The other day, the question was posed to me, “Why don’t you write more about baseball?” At the moment of questioning, I didn’t really have an answer. I thought to myself, “Who would want to hear me talk about baseball?” Then again, who really wants to hear me talk about hunting and fishing? After some thought over the course of a few days, I came up with some reasons as to why I so seldom write about my “real job”.
Before I begin, let me make it clear that I love what I get to do. If there’s a better job than getting to be on a baseball field each day I’d like to hear about it. That’s not saying that there aren’t bad days, they happen. On the other hand, even though I’m around college baseball every day, there are times when I do not recognize the game. Players are different, coaches are different, and parents are especially different. We live in an entirely different world than we did just a few years ago, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Since I mentioned players first, let’s start there. Folks, I’m seeing things happen on the diamond now that would have gotten someone killed 20 years ago. The constant disrespect of one’s opponents is mind boggling to me. The bat flips, the stare downs, the all bark but no bite yapping. It blows my mind. When and where did all of this start? All of the aforementioned scream, “Look at me!” Many, not all, players today are more concerned with their batting averages, or their ERA’s, than they are the team’s success. We’ve had guys that could go 4-4, lose the game, and be satisfied. It’s the world of “it’s someone else’s fault.”
There will be those that argue that the players should be able to express themselves. Since when did throwing your bat 15 feet in the air after hitting a ball become an acceptable form of expression? When did staring down, or making motions, at a hitter you just struck out become an acceptable form of expression? People dismiss the “act like you’ve been there before” mantra, but the game was better when players actually acted like they had been there before. I blame two things for this selfish behavior: Major League Baseball and travel ball. The difference in the two is (1) players are getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to play, and (2) parents are paying a ridiculous amount of money to play.
Before I attack parents, let’s get to coaches. I think it’s some sort of pre-requisite to have an active Twitter account before you can be a coach now. I, myself, have an account, but I’m not sure I’d call it very active, and I’m dang sure not giving out unsolicited advice on there. Thank goodness I have an account though, or I’d never know how to coach baseball. The social media gurus sure have come in handy when I need to know how to fix a swing, or need to know what flavor powerade is best for throwing 90mph. I’m hoping one of them posts a tutorial on how to paint a straight foul line. That could be beneficial to the longevity of my career.
Parents, ah parents. Let me ask you a question, what are you doing? When we were growing up it cost $20 to play baseball for the summer. That even included the uniform. Now you’re spending $20 on parking for each weekend tournament. Toss in the money you’re spending on that expensive travel ball team, uniforms, equipment, private lessons, gas, hotels, and food and you could send your kid to Harvard. I’d be willing to bet if you added up all of the money you’ve spent on travel baseball through the years that it would cost more than any education at Mississippi’s public colleges, and probably more than the private ones, as well. So what’s your end game here? Is travel baseball some sort of new status symbol? And let’s not even talk about the fact that when today’s players get to college they know less about the game than the players of old that played good ol’ rec ball.
Since I mentioned travel ball and weekend tournaments, let’s talk about that for a second. Is it really necessary to play 5-6 games in two days? Is it really necessary for these games to begin at 9:00 on Sunday morning? I heard a travel ball coach tell me they do a devotional on Sunday morning for their players. Um, how about you tell them to go to Church, instead? Maybe that’s why humility and respect for one’s opponent has fallen by the wayside. Fear not, though, this can be fixed. I’ve heard far too many parents gripe about the Sunday morning games, but they give in and go because they don’t want their kid to miss out. Believe me, I understand. But what if parents started to refuse to play on Sunday morning? I bet that these money hungry tournament organizers (that really don’t care about your kid) would figure out a new way to make it work.
Folks, now is the time to stop trying to create a five tool ballplayer, and it’s time to start trying to create a five tool human being. Teach your kids humility, work ethic, kindness, selflessness, and most of all, priorities. Look around you, baseball isn’t the only thing suffering a lack of core values. Wanna know why I don’t write much about baseball? Because baseball, like so many things in this fallen world, is changing for the worst, and it breaks my heart to think about, much less write about it. Let’s do our part to fix it before it’s too late.