Let the kids play ball
To the editor:
At a Little League Minors baseball game this month I yelled, “Throw strikes, pitcher – they didn’t come here to hit!” This was after the opposing team scored three runs on walks alone. One parent shot back, “You obviously don’t understand the game.”
He was wrong. But so was I. My remarks were not intended for the kids. They were for the system itself. The coach of our team gives every player the opportunity to play the position they desire, which includes pitcher and catcher. Obviously, few of them are going to throw strikes all the time and many times the catcher will misplay the ball. In every game, the majority of runs have been scored by walks and stolen bases. I have never seen so many runs scored by the runner coming in from third after the ball gets by the catcher.
And the stolen bases! I’m sure there are catchers at this level with good arms, but few have what it takes to throw out a base runner sliding into second. They are not supposed to go until the ball crosses the plate, but I’ve never seen the rule enforced. I feel like I have not witnessed baseball but some variation of it, where the goal is to get on base and run around the bases as the infielders throw it around.
When I played in the minors, there was no stealing. The batters had to advance the runner, not wild pitches. When we got to the majors, stealing was allowed but by then, the catchers and pitchers were much better and it wasn’t easy to take a base.
I certainly understand the importance of fundamentals…..but what about fun! Is it fun to walk three times in one game? Ok…the pitches weren’t all strikes but were any pitches hittable? Are coaches encouraging them to not swing? Is this the strategy? The kids are denied the thrill of swinging the bat.
If they strike out, at least they went down swinging. And what about the fielders? How is watching the opposing team take four consecutive pitches, walk to first and steal all the bases helping their fielding skills? They are denied the opportunity to field, to throw, to make decisions on which base they should throw to.
I know the argument: Have your pitcher throw strikes. Some pitchers are not going to throw them consistently. The umpires are parents volunteering. So…the strike zone is not always the same. Couldn’t we encourage them to have a more generous strike zone so the kids are more prone to swing than stand there with the bat on their shoulder?
I love baseball. I played for 12 years and then in competitive soft ball leagues. Sandlot baseball (does it still exist?) was the best. We played to hit, to catch, and most importantly…to have as much fun as we possibly could before our parents yelled, “Time to come home!” And even then…we’d play until you couldn’t see the ball anymore.
– David Patterson, Fairfield