Friday, June 30, 2006

Richard Watson's "Society's Incivility"

Last week, I watched the championship game in my son’s little league at Mueller Park in Bountiful. Even though my son’s team lost earlier in the week, we attended the game to participate in some of the other activities offered to the boys of the Mueller Park Baseball League. After the skills contests were over, the majority of the people attending turned their attention to the 9-10 year old championship game.

The two best teams in the league were going head-to-head in a very close game. As a result, the game was extended into extra innings. The teams, ironically, were the Yankees and the Red Sox. But this “rival” game turned out to be very different in the name of poor judgment and an awful decision made by the coach of the Yankees.

The Yankees were the visiting team and scored a run in the last inning to break the tie.

In the bottom of the inning, the Red Sox were down to their last out with runners on base.

This is where the story becomes shameful for the coaches of the Yankees and the young players who witnessed the decision made by these coaches.

The Yankees coach instructed the pitcher, a very good pitcher, to intentionally walk the next batter. Why? Because earlier in the game, he hit a solo home run to help lead the Red Sox to an early lead. Some of you may say, so what. But being at the game, two points need to be made. First of all, these are 9 and 10 yr old boys and one of the best pitchers in the league was pitching. Both the batter and pitcher are talented baseball players, but are young enough to make mistakes due to the lack of experience. In other words, pitch to the best hitter and challenge the hitter, a great sports lesson for little leaguers to learn. Second, and the most disturbing reason of all, was about the next batter. He has struggled with hitting all season and would be an easy out to end the game. With the lack of physical abilities that other players have, this boy should be admired for surviving cancer and challenging himself to participate in sports. By the way, most of the spectators booed the coach. As expected, they pitched to this young man and struck him out to win the game.

The sports editor of the Davis County Clipper was also at the game and has made some very good observations about the coach’s decision. Read here.

In the world of politics, we also see an increase in “meanness” with an attitude of “winning at all costs”. But incivility has now gone beyond politics and it constantly surrounds us. Everyday, we see people wanting to “get ahead”. Not only is consideration for others lacking, but common sense seems to be absent as well. As we head into the general election campaign season, we need to remember that incivility will more than likely continue to grow as individuals will try to divide our neighborhoods, our cities, our counties, our state and our country. I hope and pray that citizens, LDS and non-LDS alike, will grasp the words of President Hinckley:
"…We can be more tolerant, more neighborly, more friendly, more of an example than we have been in the past. Let us teach our children to treat others with friendship, respect, love, and admiration. That will yield a far better result than will an attitude of egotism and arrogance."
—President Gordon B. Hinckley; General Conference, April 2000

For me, I prefer to live in a community full of considerate people because happy people make a happy community.

Richard Watson,
Chair, Davis County Democrats
and Candidate for State House Dist. 19


Anonymous said...

Is this a question about fairness? This a baseball game, it is about a decision that could win or loose the game. The parents booed?! Ask them if in their business they would rather face the top gun in a rival business or the person who has been not running on all eight? The parents booed? This was a baseball decision nothing more, nothing less. When was the last time you watched a major league game dude? It happens all the time. It happens in little league, in high school, in college. It is a real life thing. If anyone should feel bad it is the coach who put the struggling player in the position to lose the game. The coach who now is responsible for putting the player in the position of knowing that he let his team down, Wouldn't it have been better for all to pinch hit for the player in question? What is worse to a 9 or 10 year old to be blamed by his friends and teammates for loosing the game or to be taken out for another player? If you haven't been there then maybe you should think about that for a while and cut the coach and the pitcher on the winning team some slack.

Natalie said...

And this, my friends, is why my 10 year old chose to no longer play baseball. We were on the championship team last year, and it was like a job. The strongest players on the team had personal baseball coaches they trained with every week, year round. My boy had a lot more fun the years the coach didn't care so much about winning - Coach Josh let every kid try every position, he made practices fun for all the boys, regardless of their skill level, and even though their record was around .500, the boys loved it. They learned to win and lose with dignity. It wasn't win at all costs. Not every boy is the next Roger Clemens or Mark McGuire. I would rather have my son learn to be kind and responsible and to treat people with respect. This isn't the world series, Anonymous, it's the recreational league. It's kids. It's too bad grown ups have to ruin it for them.

