I went to a White Sox vs. Orioles baseball game recently and left appalled by the lack of sportsmanship. The players acted appropriately, but a team manager exhibited shocking behavior.
In the second inning, the Orioles’ manager jumped from his dugout to berate the umpires, convincing them to throw a White Sox player out of the game. The player in question was good — it was a definite advantage to have him tossed — but he probably wasn’t ready for that kind of major league treatment.
He is, after all, just 9 years old.
I am assistant coach of my son’s team. We play in Lyndon, where the people in charge generally do a nice job of making every youngster — no matter their skill level — feel included. The rosters have more than nine players. Every kid bats, even as they all rotate on and off the field for defense.
The goal is to give every kid a chance to play in this recreational league.
One of our players had a soccer game before baseball. We knew he would be late, so when his first turn at bat came we took an out and moved through the lineup. He arrived shortly after and took his spot at shortstop in the next half inning.
That’s when the adults running the other team rushed the field, demanding his expulsion. The teenage umpires understandingly wilted, thrust into a confrontation they never anticipated when signing up for some easy summer cash.
The shortstop in question — whose mother moved heaven and earth to get him from soccer to baseball, out of one uniform and into another — hung his head and trudged off the field. The opposing manager smirked and exited, believing he’d just pulled off a coup worthy of recognition in Cooperstown’s archives.
His message: win at all costs, even if it means demanding that a 9-year-old kid be barred from a baseball diamond. I was outraged by the lack of sportsmanship and his poor example, as were many other parents.
To make sure I wasn’t looking at this all wrong, I consulted John O’Sullivan, founder of “Changing the Game Project,” an organization dedicated to improving the atmosphere in youth sports. John is a prolific speaker and author, and a former serious athlete himself.
“This is an example of everything that is wrong in youth sports. A game amongst 9-year olds is supposed to be about children competing against other children, not adults competing against other adults through their children. There is no chance that 20 years from now any of those kids remembers the score of that game. They will remember adults acting like children, and the embarrassment that one boy felt that day will stick with him a long time. Any adult who thinks this is about being competitive knows nothing about competing, and even less about why children show up to play,” O’Sullivan tells me.
The poor child, I am told, was indeed embarrassed and barely slept that night.