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Archive for August 2009

A change in transfer rules hoists New Jersey's public schools on their own petard

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Here’s one for the “be careful what you wish for” category.

Public high schools in New Jersey wanted to crack down on what they (and every public school in the nation) saw as private schools recruiting away their best athletes.  Specifically, they wanted the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to toughen the penalty for a high school athlete transferring from one school to another. And they got it. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the penalty for New Jersey high school athletes who transfer without a “bona fide change in residence” was kicked up from 30 days to 365 days. Basically, it’s the equivalent to the NCAA’s rule that athletic transfers must sit out a year, except that in high school you don’t get an extra year of eligibility.

The rule has worked spectacularly well at keeping athletes from transferring… to public schools.

Turns out, the lousy economy has people taking their kids out of pricey private schools in favor of their local public school. So there are kids who would love to try out for sports at their public schools, except they can’t — because of the public school-backed rule that says they must sit out a year because their family didn’t move. From the Press of Atlantic City:

NJSIAA officials expected the changes to cause a ruckus. The economy made it worse. [NJISAA assistant director Bob] Baly received daily calls from parents and athletic directors. Parents wanted the rule explained. Some, according to [NJSIAA executive director Steve] Timko, wanted to appeal before their child even transferred.

…The NJSIAA eligibility committee heard 26 appeals in 2007-08 — none of them involved transfers. The committee heard 67 cases in 2008-09 — 46 of them involved students transferring from nonpublic schools to public high schools.

The rule allowed hardship waivers to be granted for “unforeseeable” and “unavoidable” conditions that “impose a severe burden” on students or their families. That burden can’t be for a sports reason, such as a lack of playing time or a disagreement with a coach.

The eligibility committee found itself examining families’ finances to see whether they met the hardship criteria.

The committee granted waivers in 39 of the 46 cases it heard of athletes transferring from nonpublic to public high schools. Nearly all of those waivers were for financial reasons. The waivers made the athletes eligible immediately or 30 days into the season.

…The number of appeals from nonpublic athletes shows that at least for one year the new rule backfired somewhat on the public schools.

So are public schools saying, hey, maybe we should rethink this? Hell, no.

Still, many public school officials support the tougher sanction. They say the controversy should die down because people are more familiar with the rule and the economy is improving.

Don Robbins, president of the Cape-Atlantic League and Vineland’s athletic director, was on the executive committee in 2008 and voted in favor of the rule. He said he would vote that way again.

“I think it’s a great rule to guard against the blue chipper getting recruited,” he said. “The thing that makes me a little leery is what it does to the program kid. The kid who plays soccer, tennis or football for the love of it and has to for one reason or another leave a school. But that’s why you have an eligibility committee, which makes decisions in the best interest of the kids.”

To paraphrase Mike Muir, I go wait, what are you talking about, YOU decided? THE CHILD’s best interests? How do you know what THE CHILD’s best interest is? How can you say what THE CHILD’s best interest is?

Especially when it’s clear as day that the public schools don’t give a rat’s behind what the child’s best interest is. Somehow I gather that if a coach left a public school for a private school, or vice versa, he or she would not have to sit out 365 days (just like how the NCAA requires a transferring player to sit out but not a transferring coach). So you’re going to make some kid who won’t play past high school sweat out an eligibility committee because you’re afraid Johnny Blue-Chipper is going to go Catholic on you? Someone I don’t see the school being quite as concerned if someone left because a school had a better marching band program. Let me know when you make a tuba player sit out 365 days.

I’m not crazy. You’re the one that’s crazy.

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Written by rkcookjr

August 31, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Kentucky football coach's reckless homicide trial set to begin

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player-thumbAs I write this, it’s the night before the Aug. 31 Louisville, Ky., trial of former Pleasure Ridge Park High football coach David Jason Stinson. He is charged with reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in the practice-related death last year of one his players, Max Gilpin, 15. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is the first time anyone knows of that a coach has been indicted for the death of a player under his charge for something that happened in a practice or game.

I’ve also said this before, and I’ll say it again: I would be shocked if Stinson gets convicted.

The Jefferson County prosecutor got a grand jury indictment on the reckless homicide charge in January, and he recently added wanton endangerment, another felony, in the last month. Reckless homicide means Stinson’s actions caused a death. Wanton endangerment means Stinson’s actions put a person in a position of danger, which is a charge that could be brought even if someone doesn’t die. Stinson pleaded not guilty to both.

