I watched it all go down from the safety of inside the concession stand, working my volunteer hours for my kids’ teams.
The kid was out, but the Little League coach wasn’t hearing it. I don’t know exactly what was said as I filled cup after endless cup of slushies for children who seemingly have more money than I do, but I saw the umpire reach his boiling point. I saw his finger point to the sky. “You’re outta here!” I saw the two of them leave the field and “close talk,” but not in the way I close talk people when I’m really excited to be talking to them. No, these two weren’t excited to be talking to each other.
They were mad.
I chuckled a little bit as the scene from my favorite movie, A League of Their Own, popped into my head. From about 1:28 in this video clip on, well, that’s what went down on the Little League fields on evening this season.
Except it’s not.
I looked back at the field as the kids stood there, uncomfortably. Some chuckling, because we all default to uncomfortable chuckling when a situation warrants it. Some stoic. Some confused. Some visibly annoyed with the interruption in play, because they weren’t here to watch their coach throw a hissy fit about a botched call. They were there to play baseball.
To. Play. Baseball.
Because they’re kids. This group of kids was, at the oldest, 12-years-old. They’ve started to learn for themselves that umpires are human beings, that bad calls are made, but that there’s always another inning to be played, another game to win or lose. They are right in the middle of making decisions whether or not they want to stick with the game, whether they’d rather spend the first month of their summer lounging pool side or dealing with coaches who yell and scream and act like toddlers. These are the days that matter when it comes to sticking with a sport. They’ve learned the fundamentals. They’ve learned the rules. They’ve already learned to love the game, but whether or not they stick with it is based on how they are treated by the adults around them, the ones that are supposed to support them, show them how to act when things don’t go the way you want them to go. If we want to make the argument that kids who are involved in sports make healthier choices, then we need to do better for our children on and off the field.
The whole ordeal took at least ten minutes to sort out while the umpire and coach kept arguing until one of the Little League Powers That Be could make it up to the field and sort out the mess. When all was said and done, the coach remained ejected.
This year, players, coaches, and even parents had to sign a code of conduct contract, stating that we would act with good sportsmanship. No taunting players. No yelling at coaches from the bleachers. No coaches yelling at umpires. No purposefully hurting other players. It was a problem last year, and the league is working to solve the problem. Except we have grown adults out on the field exemplifying everything we don’t want our children to be.
I get it. Coaches are also human. They’re also volunteers. They also make mistakes. If this was an isolated occurrence, fine. But I see the same over-competitive streak in certain coaches at the t-ball level. When I watch a coach yell at a 5-year-old about anything, I get upset. Yes, they’re going to twirl and pick dandelions and stare at a cloud floating by—they’re five. years. old. Yes, it means that the inning takes eons, but it’s t-ball. It’s not the MLB. They’re there to have fun, learn a little bit about baseball, about being on a team, about respecting a coach who should also respect them, and to participate in something. They’re not there to win. Not yet. Give them a chance to learn to swing a bat, throw a ball, learn that you run to first base first, second base second, third base third, then run home. (Thanks, Froggy!) Give them a chance.
I am thankful that we have two coaches for t-ball and coach pitch again this year that focus on learning, on fundamentals, and on the fun of baseball. I’m watching my two little boys fall in love with the sport, and I can only hope that they continue to have amazing coaches. I know they’re getting support and love at home when we play in the yard. I can only hope that the kids who aren’t getting it on the field can find their support elsewhere.