The Softball Paradox


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.

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  6. My tow kids are professional softball player….lol. They are very good at playing softball.
    They didn’t want to learn the rules, they just want to play by themselves.

  7. Well, at least your reflections are interesting! Lol!

    Get Sloane into lacrosse one day for a true college scholarship opportunity… 😉

  8. Well, I’m confused! But I think I’ve identified the problem – it’s all too complicated! You need to have kids playing rounders like we do here. It’s basically softball, but simple & no one is taking it seriously! 😀

  9. Jim Jones was from Indiana?? Never would’ve guessed. What a great sports Dad you are, Gary.

  10. Why not just “Skipah” as your handle?

    I’m with Anna, I’d read Harvard’s Law Review if you were editor too!

    Softball sounds way too complicated and not that fun for kids or parents. Thanks for sharing your thoughts as it helps to know ahead of time before our daughter gets older.

  11. First, what’s “travel ball”? Is it an American thing, or am I just completely in the dark up here in Canada? I keep picturing a ball, traveling, though I’m not sure where it would go.

    Up here, hockey is the game that gets all of that attention and fun (hotel stays, coach shenanigans, etc…). Personally, I’m quite thankful my son never wanted that lifestyle and chose swimming and karate at that age. I can’t imagine living it and, like Carol, I’m even more thankful now that my little George plays only one game. 🙂

    Good on you for doing all that you do!

    • travel ball is basically travelling all star teams that play in tournaments all over the country all summer. It’s a financial drain for many families and eats up whole summers.

  12. I would READ the Harvard Law review if you were editor…

  13. I only played khory league softball one year in before I started junor high. We won the tri state championship! (Not because of lousy catching or hitting ability, though). The reason I had so much problems is I needed to wear glasses. Didn’t find that out until I prepared to leave for college. Wear bifocals now!

    Hated road trips with the team. Too many parents pressuring my team-mates to win. One of them ended up driving herself and a friend off a hilly road to instant death my junior year of high school due to the pressure her parents were putting on her to win college scholarships.

    Like the adds for the cooling vests on your page. We are currently looking into getting one for me to wear while out on the motorcycle and for when I have to wait outside in this horrible heat we have been having so far this year. Back on the 5th of May just about had a grand mal seizure while riding in the van that transports people who are disabled home from doctors appointments. Won’t let that happen to me a second time!

  14. I had friends who had 2 daughters in travel soccer teams. nights, weekends, mornings and afternoons were filled with traveling to different soccer games all in the hopes of getting that soccer scholarship. In the end the daughter said she didn’t want the soccer scholarship she was offered because she wanted to concentrate on her studies. A month later, she was a walk on to the soccer team. Talk about a grrrr moment.
    Too much pressure on kids, they need to enjoy their childhood.

    • Travel teams have killed any enjoyment of just watching your kid participate in a sport. Way too much pressure on them to “perform”, and it starts earlier and earlier every year!

  15. LOL. Yale? Go Sloane! I need her to teach Munch how to throw a ball and ride a bike.

  16. Back in my day girls didn’t play sports. Ok, that came out “supports” first. I wonder what that means. Well, I just can’t even fathom having to go to game after game like my friends do. No siree, glad Riley, my dog, only plays one sport.

  17. My youngest daughter was in three sports, two simultaneously! I did it all as a sport parent except coach. Even my MVP daughter only played part-time in girls softball all stars. I’m still bitter. Far too many expectations for these poor kids to get that scholarship to a pac ten college and relieve their parents of the responsibility. Oh the horror! Great post to read and nice to know this happens everywhere. You really are an awesome dad to go to her games so far away. Sloane will remember this forever, trust me. And it will be over so soon, you will miss it.

    • It’s not just out west Terri, here in the Midwest we do the best we can to ruin kids summers also reliving our own wasted youth. I would drive/fly as much as I could to see her play, she has a blast and watching her improve every year is definitely a proud dad moment :).

  18. All sports are ways of fleecing parents nowadays, it seems. Then they beg you to volunteer for this and that. It’s a full-time job in-season. She looks like a natural though. Anderson County is my neighbor to the east by the way. Welcome to my neck-ish of the woods. I wouldn’t fly that IU flag though. You’re in sUcKs land there. My eyes burn from the thought of all that Shiite blue you probably had to endure while there. 😃

  19. I’m happy my children were not interested in sports.

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