The prosecutor’s case is based mainly on witness testimony that the first-year coach ran his players hard on a day when the heat index hit 94 degrees, hard so he could, by his own statement, literally run them off the team. More importantly, witnesses testified that Stinson denied his players water — an especially key fact when a player overheats to a body temperature of 107 degrees and is declared dead three days later of septic shock.

My feeling that Stinson, no matter how much of a dick he might have been during that fateful Aug. 20, 2008, practice, will be found innocent rests on some nagging questions I have about the prosecution’s case. I’ve followed the case, talked to a Louisville defense lawyer and read court reports posted by the Louisville Courier-Journal, but I have no other special insight that leads me to this conclusion. It’s just a gut feel based on some of the nagging questions I have about the case.

Most of them surround this question: why was no autopsy ever performed? And if it were performed, would septic shock still be declared the cause of death? An autopsy might have explained why Gilpin died, and why the worst that happened to the rest of the team was one other player spending two days in the hospital for overheating.

n1604648107_131547_4523One of the big guns Stinson’s defense is pulling out is former Kentucky medical examiner George Nichols, who said he believes Gilpin’s overheating was due not to a lack of water but to Adderall, an ADHD drug that contains an amphetamine that can cause overheating. Plus, Gilpin’s father, Jeff, admitted his son has used creatine, which can cause overheating, though Jeff Gilpin said his son stopped using it a month before practice. Furthermore, in a deposition for his (and Gilpin’s mother’s) civil lawsuits regarding the player’s death, Max Gilpin’s father testified he did not hear Stinson or any other coach deny players water.

All of these things, in a case predicated on Gilpin being reckless because he denied players water, don’t look good for the prosecution.

Neither do a few other recent developments:

– The addition of the wanton endangerment charge. That’s an indication the prosecution is starting to worry that it can’t get a conviction for reckless homicide (actually causing the death) and wants to hedge itself in a high-profile case with something that seems more easily provable (putting someone in a position of danger).

– The defense just receiving the county coroner’s report declaring Gilpin’s death “accidental.” The prosecuting attorney’s office is defending  turning over that report only at the end of last week, saying it also only just received it. Stinson’s defense team took the opportunity to respond that not only did the coroner call Gilpin’s death an accident, but also that the prosecution’s usual expert in these matters also said Adderall was the contributing factor. (The prosecution said there wasn’t scientific evidence to back up that contention.)

By the way, my idiot self isn’t the only one saying Stinson stands a good chance of going free. Nine criminal-law specialists interviewed by the Courier-Journal say the same thing. From the Courier-Journal:

Regardless of the trial’s result, Stinson’s prosecution is likely to make coaches more cautious in pushing players on hot summer days, athletic trainers and lawyers say. But persuading the jury to convict the coach will be difficult, legal experts say. …

If the experts can’t agree on what killed Max, the legal authorities say, then the defense will have a much easier time persuading the jury that it can’t be certain that Stinson is criminally responsible for his player’s death.

The lawyers — four of them former prosecutors — also say it will be difficult to prove that Stinson ignored an “ “unjustifiable risk of death” — a required element of reckless homicide — given there were no other deaths among the thousands of other student-athletes who practiced that same afternoon in Jefferson County.

“There is a theory that if the prosecution needs to rely on an expert at all, it loses,” said former federal prosecutor Kent Wicker. “If there is a dispute between experts, that’s a strong argument for reasonable doubt.”

The lawyers — four of them former prosecutors — also say it will be difficult to prove that Stinson ignored an “unjustifiable risk of death” — a required element of reckless homicide — given there were no other deaths among the thousands of other student-athletes who practiced that same afternoon in Jefferson County.

“The classic example of reckless homicide is firing a gun into a crowded building and killing somebody,” said defense lawyer Steve Romines of Louisville. “Having kids run wind sprints doesn’t equate to that.”

It can be argued that if Stinson’s indictment only makes coaches (including the ones helping to fund his legal defense) more aware of their players’ welfare during practice, and keeps them from going overboard into Junction Boys-style excesses, then something positive has come out of this. Kentucky’s legislature this year mandated that all 12,000 high school coaches take courses in heat safety. If Stinson ever coaches again, you can be sure (if he has any brain cells at all) that he’ll back off some of the tough-guy schtick that suddenly looks bad when said in the presence of a court stenographer.

