Seeking Little League Advice

Jack had a baseball game Saturday. Glorious, sunny day to be out watching kids play baseball. Just ideal. However, watching the game unfold, a few things occurred that I could use some reader advice on.

Situation 1:

You’re the 3rd base coach and the batter hits a shot into the outfield. The ball goes all the way to the back fence. As the batter comes into third, the ball comes in to the shortstop. Here are your choices:

1)    Send the runner. These are 4th graders and there is basically no chance a 4th grade shortstop will throw to a 4th grade catcher accurately enough to tag the runner out at home. So you get the run – but you teach the runner the wrong baseball move. In a few years, if that runner goes for home he is 100% going to get thrown out.

2)    Hold the runner. Yes, you might be giving up a run, but you’re teaching proper fundamentals. Down side here is that these kids really do want to win and you might be giving up a run. Hell, you might cost them the game.

I genuinely don’t know what the right call is here. I really do see both sides. I’m interested in what people think. Let me know. And please label your comment “Situation 1”.

Situation 2:

You’re a parent in the stands watching 4th graders play baseball. You’re rooting for your son’s team. Your son is up to bat and the umpire calls a strike that you think may have been a ball. Here are your choices:

1)    Complain and grouse loudly so other parents and maybe even the kids can hear you.

2)    Keep your mouth shut.

You know what…I’ve actually got this one. The correct answer is to keep your fat mouth shut. Let me give you a few reasons why:

a)     The umpire is a volunteer doing a hard job. If you’d like his job, then I’m sure you could have it. But instead, you can sit in the stands, keep your mouth shut and support him. In fact, if you are supportive of the umpire, your actions might even serve as an example to teach kids to respect authority and follow the rules.
b)    By complaining about the umpire, you are essentially saying to your child: “That umpire is the reason you didn’t get a hit. It’s not your fault.” You don’t teach your kid that they’ll succeed if they work harder. You don’t teach them to face failure. You teach them that they’re perfect and they deserve to succeed. It’s unfair, outside forces that cause them to fail. You teach them to be a victim.
c)     And finally, asshole…you’re sitting 45 feet away, you’re viewing the strike zone from the side, and there is a chain link fence between you and batter. Maybe…just maybe…you’re not in the ideal spot to call balls and strikes.

OK…so I guess I only need advice on Situation #1.

[Note to blog followers who were actually at the game. Situation 1 happened, Situation 2 did not. That’s happened at lots of other games and it always drives me nuts. But this Saturday the crowd was terrific. It really was an idyllic baseball watching experience.]

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16 thoughts on “Seeking Little League Advice

  1. Dave

    Situation 1: It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Because some asshole in the stands will still yell at you for making the wrong call. Apparently they didn’t know the correct answer for situation number 2.

  2. Tom Angstadt

    Situation 1: This one is a no brainer! Teach the boys the correct way to play the game of baseball and do not send him home. Besides, in 4th grade, the odds are favorable that one of the next few pitches will find it’s way to the backstop and the boy scores anyway:-)

  3. Greg Pio

    Situation 1: Always teach them the right way to play the game. Plus, any parent that knows the game will be happy you are teaching them how to play it correctly.

  4. Andrew Kaufman

    Stick to the fundamentals. Of course, the percentages are in the runner’s favor at that age. But this is also the best time and age to teach them how to play the right way.

  5. OK…so far we’ve got 4 safe responses. But think about it for real. In the real situation. Imagine the game is on the line — you tell me you’re not sending that kid? You’re not going for the win?

  6. Toni Mansfield

    Let him have the home run! He’s only in fourth grade. He can learn the “right” play later. It’s glorious to get a run :-). Now it should be about having fun.

  7. David Ramos

    Situation 1. I think that all the fundamental rules should apply. Look at it like a real third base coach and assess the situation. How many outs? If there are two outs most of the time the runner is sent no matter where the ball is hit, especially with a runner on second. With no outs you don’t want to make the first out at home. With one out, you have to look to the next batter, the speed of the runner, or as stated in other comments, if the pitcher is wild. You want the kids to have fun and learn the game. If it works out, you win the game and have fun. If it doesn’t work out, use it as an opportunity to discuss the play, see if the kids agreed with your decision and you teach them coaches can make mistakes on the mental side of the game.

    By the way, very much enjoying the blog. My oldest daughter, Charley is playing softball and its interesting to compare your experience with mine.

    And c’mon, everybody knows the ump is always blind!

