The Little League baseball season is winding down. There is less than three weeks left and then I go into the coaching closet once again. Last week, I asked my son, Sam, to bunt. Sam’s not a bad bunter and I thought he needed a little confidence at the plate.
On the first pitch, Sam popped the ball to the catcher. His first at bat lasted all of one pitch. It ended with a weak, little foul ball out. As he headed to the dugout, Sam shot me a dirty look that would crack fine crystal. I’m sure he was thinking, “It’s your fault, Dad, for having me bunt.”
A couple of innings later, I thought Sam might have calmed down. I casually said, “When you bunt, get on top of the ball. You won’t pop it up.” His reply was, “Thanks for reminding me. I had almost forgotten.”
It drives me nuts how many kids Sam’s age want to blame everyone but themselves for their failures. The way I see it, you do your best but always look at yourself when things don’t go according to plan. That’s hardly ever the case, even in my own family.
Making excuses for failures is not limited to Little League. In the NCAA Super Regional, North Carolina State was playing number one ranked Florida. The game was in extra innings with Florida leading 9 – 8.
North Carolina State had two outs. It came down to their last strike with a one ball, two strike count. The next pitch was probably a ball, but just barely. The umpire called strike three to end the game.
From Little League through college and beyond, batters are told to protect the plate when you have a two strike count. The thought is don’t let the umpire decide if it’s a ball or strike. If the pitch is close, swing the bat.
Apparently, the North Carolina State batter hadn’t received the memo. He took the pitch and went ballistic when he was called out. First he charged the umpire. Thankfully, his coach was there to stop him before he could make contact.
It got worse from that point. The batter threw his helmet so hard you could see pieces separate from the protective gear. It took a second coach to drag him to the dugout. If anyone could read lips, I don’t think most his words aren’t found in a Webster Dictionary or even a computer spell check.
He finally was in a spot where he couldn’t reach the home plate umpire. That still didn’t cool him off. He ripped off his uniform jersey and slammed it to the floor of the dugout. Finally, the cameras focused on the celebration of the Florida team. It wasn’t exactly a teaching moment for any Little Leaguers watching the game.
I see a less violent version of excuse making in the Northwest Little League and that includes my own team. Very seldom does a batter take a third strike without some display of aggravation toward the umpire.
In a recent game, a team’s best hitter took a called third strike in the late innings. He represented the tying run. As he walked back to the dugout, he showed everyone how high the pitch had been. I was watching the same game and I think he was off by maybe a foot and a half, but there had to be an excuse.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a game end on a bang-bang play at third base. The kid throwing the ball had to make an absolute perfect throw within inches of third base. The third baseman had to ignore a runner thundering right at him, make the catch and apply the tag. Maybe once in 50 times will you see that play made with 12-year old players, but these kids made it.
It was a great play. There was absolutely no argument about the result of the play. The runner was called out and it was the correct call. However, the runner threw up his hands in astonishment. The umpire couldn’t possible call him out. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a great play.
College coaches are just as bad as Little Leaguers. I can’t tell you how many times I have met opposing coaches at half court after the game and got anything but congratulations on the way our team played.
When a coach spends his time at half court ranting about how his/her team was a sure winner except for the ineptness of the officials, it takes everything away from the players. It’s just a shame when it happens, even if it wasn’t a great job of officiating.
Excuses are a real epidemic, even in the Steinmeyer household. I just wish coaches and players realized they won’t improve until they recognize their weaknesses. It’s not someone else’s fault.
As David Wells, a major league pitcher said, “I’m not going to make any excuses; I just went out and stunk it up tonight.” Benjamin Franklin said it better. “He that is good at making excuses is seldom good at anything else.”