THE WINNING PITCH March, 2000
Make The Most Of Every Opportunity
For years I have told my players to "make the most of every
opportunity," perform every day at practice, during games, and in
off-season play as if "SOMEBODY'S ALWAYS WATCHING." My warnings have
included the disclaimer that "all I owe you is honesty." However,
yesterday, I came very close to "airing out" a young player for being as
ignorant as a single celled amoeba.
After our fourth game of the season (we are 4-0) our backup catcher
wanted to know "where he stands." This on the heels of a session a few
days earlier with an assistant where he was complaining about the lack of
playing time and wanted to quit.
Let me give you some of the facts. This player had decided to not play
with his high school team during the summer. He opted to play "Big
league" with some of his budies. During fall ball he missed practice,
showed up late to games, didn't work on blocking, and missed about fifty
percent of the signs. The efficiency of the pitching staff fell
dramatically when he was in the game. The tempo slowed to a crawl. Passed
balls became an every at bat occurrence. He played a little in the
outfield, hit around .250, and usually showed up half dressed. During the
winter he ditched most of the conditioning, and in the spring he refused
to do his part in the fund raising. Other than that he was a pretty good
Yesterday he began to snivel. We asked him, "where do you think you
should be playing?" My young friend said, "I don't know. That's your job
In our four games so far, we have played two five inning games because we
had ten run leads. Our pitching has worked "up tempo," and we have
dominated the few opponents we have faced. In four games our staff has
averaged less than 12 pitches per inning. Our first string catcher is a
solid receiver who works hard most of the time, and I am building a young
pitching staff who hasn't yet learned how to win at this level. I can't
afford to have their performances ruined by a poor receiver. My young
friend has played a few innings in the outfield.
When he complained about lack of playing time, I wanted to say:
"You stupid jerk. At each juncture of our relationship you have been
honestly informed of your status. We begged you to step up your
baseball effort. During the fall you caught nearly fifty percent of the
innings. We told all the players, that was the time to win a job. You
didn't take us seriously.
You knew at the start of this season the other guy had beaten you out for
the job. Yet, after only four games, you have the nerve to complain about
playing time. We have always told the entire team that we would play the
best nine. Right now we are playing well. Our record couldn't be better.
You know that without you as a backup, this team has no other catcher. If
our first string catcher gets hurt it will cost us dearly. But, that
doesn't mean you have earned the right to get playing time at the expense
of our pitching staff. As coach I will not let you blackmail us into
"playing time," that you don't deserve. Where does it end? Do I let
everybody play a few innings, just like the "commie ball" rules in
When you signed up to be part of the team, you agreed to do what it
takes to help the team win. In your case because you aren't willing to
work at the job, that means you are a just a back up, hoping for a chance
to play. You have two choices, hope for blowouts so we can afford to let
you behind the plate, or, pray for an injury to the guy ahead of you. It
isn't hard to figure out what a selfish brat like you will decide.
Because you have no concept about life, other than your own selfish
desires, why don't you strip out of your uniform and get the hell off my
Unfortunately, we tried to give him a way to overcome his concerns, by
playing down the issue. We stressed how little innings have been played.
We told him we couldn't promise him anything, but we would try to get him
some at bats. He had the nerve to say, that if he only hits once a game
it isn't fair because he needs a couple of at bats to get in sync with the
This situation is a great example of why the ten run rule in high school
baseball makes the game worse, not better. It has hurt the bench players
by eliminating their playing time. It puts coaches in the position like
the one described above.
Only an idiot thinks up things like this. It was probably the same dork
who thinks that single eliminations in the first round of high school
baseball is okay. It is the same blind person who misses the fact that
baseball players have to take care of their fields without requiring
basketball players to sweep a gym floor. It is the same form of
discrimination that allows football to practice in the baseball outfield
and has never seen fly balls fungoed on the football turf. It is same
dunderhead thinking that nurtures the selfish generation that gives birth
to the cry babies who think they deserve playing time just because they
weren't cut from the roster.
Here's how we deal with it. Through it all, we keep on coaching and take
time for a few fantasies where we tell off the brats. However, we keep it
to ourselves and make things go right. That's our job.