Anonymous said...

Good grief lady I never said that winning at all costs was a good thing. Your son chose not to play ball and how did you react to that? If you don't like the coaches why not try to change them? Everyone should have the chance to play and enjoy the game, by the way what ever happened to coach Josh? I agree with you grown ups screw up more fun for kids than they are sometimes worth. Remember people aren't adults just because they are grown up. I think kids with their own year round coaches should have their own special league and let the kids who want to play for fun have their own league. I played the game and I loved the game, I was chosen for the all star team. Never had a personal coach or a coach that didn't have a regular job and coached because he loved the game. Some coaches are butt heads and shouldn't be allowed to coach a cockroach race. Tell your son to hang in and keep playing ball it is the American game no matter how hard grown ups try to screw it up.

The Deseret Spectacle said...

I have mixed feelings about the baseball game, but I'm not sure it's a great analogy for incivility in politics.

Incivility in American Politics is a symptom of a deeper issues and trends. Civility doesn't play well to a fanatical base. It doesn't catch your attention in a 5-second television spot. It generally doesn't work up peoples' emotions, and frankly, can look weak when compared to a theatrical, mean-spirited, ad hominem slingin' pundit. How do you change that?

I don't know, but a friend of mine is an addict in recovery, and he put it to me this way:

"Right now, the politicians and the demagogues have Americans hooked on crack. They get people all jacked up, afraid of or angry about pretty much anything. But there's only so long you can stay up on crack, and when you crash, you're gonna crash hard."

So maybe there's hope. Here's to a sober, if hungover, America.


Anonymous said...

You can win, or you can fly. I say give him your best pitch! Everytime!

richard Watson said...

To anonymous,
Dude, there is a huge difference between Major league baseball and little baseball. I played baseball and there is a big difference in each level a boy moves into. About the pinch hitter idea, that is where you don't know what you are talking about. In this local league, there are no pinch hitters, because everyone on the roster hits, even if he doesn't play in the field, he is in the batting order. I think you are wrong, I would have pitched to the good hitter, because the pitcher is a very good pitcher. I think the Yankees(the winning team) would have won anyway. Apparently you do not have any boys or have not coached Little before.

Anonymous said...

Richard, you and Ben were right on with your comments. It is for fun and should be. Pitch to everyone, play everyone in different positions, bat them all in different spots in the lineup and boo any blatant coaching move that hurts a kid or the game. There are years and years to be competive. Good job!

Gail Porritt said...

It is interesting that Anonymous chooses to be anonymous, but then seeing the world through Anonymous’ eyes might frequently make it a necessity.

The best pitcher against the best hitter sounds like a good match up to me. The odds, of course, are clearly with the pitcher in baseball and that is likely to be the case with 9 year olds also, but for many one can never have enough advantage over others. It is not enough to have the natural odds in our favor; we must improve those odds at all cost when opportunity presents itself, even if it is at the serious expense of others. It is the principle of profit properly mythologized in the timeless story of Cain and Able and thoroughly deconstructed in the philosophical teachings of Jesus. But that is philosophy and not 9 year olds playing baseball.

When is enough really enough? How much advantage is enough in a baseball game of 9 year olds in order to obtain the Holy Grail of a 9 year old baseball championship? How much human emotional scarring is such a lofty prize worth?

Obviously that question can be answered differently by different people and in so doing we demonstrate rather clearly who we are as a society, as an institution, as a team, and as an individual. Our futile attempts at justifying our injustices only carry us so far, as does our attempts at anonymity; after all, we are hardly anonymous to all.

I have some patience for a coach who in the heat of the game made a quick decision he might later come to regret. I have less patience for those who find philosophical justifications for injustice having had time to think about it.

Gine Crusher said...

