Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The end of infield chatter

I do not hide the fact that I do not approve of organized athletic activities for youth and children. I have my own demons to blame for some of it. But as I watch the growth of organized programs, I see the life, fun, and passion for athletic activities being sucked out and replaced with rigid professionalism.

The latest victim - infield chatter.

You know the traditional chatter - "Hey batt-a-batt-a-batt-a, swiiing batta." Occasionally you'd hear things about a pitcher's arm. Most times it is to intimidate the batter into swinging poorly or get the pitcher riled so they can't pitch with accuracy. But here is an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Knothole Club of Greater Cincinnati has decided to eliminate "chatter." Unless the chatter is "positive" and directed at your own team. You can't say "We want a pitcher, not an underwear stitcher!" unless, maybe, you grew up in a culture that idolizes underwear stitchers. Standings for the Feelgood Division of the Self Esteem League will be available any time now...

Knothole follows the Rules of Major League Baseball. Rule 4.06(a)(2) states, "No manager, player, substitute, coach, trainer or batboy shall at any time, whether from the bench, the coach's box or on the playing field or elsewhere, use language which will in any manner refer to or reflect upon opposing players, an umpire, or any spectator."

So we have to make sure that 10 and 12 year olds follow the same rules as the MLBA. So for all of you parents out there getting your future Darryl Strawberry's steroid regimens prepared, you may want to lay off because random drug tests are soon.

Yes, I think this is ridiculous. The reason for the rule is this:

Proponents of the new edict say it was a necessary response to increased incidents of taunting. They cite one especially ugly example from June, involving a game in Colerain Township between two teams of 14-year-olds in the A-2 division. One parent received 15 stitches after a player whacked him on the forehead with a metal-spiked baseball shoe.

The incident began with a coach being ejected for arguing a balk call and escalated into a full-scale brawl.

Apparently these days, one kid's "no batt-uh" is another kid's "let's throw down."

"We didn't want Knothole to get a bad name for anything," Knothole president Dave Epplen explained. "If you're saying, 'Swing, batter,' and this poor little kid is swinging at everything, he feels bad and maybe he turns to the catcher and gets mad. Honest to gosh, I didn't have any trouble doing this."

Our youth watch professional league players and parents. They have seen that the only way to cope with frustration and deal with conflict is to make it violent. Notice that it was a coach who started the fight and it was a parent involved in the fracas that was injured. So it sounds like a better rule may be that:
no adult shall say anything negative about another adult or child, actively involved in the game or not; nor shall they act like a complete buffoon, moron, idiot, rage-filled maniac, or professional wrestler at any time when youth or children or any person of worth is in their presence.
Any youth league has my permission to use this rule freely in their bylaws. As long as anyone who breaks this rule is forced to some heinously stupid and utterly humiliating punishment.

The fun is gone. If you want to see baseball as it should be, rent The Sandlot. That is how kids should be playing baseball.
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