Play ball, everyone

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004

I write this letter knowing that I am going to incur the wrath of every red-blooded sports fan in Juneau. So, take your best shot; I'm just hoping that at least one kids' sports coach reconsiders his/her approach to managing the team.

I just finished reading the article regarding the two Juneau teams that forfeited their game because they did not follow the rules regarding minimum play time. As a parent of a Little Leaguer (not an all-star), I have seen this very same problem in the regular season, and it sickens me that the "all-stars" can model no better "strategy."

Now, I know you want to win. After all, these are 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds; we're talking the majors here, with potential for sign-on bonuses, endorsements, multi-year contracts - well, we're talking about at least a win. But is that "win" worth preventing every member of the team the satisfaction of knowing that he contributed to the team's success? And the irony one team was four runs ahead - one potential no-hit was hardly going to cripple the team. And for the other team - you were zero going into the fifth inning - how much worse could the batter be than a no hit?

Sports should be more than just about playing well (just ask the Boozer critics; values do come into "play"). When you are a professional athlete and make millions a year, then, sure, sit on the sidelines if that's what the coach wants. But when you're just a little kid and you've been throwing and catching your heart out all summer for nothing more than the pure joy of being on the field, I think you should get to be on the field. And not just for one at bat and one defensive inning - a pathetically minor requirement neither of the Juneau teams could somehow meet.

Besides the obvious maxims everyone is knee-jerking now: "life isn't always fair," "no one's going to just hand it to you on a silver platter," etc., etc., I would also like my son to learn the following concepts: working as a team, cooperation, inclusion, helping those not doing well to do better, kindness, and, gosh darn it, that even the "loser" has potential and can really help you out sometimes. Oh, I almost forgot (a full season of Little League can do that to a parent). I'd like him to learn to help ensure that every one of his teammates has fun.

Let's play ball. Every freckled-face, gum-chewing, mop-haired, cherubic, impish one of them.

Rebecca Mass


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