Well said Gail...I think the root of the problem is that this coach in particular is TOO "hands on" with his players. He is a real touch feely type. It makes one wonder.

Anonymous said...

Bob Farley and Shaun Farr are the "winning" coaches, but in my book they are pathetic human beings. "Losers" is the only word that comes to mind. These two don't seem to understand that little league is not about winning, but in kids having fun and learning skills. Their wanna-be major league style only shows that they themselves couldn't make it in the big time, so they try to grab glory by ruthlessly winning kids games. No worry about the kids they hurt, they must win at all costs.

Hey coaches, how about picking on someone your own size. If you're that good, work the majors. My bet is that you're not that good.

Gail Porritt said...

I wouldn’t be too hard on the coaches making a bad call in the heat of a game they were trying to win for the kids and themselves, we all do knee-jerk things from time to time that we might feel bad about, or do differently with the aid of hindsight. However, I do worry about people who, having had time to think about it, still think winning the game under such circumstances was more important than the feelings of an already traumatized 9 year old. Especially realizing they had an advantage in the game at the time anyway.

RB Scott said...

A friend forwarded the story and a link to this site for my comments, should I choose react.

I love baseball. I do not love little league baseball because parents are involved. The story from the Davis County Clipper illustrates why neither of my kids played little league. One played in high school ball, however.

Something tells we're getting only half the story regards the decision to intentionally walk a strong hitter in order to get at a weaker hitter, one who apparently is well enough to play ball even though he's recovering from cancer.

For instance, explain to me why a kid who "can't play contact sports" is playing basketball and baseball, both of which involve plenty of contact.

For another: how is it possible that the only undefeated team in the league could be involved in a "championship" game at the end of the season against a team it had been beaten at least once before?

As I was suggesting: Ben De Voe doesn't seem to have reported all the facts. Seems to me, the only undefeated team in the league would, at worst, have a tie for the championship all sewn up. Was this some kind of year-ending round robin tournament or what? Or would a victory give the Yankees a perfect season (I was 12 when I experienced my last perfect season. I remember it well and I am older than 13).

Another thing: if De Voe is going to hang a couple of volunteer coaches out to dry, he ought to "quote" them accurately.

For instance, if, as De Voe implies, the coaches actually "screamed" across the diamond to walk the big hitter and pitch to cancer victim, then the coaches ought to be strung up. Too radical? Okay, how about: run out of town, or never again allowed to coach?

My guess is that their hollering was little more subdued and limited and baseball-appropriate. In any event, direct quotes are called for. Reasonably accurate paraphrases would do.

Further, De Voe doesn’t tell us whether one man or two men were on base when the big hitter came to the plate and all the hollering ensued. This is critical information. See below.

Given the fact that we don’t know the complete story. Here are my observations:

1. Part of coaching at any level is teaching players the mental aspects of the game. In fact, around here (Boston and New York) leagues for eight- and nine-year-olds are called "Instructional" leagues. Strategy is one of the "mental" aspects of any game; good coaches teach "strategy." Anyone who knows anything about baseball strategy knows that with two outs in the bottom of the last inning, with two (presumably) runners on base (but with one base open), or one runner at second base, and the "power" hitter coming to plate with a weaker hitter on deck, you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS walk the power hitter, load the bases (or put runners at first and second) and pitch to weaker hitter. Why? You could strike out the weaker hitter; if he hits the ball on the ground, you have a force out at every single base, including home if the bases are loaded. Creating force outs at every base increases the odds you'll get the third out and win the game. It’s fundamental baseball strategy that most savvy nine-year-old players understand.

2. If this were a sandlot game, with only kids involved, the KIDS/ the pitcher and catcher would likely have made the same decision as the coach. The problem here is the decision was made by an adult, apparently, and witnessed by other adults and a sports editor (incidentally, why was a sports editor at a little league game? Was his son playing on one of the teams? I've got serious money down on this wager: De Voe's boy was a member of the Red Sox or played in the same league. I get the feeling from the column that these Yankee coaches were disliked by De Voe long before the championship showdown against the Red Sox.).

