Thursday, April 2, 2009

The politics of baseball

We are up to our eyeballs in little league baseball right now. The older 3 boys are playing this year--Vincent is in T-ball, Joey is in single A, Zachary is in triple A. And if that isn't enough, Peter is coaching Joey and Vinnie.

Between practices and games, we have something almost every night, and frequently we have more than 1 event. They all have games on Saturdays, sometimes spread out, other times overlapping.

Between work and baseball, dinner time has completely fallen apart. The kids are living on PB & J and chicken nuggets. Yes, I know. That is probably not much different then their usual. But at least we used to eat together at the table! Now it is at the ball field or in the car. As crazy as it is, we really do love it.

It is a great family time for us, rooting the boys on.

With Zachary's move up to triple A though, we have also been introduced to the dark side of little league. The draft.

This is the year kids actually have to try out and get picked. I had no idea the politics involved in this. For 9-11 year old boys! The coaches watch all the boys try out, and then they somehow get chosen. There are clear cliques and groups of boys together. Zachary is the only kid from his school on his team, where other teams have many/mostly Graystone kids.

In and of itself, that is not the issue. He has met some nice kids and he likes them. The problem is, unfortunately we are not a great team. Or even a good team. There seems to be a huge discrepancy in the abilities of the teams, with some teams with only 1 loss and others with no wins or only 1. And that is the problem.
A friend of Zach's at school is on a team that is doing even worse than Zach's. Apparently there has been a lot of teasing/bullying going on at school around baseball with boys from the winning teams ganging up on boys (this boy in particular) from the losing teams. Zach has also been a bit of a target, although not as much as his friend. I find this heartbreaking as a mom. I want to go grab these boys and let them have it.
But I can't. Not only do we know most of these boys, but a number of them are actually patients of Peter's ( That is life when you practice in the community you live). I am having a hard time watching what is going on in our school. Is this really the norm?

I feel the way our little league does the draft really lends itself to this behavior and lopsided team ability. Pete mentioned that the draft when he was a kid was a blinded event. Kids were ranked, numbers were drawn out of a hat and the teams were made. You were more likely to get evenly matched teams. Teams would be more mixed and not gangs of boys from the same team together year after year.

Something needs to change. As a mother and as a pediatrician in the community, I feel an obligation to do something. I am going to start with the principal at our school. Let him in on behavior that is clearly against our schools peace builder pledge.

Then Pete and I will write the League President. We will outline the issues. Propose some changes. Maybe even start a petition.

Am I blowing this out of proportion? Is this just part of growing up and the boys have to toughen up and suck it up? That just doesn't sound OK to me.


Andrea said...

Wow Michelle! I think you are doing the right thing to be active in trying to change the way things are run. I sure hope the same "politics" don't apply in our area once my boys are older--for any sport! So sad that some kids are so cruel:( How hard it would be for Pete (and you) to see patients that are cruel to your child(ren). . . kind of makes you want to give 'em an extra shot or 2;) TOTALLY kidding of course!!!

Suzanne said...

Drats! This seems unreal but I know it's true. I hate the thought of the bullying and teasing when really, baseball is supposed to be a fun activity. Your post was really well written. I can see it printed up in the local Almaden newspaper. Good luck advocating for a change in the system.

Michele Renee said...

Something should change. I am on the other side of the U.S. and we've been doing baseball in two counties for 5 years. Speaking for both leagues, all the kids try out, and the youngest age group is 4.5 yrs old. This way coaches can see abilities. It has always seemd that teams are pretty even. My oldest is most into baseball so using him as an example, he has been on diferrent teams every fall and spring. Husband doesn;t coach. If a dad coaches, obviously his son is always on his team. Other than that the teams really change up each year--maybe keeping 2 or 3 boys. I have always seen good sportsmanship. Until last week--my youngest plays on team with 7 and 8 yr olds. Our team lost and when the game ended and the boys line up and slap hands with other team and say "good game"--one boy on other team said to them all (after the coaches walked by) "bad game, your team sucks". My son looked hurt when he told me this. I wanted to find the kid and tattle to his parents but I didn't.

Laura said...

baseball...coaching husbands...drafts...yes, we ARE the same person!

I am going to have my husband comment on this one!

Stacey said...

I would have to agree with you. I think that is not fair they way they pick teams. In my boys league they do a draft but then they give each child a number. 1 being not so good and 5 being better. Then they start to put the the 5 one by one one a team. So teams don't get stack with all the good players. Good luck I hope things change.

Q's NEWS said...

I have lived this before, and I do not envy you. I can't believe it is the same on the west coast as it is here in the east. What is so bad is that it usually presents itself in all sports and you will find that it is generally the same people. No, you are not blowing it out of proportion - not at all! I hope you are successful in your quest for change and I applaud you from afar. If I was there I would be right there with you. Little league is supposed to be where they learn the basics of whichever sport they are involved in. They are supposed to teach them the dynamics of teamwork, etc. and the concept of "all for one and one for all". These concepts used to spill over into everyday life. No, your boys should not have to "suck it up" - they learn the hard knocks just fine without these types of issues.

It is wonderful that you make the time to go to your children's sporting events. It is great family time and I feel it makes a huge difference in the child's life. I always felt so sorry for the kids whose parents were never there to watch them.

Good luck in your politic busting endeavors - I think you will find many parents feel the same way! Keep us posted!!


Michelle said...

Thanks to everyone for their support of this. I mentioned to another mom about writing a letter to the league president, and she really discouraged it. Said my boys would be feeling the wrath for the rest of their little league career. sigh... I am left with trying to work the system myself next year for Zach. Maybe I can write an anonymous letter to the local paper. Sounds like such a chicken shit thing to do though.