See the ball, hit ball, it isn’t that complicated!
Once again I’m fresh off another week of earning my Wander, Kentucky merit badge in the daily grind of life to see my daughter play softball. If you are scoring at home, since Monday alone I’m up to roughly 600 miles between my domicile, work, and the Anderson County, KY softball complex. Anymore I stop at truck stops just to feel like one of the boys when I need to make a pit stop. I’m currently pricing CB’s on Amazon and trying to think of a cute handle so my road compadres can refer to be as something other than “four-wheeler in the hammer lane.” I wonder if the Asphalt Cowboy is available. Can I get a ruling from the Citizen’s Band Commission on this?
With all this newfound windshield time, I’ve pondered many things: Who has the best fountain drinks, why did Jim Jones have to be from Indiana, and lastly what in the hell happened to youth baseball/softball? For arguments sake, I’m not going to focus on the ridiculousness that is travel ball. The geniuses that came up with the concept need to be prosecuted and publicly hung! What has travel ball done though? It has moved up the softball calendar a good month so the various Holiday Inn’s around the country can be sure to capitalize on a sure-fire revenue stream during the peak summer months of travel ball.
I live in the Midwest; you have a better chance of getting hit by a car than predicting the weather for anything outdoors in March, April, & sometimes May. So area Little Leagues bilk parents out of $50.00-$100.00 and many dollars more on equipment just to watch their little Susy get practice and many scheduled games constantly rained out. Back in my day, we didn’t start playing until at least May near the end of the school year. It was league play, All-Stars (if you survived Little League politics and actually made the team, but that is a story for another day), and if your All-Star team was any good, they would advance to the next round of the state tournament.
Since travel ball is so important to a select few, and the men/women that run these teams usually are pretty influential in the area Little League, for the “other” kids they have managed to start the clock as early as March now so the prime summer dates are open for various travel ball groups. OK, I promise I’m done ranting about travel ball.
My point is Little League is where kids started to see if they even had an interest in playing the game. Basic rules, fundamentals, and learning that rope licorice is delicious were the norm not so long ago. Since you don’t learn anything in T-ball (all parents of T-ballers, you may nod now), you’d think you would learn something in the next progression of Little League. Once you move up to “big girl” softball, however, you get no practice time and the games are a joke as many of the coaches are coaching the game like it’s a life or death competition. Seven and eight-year-old girls are not going to consistently throw and catch the ball like the New York Yankees. The way youth softball goes now is: Hit the ball and just keep running until you turn every play into a game of pickle. It’s bush league at its finest and teaches kids nothing but capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes. This is perfectly acceptable when you get older, but running like Jessie Owens just because one little girl throws it to the wrong base is stupid at this age. This is just what I experience watching Sloane play in the seven/eight-year-old division.
It gets even dumber watching Miss Madison Jr. play at the nine/ten-year-old level. Some leagues use pitching machines at that age, not Miss Madison Jr.’s! They have the kids pitch, which is akin to having me edit the Harvard Law Review in terms of stupidity. I watched a girl throw over 50 pitches (with horrible form, not her fault) in one inning. My uneducated guess was in two innings she threw over eighty pitches and had exactly four put into play! More balls are thrown at that level than at a good old donnybrook at a local pool hall. Who is this benefiting?
The fielders were busier imitating Picasso with dirt art than paying attention to the game. Hell, I was recruiting parents to play five card stud, instead of watching a Jerry Lewis telethon walkathon. Let me get this straight, registration was $70.00 for Miss Madison Jr. and for that Miss Madison gets to watch two hours of “ball four, take your base.” As an added note to the buffoonery, the kids are allowed to steal bases after the ball crosses the plate (except home), name me the last time you saw a catcher cleanly catch a ball before the age of 12! The “gravitationally” challenged girls get to look like Rickey Henderson on the base paths because passed balls/wild pitches are more apt than an Indiana pollen allergen!
For both of the age groups I just mentioned, just teach them the damn game and quit trying to prove that you are the next Sparky Anderson! Full Disclosure: Sloane’s coach last year was a travel ball ninja, coaching something like three different teams, but he taught her more in a few months (indoor practices can be amazing) than she had ever received and it’s paying off in spades this year watching her play. Most travel coaches though are only involved in Little League as a warm up for their child to get to live out their summer staying at the various Marriott’s of the world chasing a dream their mommy or daddy had planned out for them. Namely cheap trophies and bragging rights among parents at tea parties.
Look it up, your little princess is more than likely not getting a college scholarship to play softball, so quit ruining her summer at the age of ten! Except for Sloane; if the Yale thing doesn’t work out, I’m completely falling back on a Stanford scholarship offer for softball!
About it for now, there has been a disturbance in the force that seeks my attention, nothing to be alarmed about, denizens, so breath easy.