3. If you make allowances, isn't it likely the "weaker hitter" (and the other boys) will know it and be humiliated that an exception was made for him because of his illness? I think so. Generally, ten-year-old boys don't like to be "exceptions." And, presumably, he’d played all season for, allegedly, a top team.

3. The story isn't clear about whether the opposing coach had the opportunity to pinch-hit for the weaker player. Pinch-hitting is part of the game.

4. Don't let your kids play little league baseball. Soccer programs run year-round.

5. Cancel little league programs. Middle-school (11 and up) is soon enough for organized baseball. C’mon, we can dream, can't we?

6. But, given the circumstances, what would I have done? Assuming this was a real "championship" game as opposed to the last game of a prospective "perfect" season, I would have asked my pitcher and catcher: “what should you do? Think it through, what should you do now?" I 'd say. If asked, I'd advise (assuming this was a legit championship game and the boy on deck had known physical limitations): it would be "sporting" to pitch to the big hitter. If I had coached well over the course of the season the pitcher and catcher would know not to give the big hitter ANYTHING to hit, nothing even close to the strike zone. The targets would be tight, and low; he'd know to throw at his hands. He'd know a walk' would be better than a hit and if he missed and clipped the batter, no problem: mission accomplished.

Do you think the sports editor of the Davis Country Clipper would vilify my pitcher and catcher if they made such a decision? I doubt it. Which underscores my point: there's way too much parental involvement in little league baseball.

One more thing: when I was growing up in Salt Lake City, a kid across town was one helluva a baseball player, despite the fact he was missing a hand and half of his left arm. He played third base and was especially good a rapping out hard ground singles and tricky Texas Leaguers--I think his batting average was over .400. In high school, we worked together slinging bales of pipe for a plumbing supply house. Offer to cut him slack becauswe of his handicap was a sure-fire way to earn his contempt.

Anonymous said...

Typical pathetic Democrat!

At what age is it appropriate to teach young boys the correct way to play baseball?

Why does the coach of the LOSING team bat his worst hitter immediately after his best hitter. Maybe you should get some of your less talented coaches a little training so they can teach these children how to play the game correctly.

Richard Watson said...

To Anonymous: you're just a typical Republican...always hiding and not revealing your name, you're clueless on the subject and winning a is more important than people.
The batting order(every kid hits, only 9 take the field)is set before the game begins and can not be changed.
You're just another Republican trying to make it a political issue and not caring about the effect this has had on the people involved in this league, like my son's friends.

Patrick said...


Everyone is so up in arms about Romney being put in a position to fail. How dare someone challenge this kid and put him in this situation. Don't get me wrong...this kid is absolutely a hero in my book for beating the odds and fighting to be in the position he is. But does that mean we should shield him from ever failing? You say Coach Farr's strategy is a "loser" judgement for walking the the opposing team's best about the judgement by Romney's coach to bat Romney after the best hitter on his team? Everyone says that Farr was mean and cruel because he knew that Romney was weak and less skilled...seems to me Romney's coach truly believed that more than Farr and that's why he batted him in that position. Ideally, his best hitter would always clear the bases and poor Romney wouldn't be put in a situation where he would have to perform. That was all fine and dandy until it backfired and its the bottom of the last inning and due to circumstances beyond his control Romney's coach now has to watch as his decision ultimately backfires! If Romney's coach and father were so worried about this terrific kid (who I understand has overcome so much) being challenged and put into a situation where he could fail, then perhaps they shouldn't have let Romney play at all. If he doesn't play then he won't fail. But then again, if every father or coach worried about a kid who has been challenged by unfortunate life circumstances, we would never have stories like Jason McElwain scoring 20 points in 4 minutes! Its ultimately Romney's father who's teaching this kid a terrible life lesson. I mean this kid said it best - "I'm going to work on my batting...Then maybe someday I'll be the one they walk."
Would Romney be saying this, or have the drive to make it true if he had not been put in this situation? The kid is no less of a hero for striking out than if he had drove in the winning run. Remember people...Adversity doesn't build character, it REVEALS it! And its the wrong lesson to tell this kid he was "wronging" by being put in this situation. If you believe that the game wasn't about being competitive and using strategy...then they shouldn't have been keeping score in the first place!

