AS OUR BOYS grew up, they were active in Little League Baseball programs. We participated as parents often do: as spectators, assistant coaches, scorekeepers and serving in the snack shack. Fierce competition prevailed, but I never expected to see parents exhibit the boorish behavior we witnessed starting on Opening Day of T-ball.
In a T-ball "game," as you may know, the batter hits a ball held at the player's adjusted height from a rubber T. No scores are kept because the intent is to teach the fundamentals of the game. Quite often, as many parent-coaches will be on the field as players to assist their sons and daughters as they learn the game. I'd been pressed into being the team's assistant coach simply because we were the first to arrive! It was on that day that I first heard, and recited, the Little League Pledge:
I trust in God I love my country And will respect its laws I will play fair And strive to win But win or lose I will always do my best.
Our son, Mike, now a strapping college student, tagged the ball off the "T" during his first at-bat. The opposing team's first baseman picked up the ball and, in his excited state, threw the ball toward the outfield. The head coach hollered for Mike to round first for second. The outfielder picked up the errant toss and threw a barn-burner well over the top of the first baseman's extended glove! Mike was given the go-ahead for third, and the third base coach gave him the go-ahead to head home, which he did as the ball was once again tossed far into center field.
Both groups of parents were having a tough time keeping a straight face amidst the excitement and string of errors. A few jokes that many had seen professional ballplayers perform similarly were traded quietly.
And then it happened: A parent from the other team exploded in anger! He demanded Mike return to first base and charged onto the field. It didn't matter to him that no scores were being kept; he felt he had a score to settle. Parents and coaches from both sides suggested he return to his seat, and he stormed off after announcing he was going to file a protest with Little League officials. Welcome to T-ball, boys and girls.
When John, our older son, played high school baseball, there was once a weird call by the umpires that caused a stir among the players and coaches. Play was halted while the two teams sorted out their concerns. The call was peacefully settled and both teams resumed play.
Two dads from opposing teams, however, disagreed about the play and subsequent call by the umps. Within a minute or two, they stood up and began trading punches in the bleachers! Both teams stopped playing ball to watch these two idiots make a mockery of their game.
As a parent, coach, scorekeeper and stand-in umpire (when no officials showed up for our games), I witnessed more than a few dust-ups, along with healthy doses of poor sportsmanship by the parents and spectators — not the players.
And I've witnessed coaches screaming at players, or an entire team, for their failures on the field. One coach in particular was a brute and did his best to teach his players poor sportsman-ship. He was eventually banned from the ball fields and coaching.
They missed the point of that Little League Pledge, but the players whose conversations on the field I could plainly overhear understood it. Good sportsmanship, with a few notable exceptions, prevailed among players from opposing teams with encouragement or congratulatory comments given freely for nice plays and support when things didn't go well.
I've also had many opportunities to be on the consumer side of in-home sales pitches. It's been fascinating to listen to the wide variety of sales tactics. The few who chose to sell negatively by slamming their competitors' products and service were a real turnoff. They reminded me of that T-ball dad who charged onto the field.
A few salespeople gave a lackluster performance that wasn't their best by a long shot. One in particular was so offended that I wouldn't sign with his company — on the spot — that he began insulting me just like the coaches who denigrated their players.
But the ones who played fair did not hesitate to give their competitors compliments and never once said a bad word about them. Instead, they chose to concentrate on their own products and skilled work force.
One in particular stood out when he spoke about the company's employees and how they worked as a team toward customer satisfaction. He indicated the employees could get by quite nicely without him and were each empowered to make decisions for inevitable and unexpected jobsite conditions. As it turned out, he was also the owner.
We each have the opportunity to "go out there and smack a 'tater over the outfield fence." Play ball!
Dave Yates owns F.W. Behler, a contracting company in York, Pa. He can be reached by phone at 717/843-4920 or by e-mail at [email protected]
All Dave Yates material on this website is protected by Copyright 2008. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must first have the expressed written permission of Dave Yates. Please contact via email at: [email protected]