“I sit here so if I hear screaming and see that no one is on base, I know that I need to go over to that field,” the baseball director advised the assembled group of teenage umpires last night. “Please call me before you eject a coach.”
They have brought out the big gun umpires now, the recently graduated high school seniors, the tall, bearded, jaded guys back from college. Ladies and gentlemen (and I use those terms loosely), it is playoff week. Gone are the relaxing evening baseball games. Gone are the idyllic images of young boys engaging in America’s pastime on pristine diamonds. These parents are out for blood. Or at least, a trophy or a few braggy pictures they can throw up on Facebook to prove their parenting prowess (stifling a yawn).
My son, being fourteen, is no stranger to drama. He has umpired several games so far this season, but has been vaguely disappointed by the relative calm. I think he was really ready for coaches to question his calls, for parents to yell, for kids to stomp back to the bench in anger. Well, he is starting to get his wish now that there are championships on the line.
A kid ran for first last night and made a turn towards second and was tagged by the first baseman. “He’s OUT!” my son called confidently, smiling to himself, ignoring and secretly relishing the screaming sideline. Another kid barrelled towards second base but the second baseman did not apply the tag. “He’s SAFE! No tag.” Again more rumbling.
The college-aged plate umpire told him before the game, “They know I don’t take any shit.” Inspirational.
He’s behind the plate tonight in an elimination game.
I will start by acknowledging that none of this is really any of my damn business. I generally can’t stand people commenting on other people’s parenting decisions. But somehow I am overcome by the temptation to weigh in on this semi-controversial topic and where else but my own blog can I better exercise my freedom of speech?
It is now well reported that Chicago White Sox/former Washington Nationals player Adam LaRoche has decided to retire after White Sox President Ken Williams requested that LaRoche limit the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spends with the team. According to reports, LaRoche’s son is in the clubhouse on a daily basis and Williams seems to find this a bit excessive.
Can I agree with Williams without sounding family-unfriendly? I have a 14-year-old son. I am sure that he would much rather be playing catch with Avisail Garcia than getting up at 6AM to get on the school bus to go learn about the Industrial Revolution. But, I think that’s where he needs to be at this time of life. Developing his own identity outside of his father. Focusing on his education. Grinding it out on his own team instead of shagging balls and cleaning the cleats of major leaguers.
Now, no one begrudges a boy time with his father or a man time with his son. I deeply and sincerely respect Adam LaRoche for putting his personal principles over money and career and for his dedication to his son. But I just can’t see how hanging around an adult workplace that much really could be the best place for a kid that age.
I asked a real 14-year-old what he thought: “Oh, man, that would be so cool.” and then, “I don’t know. Not like I am saying that school is super-fun or anything, but there are people there. People at lunch, people you call names, guys on my team, you know…”