day… this rule allows this.

There are so many problems with this rule I can’t begin to write them.

I have to say this is one of the most absurd policies I have ever seen in youth sports. I hope LLB realizes it and retracts the rule. If my son was a pitcher/catcher playing in Little League I would be looking for a Cal Ripken league close by.

Now an acceptable rule would be if a player pitchers more than lets say 3 innings and throws more that X amount of pitches (fill in the X based on what’s appropriate for that age) he/she cannot catch the remainder of the game… and requires appropriate rest before pitching again.

Sometimes LLB just doesn’t get it.

Coach Bob

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hooray for 50/70 Baseball!

In 2007 Cal Ripken Baseball decided to increase the base and pitching distances for their Majors division which on the recreation level is primarily made up of 11 and 12 year olds. They also did this with the 12 year old District level. The idea was to offer a interim step for kids moving up to the “big field”. After going through a season of recreation and travel baseball coaching on this new field configuration here are a few observations…

Because of the new age rules which resulted in older players playing in younger leagues, this increased size helps make the game more challenging for the older/larger/stronger players. Pitchers learn to how to hold runners on and about balk rules…Catchers and infielders learn to make adjustments when runners are on base… Base runners learning to lead and read pitchers… All in all learning these skills a year earlier may keep kids in the game longer. Moving up the big field is hard enough without having to learn the new pitching / leading / base running skills at the same time.

One consideration leagues should make when constructing their 50/70 fields is to move the fences back to 220’. The normal 200’ fences are too short for the 12 year olds who now have 4 more feet to react to pitching. Games can become home run fests which doesn’t really help the kids learn the game. Also, having the shorter fence cuts down on doubles & triples dramatically since outfielders can get the ball in to 2nd or 3rd from the fence fairly quickly. Towns should consider moving the fences back or adding height to them.

The other issue I noticed is that the 10 extra feet in the base paths seems to be more of an advantage to the runners vs. the fielders (mainly the catcher). Players are talking a lead of about 8-10 feet, therefore they are still stealing a 60 foot base. Catchers however have to throw an additional 8 feet to 2nd. Thus teams with aggressive running strategies seem to gain an advantage. I guess the positive part of this is it teaches pitchers, catchers and infielders to be more aware of base runners.

This year CRB has decided to allow 11 year olds to play 50/70 in district competition. We’ll see how this experiment turns out. Note.. For both 11s and 12s CRB has a 46/60 district tournament as well. Leagues can have separate teams participating at both levels..

For reasons I can’t understand Little League Baseball has not yet adopted 50/70 for the 11/12’s age group. One would think they would dovetail CRB’s idea fairly quickly but again in 2008 they will have their traditional 45/60 field for all 12 and under divisions. I’ve noticed a number of towns switching charters from Little League to Cal Ripken probably due to this issue. LLB needs to move forward with 50/70 ASAP. While they might have to reconfigure Howard J. Lamade Stadium in the long run it will help all of the kids who play under the Little League umbrella.

All in all the 50/70 experience is a positive one. It keeps the kids interested in the game by adding some complexity and skill requirement at an earlier age. It also helps kids develop and learn the skills needed to play on the big field.

Coach Bob