I encourage your respones at my email address...

Romney...You are a hero in my book! Take this lesson and go with it! Use it to become a better baseball player...but more importantly a better person!

Patrick said...

Email didn't come through on post.

Rob said...

The name calling and labeling does not get us anywhere.

What we should focusing on is the lessons that we teach our children.

Romney is the hero of this story, as Patrick stated in his comment and in the end that is all that matters.

Win or lose Romney did his best which makes him a winner.

I guess I am a silly Democrat, maybe a pathetic one, because I believe that the most important lessons are lessons of love.

Congratulations Romney, your participation in this game shows that you are a real winner and that your heart is strong , as is your spirit, and you are most definitely my hero. I would be proud if my son were to grow up to be just like you.

Anonymous said...

Little league provides the opportunity to learn to play baseball the right way. I think to learn the game you have to understand basic baseball strategy. If walking the best batter helps your team than that is good strategy. Remember the next kid batting has a chance to get the hit and be the hero. In this case it didn't work out, but it was a great opportunity for him. I would guess that he wants to be treated like any other kid. He was the weaker hitter and the better hitter was pitched around to get to him in a crucial situation. This is just baseball strategy and nothing evil and malicious. It is important to teach kids the right way to play the game within the rules. If people are against intentional walks in little league make a rule against it. Until then. Play ball!!

Phil Gamma said...

Firstly, I think Mr. Watson is trying to call attention to this issue merely to help him win the upcoming election. Secondly, we cannot assume we know what was going through the coaches head when he made the decision. If it was made because the next boy up to bat was impaired in some way then it's definately wrong. On the other hand, if it was made not knowing who's up next and a pure baseball strategy decision then it's perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately even if we raise our children to be good and kind people, we don't live in a kind world and they should be prepared to deal with tough decisions, people not being fair, and how to deal with it. Competition is inherint in Baseball like any sport and healthy competition good for children.

djt said...

To Anonymous, this is little league baseball. Winning and losing do not matter as much as teaching values at this age. So by intentionally walking the better hitter you are telling your players that in life it is okay to take the easy way out, no matter the consequences.
There was a runner on 3rd. If you walk the best player, why not walk Romney as well?

Rob said...

Dear Phil,

Mr. Watson is a genuine person. I was the one who asked Richard to write the story because I could tell that he had something to say.

I would recommend that you read your comment again about not assuming, and I want everyone to know this, just because someone is running for office does not mean that everything they do is about getting elected, or does it take away authentic feelings, or opinions from our everyday life experiences.

Richard was doing me a favor by expressing his viewpoint and that's all.

Steve from Austin said...

This isn't competitive little league, it was a recreational little league. no pinch hitting, everyone gets to play. Chide the coaches for creating a bad environment, but praise the child.

Romney told his dad the next time that he wants to be the one to get purposely walked. Talk about one determined kid. Nothing is going to knock him down for the count.

Anonymous said...

Wrong. Nothing more needs to be said, no defense exists for Farr's behavior in this situation. The aggregious behaviour exhibited by Shaun Farr and his coaching staff and the poor example he set for his players is shameful. Let Shaun Farr live out his failed sporting career on Xbox or Nintendo -- not at the expense of children.

Richard Watson said...

To Phil Gamma:
I have no idea who you are and you have never met me. You look foolish assuming that this was merely a political comment. It might appear to be political, only because it's on Rob's campaign blog. I would have made those comments regardless if I was running or not.
Have you heard of the cliche about the word "assume"? It applies to Phil.

Anonymous said...

The lost victim in all this is the young pitcher who was indirectly told by his coach that he wasn't good enough to face the other team's top hitter in a pressure situation. For a kid so young, that may be the toughest long-term effect of all this bruhaha.

old yankyltlleager said...

40 years ago all of these stupid comments would have not been made and it would have ended there.