26 August 2008

Off-topic: 9 year old pitcher banned for being "too good"

ESPN - 9-year-old boy told he's too good to pitch

Outside the blog's scope, I know, but I'm bored and this story kind of burns me. (Should some parent want their kid to look at this entry, I'm going to keep the language kid-safe.)

When we were younger, we didn't get coddled in sports, right? Used to be, something like this was unheard of. If you couldn't hit the pitch, you just had to get better until you could. Either way, the kid would grow up to be a major-league fireballer.

Instead, the kid's "too good." No one can hit off of him. Instead of facing him, an opposing team recently walked away and forfeited rather than face the kid's 40mph heat. His league's banned him from pitching and is even threatening to disband his team. Twenty years ago... maybe even ten years ago, this would be unheard of, and any parents pushing for this would rightfully be called whiners. Indeed, the parents would be told to tell their kids "if you can't hit it, you need to improve."

One other reason cited is due to the velocity, according to the league's attorney. (Can we burn all the lawyers in the pit yet? No? Darn.) Problem is, the kid's pitches have all went true... he's never hit a batter. It'd be one thing if he threw more wild pitches than Mark Wohlers, but instead, this kid's got the control of a Tom Glavine of a few years ago (say, pre-Mets). He's no danger to the other kids in the league.

I suspect an ulterior motive in this - the kid turned down an invite to the defending league champions, sponsored by an employer of one of the league administrators. (Cornering the market much? Little League Evil Empire - ah, Yankees?) Instead, he joined a different team unconnected to the administration. The kid's coaches and parents suspect the same reason could be leading to this. Play for us or we'll make your team suffer for it. Sounds plausible.

Either way, after the opposing team wussed out instead of playing the game, the young pitcher's mother unloaded, threatening them and vowing to get the league shut down. She did deny the threats, but called the police.

Good for her. At least one league parent has a spine.

Options are being floated out there for the kid, and none of them are good. One is for him simply not to pitch, which in my opinion is wasting a skill. The kid's obviously a pitching savant. Another may be for him to pitch against older kids. This, too, is a bad option, one that could stunt his natural progression of talent as he gets older. One more is switching positions, which he already does on off days. Again, it would be squandering savant-level talent.

New Haven could be proud of this kid one day. He could pitch a complete game to end a World Series once he grows up, once he realizes his potential, and when he does, residents could be proud of the local boy for doing good. Instead, the parents who are pushing this kid out are being selfish. Their own kids feel bad because they can't hit off him. "Mommy, Daddy, he's making me look bad. Do something." Boo hoo. Cry me a river, please.

Kids are supposed to face some adversity as they grow up. You can't shield them forever, and if you manage it, the kids grow up as useless leeches on society at large. They grow up fragile, easily broken and very difficult to repair. Worse, they grow up thinking they've been wronged any time the wind shifts. Let them face some adversity, and let them toughen up. It'll prepare them for life after childhood, and the right kind of toughening can serve any kid well. It's the real world... you will always lose at least once. It can't be avoided. Losing isn't the end of the world. It doesn't even matter in the long run. What counts is how you rebound and what you learn from it.

In short... these whiny parents and scorned admins need to leave this kid alone, and let their own kids toughen up in the face of the heat.

1 comment:

US 71 said...

This was on NPR today (Wednesday). There was some discussion of having play in the 11 year-old's league, but the kid they spoke with didn't want him for fear he might hurt someone.

Yeah, right. You don't want him because he's better than you. Spolied little brat doesn't want his feelings hurt by being struck out by someone 2 years his junior. There is something wrong in this world when mediocrity is rewarded and skill is condemned.