  8. Ellen

    It sounds great to take that opportunity as a teaching moment of the “right” way to play, but I don’t think that is realistic in the moment. The Little League has rules to keep the kids from getting too far on mistakes such as: one base taken on an overthrow, and the “mercy” rule. In this instance, I’d send the kid home. It’s a HUGE thrill for a kid to get a home run and as the kids’ skills improve, they will learn for themselves that running home when the shortstop has the ball is not a good idea.

  9. greg

    Mike – Have a few responses for you here:
    Situation 1: I say send the kid. once the play is over the coach needs to explain to the team “I sent him becuase I thought there was a good opportunity to be aggressive and take the lead” its also teaching them to listen to the coach and for when they’re in the field, be prepared to make a play at at any time. This is important becuase if the kid is called out, the coach is taking responsibility. Its not different than running on a catcher that is struggling to cleanly catch a ball in the dirt or doesnt have a strong arm. it also teaches the kids to be aware of who is in the field and be opportunistic… a life lesson.
    Situation 2: at no point ever should a parent say a word to the ump. teaches poor sportsmanship. There is never a situation that is acceptable. additionally, let the coaches handle it. They can ask a question between innings or when its appropriate. parents job at the field is to cheer for their kids and enjoy. if you get too stressed over your kid winning or losing, get a life. let them enjoy the game and the experience. I was at my nephew’s game yesterday and saw a play where a fielder didnt know what to do with the ball when he received the cutoff throw from the outfielder. so 10 parents are yelling 3 different things and confused the kid. the coaches should yell it out, limit the voices. if its your kid, explain it after the game, after the coach talks to them.

    there are so many great aspects of kids playing sports, its the parents that tend to ruin it by presssuring them too much. do you really want to have your kid give up a sport and activity they love becuase they are burned out? not just from playing a lot, but emotionally it can take its toll.

  10. nick

    From wikipedia’s article on Magnus Carlsen, chess’s 23-yr old rockstar (chess is basically the same as baseball, without the shortstop, right?):

    “As a youth, Carlsen was known for his aggressive style … As he matured, Carlsen found that this risky playing style was not as well suited against the world elite. When he started playing in top tournaments, he was struggling against top players, and had trouble getting much out of the opening. To progress, Carlsen’s style became more universal, capable of handling all sorts of positions well.”

    Let them run and win. You don’t need to teach what won’t work in a few years, they’ll figure it out when it stops working. Besides, it strikes me as more likely they’ll be playing in a few years if they get to win now 🙂

  11. Andrew Kaufman

    THE RIGHT WAY. Winning isn’t everything. It’s the same thing with other bullsh*t in the hundreds of LL games I’ve watched…when the coach makes his kid run on a BB so he can automatically steal second because the catcher can’t make the throw to 2B. Legal play, but not fundamentally sound. Just makes you look like a d*ck…

  12. Really appreciate everyone’s comments. You know…I was leaning towards holding the runner, but the more I think of it, the more I lean towards sending the kid.

    As a side note, I posted the same question to a facebook group I belong for people into baseball strategy. It sparked a CRAZY debate with most people pushing to send the runner.

  13. Peter Dimas

    Situation one. You send the runner. It teaches them to pay attention to the third base couch. What he says goes and if he thinks you can make it, then you better be hustling .

  14. Carrie

    Situation 1: I look to your answer to Situation 2 for my response. Your job is to teach the runner to listen to the third base coach. Be decisive. Teach your players to do what the 3rd base coach instructs. Sometimes s/he’ll be wrong. But you run full out and do what he says anyway.

  15. Keith

    I know it’s much later for this subject but I coached a lot of different teams between UA kids ranging from age 9 to 17, I’m helping to coach now my son’s team (6 year olds) and my daughters softball team (9 to11 year olds) for the second season. I’ve learned that there are different mentalities for different situations.
    Situation 1: If it’s late in the game, the runner is a speedy runner and the shortstop has his back to home plate as he’s receiving the ball . . . send him. It’s teaching to “read the situation”, not about being overly aggressive. NOW, that said, if the shortstop has been pretty sure handed and is situated closer to home plate than the grass it might be better not to send him. It’s a great opportunity to explain to the player the “why’s and why not’s” so that they learn for future lessons.
    Situation two looks like it’s been answered obviously and I agree completely. I do say though that it does have “some” merit that the coach maybe say something if it’s repetitive and inconsistent but not in a confrontational way. Between innings simply ask where the pitch was if it’s a ball you don’t agree with or if it’s a strike and you think it’s a little low or high simply say “Those pitches seemed a little high” . . . the ump will more than likely disagree and you just say “okay”. What this does is make the ump aware but without confronation and you might see a difference in the future calls.

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