FRANKLIN, TN – When Jerry Maguire walked out of that hospital room after visiting a severely concussed client of his, he had an epiphany. An epiphany that led to a manifesto – of sorts – in which he bared his soul and candidly questioned his role and responsibilities as an agent and as a protector of his clients’ best interests. Of course, Maverick had John Travolta‘s stunning fake wife Kelly Preston waiting at home for him to soften the sting.
FSA has likewise experienced an awakening, though mine is closer to Dr. Oliver Sacks’, and my manifesto veered more closely towards Ted Kaczynski. In my 9 years of coaching youth baseball in my community, I’ve realized amazing “returns” in the form of kids learning to love baseball. Hand written notes of thanks from parents of kids who excelled after previously stumbling in other environments. Waiting lists of kids who wanted to play for the only coach in the league that never belittled a kid; never spoke with sarcasm, and gave every single player a chance. A chance to participate and feel a part of a team. Kids sign up to play baseball. They don’t sign up to watch OTHER kids play baseball. This is precisely the message lost completely on adults now running these leagues.
Do you remember the douchiest kid in the neighborhood growing up? The one that wore sweater vests all the time? The one that played tennis while regular kids played baseball and football? The one that always threatened to “sue” if anyone came near him? Well, that pear-shaped “kid” is now 48 years old and his fat son plays on the same travel team that my kids do. His kid sucks, has a flat ruddy face and falls down constantly. I don’t know if it’s an inner ear thing, or the fat bastard just can’t stay upright.
I’ve had it. I’ve had it with 12 year old kids with personal pitching coaches. Had it with parents spending $300 an hour so their kid can be “tutored” in hitting after school. Had it with kids who carry bags that contain 4 different bats, 6 different gloves, and all manner of body armor and padding that our troops in Afghanistan never had. Bat bags alone that run $250. Of course, I had a bat bag too while growing up. It was a yellow bag from Pathmark and I kept all of my equipment inside. My “equipment” consisted of a baseball glove.
I can no longer volunteer my time to teach and encourage and guide these young people. Half of them have sworn off carbs… since 2nd grade. The other half have allergies to gluten. Gluten, for crissakes! The Restless Legs Syndrome of the entitled generation.
I have outlived my usefulness. When every parent believes his uncoordinated, stiff, nonathletic kid has the goods to be a big leaguer, I’m done. When kids bring baseball accessories to every game that cost more than my wife’s engagement ring, I’m done. When parents start asking about how “projectable” Junior is, I’m done. And when parents start bringing their personal advisers to each game to evaluate their kids’ toolset, you got it…I’m done. Give me a kid who just wants to play baseball. Give me a kid who loves the game and would love to hit better, throw better and just be better. There have been countless stories of how youth baseball has deteriorated and coaches and parents and even kids get disillusioned as the experience of playing ball becomes more myth than reality. This is mine.