However, as tragic as Gilpin’s death is, and as awful as his parents must feel trying to make sense of it and find some way to make it whole, it also is awful if a Stinson had to suffer through this grind for no reason. I predict that not only will Stinson be found innocent, but that prosecuting attorney R. David Stengel — who himself used the comparison of shooting into a crowded building to justify the indictment, and who backed away from charges against another scandal-scarred coach, Louisville’s Rick Pitino — is going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Ex-Playboy Playmate/Hef spittle cup holder declares her future youth sports career

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2116926333_8ac6fece67I want to be a young mom, not the mom inside. I’ll be the coach of the baseball and soccer teams!”

Kendra (Wilkinson) Baskett, US Weekly, Sept. 7, 2009

Given the former Girl Next Door’s camera-whoring and the impenetrability of that first sentence, the most likely thing your child would learn from a Coach Kendra is how to be a nutty reality show archetype. Which, come to think of it, is a more applicable and valuable life skill than most of your youth coaches can offer.

My kid's not going junior high: dealing with getting cut

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In all my four children’s lifetimes, never has the simple act of getting off the school bus been such a sign of doom.

If my seventh-grade son had survived the final cut of his school’s volleyball tryouts, he would have been at practice today instead of being on that bus. He made it through the first cut down to 20. But he didn’t get picked for the final roster of 14 seventh- and eighth-grade boys.  I found out when my wife texted me, “He just got off the bus. Damn.”

Before I get into the issue of cut or not to cut, let me say that no matter how you feel, getting cut, or seeing your kid get cut, is a punch in the gut. Getting told you’re not good enough to do something is always a rotten feeling, no matter how old you are, no matter what you’re doing.

My son had two days to impress the coaches (though they also saw him in a summer camp), and that doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error. I think he should be proud that he is officially among the 20 best boys’ volleyball players in his school, especially because my understanding is that only five seventh-graders made it to the final tryout. But right now I’m sure he’s upset, and I’m upset for him.

Now, this day, is not the time to share the oft-told, inspiring (and completely untrue) story of how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore (he was put on the junior varsity team, as most sophomores are). It’s also not the time to start plotting how many camps he’ll go to so he can have a better shot next year. It’s also not time to tell him about all the opportunities it opens up. (Sheesh, I get offended when my wife half-jokingly tells me about all the free time I have when the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Pacers season ends in a crushing playoff loss, though the Pacers’ haven’t been good enough to give me that headache lately.)

Today is about grieving. If that sounds a bit much, then you’ve probably never been cut before.

However, I’m not joining the chorus of those who say nobody should ever be cut from a school team. I’m not sure we can surmise that the genesis of school shootings is kids getting cut from the basketball team. On the other hand, I’m not saying that I’m a hard-ass who believes snot-nosed kids should learn early and often how much they suck so they can move onto more appropriate pursuits, like staying the hell out of the jocks’ way. If a school wants to do cuts or no cuts, it doesn’t bother me — though it would be nice if schools had intramural programs for kids who either didn’t make the team or would rather play in a more casual setting.

Getting cut can go either way for a child, and for a parent. It can be a positive experience that teaches a child about dealing with disappointment. It can be a valuable lesson in telling a child that maybe there’s somewhere else where his or her talents will work and be appreciated. Or it can be a valuable lesson in how hard work on your own time is the key to success, and coming back from being knocked down.

Or it can be a crushing blow to a child’s self-esteem, making him or her feel a little less like a functioning member of society. That’s always the initial feeling. The trick is morphing that feeling into the positive experience I described in the previous paragraph.

The question is how to do that. How can I help him? Should he spend a year working hard on his game for next year’s tryouts? Should he forget volleyball and pursue other interests? (Even before volleyball tryouts, he said he wanted to do a tech/computer club, a strategy games club and learn drums in the school band.) How long is the mourning period for being cut? (My only sport in high school with cross country and track, where no one got cut.)

I’ve love to learn from your experience, if nothing else so getting off the bus can be a happier event.

Written by rkcookjr

August 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

The Little League World Series is depressingly popular television

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592822179_cc2a0e7545In his Twitter feed, ESPN vice president of media relations Mike Soltys linked to a story about Little League World Series television ratings on his family of networks by noting: “Little League viewing is way up this year. Only the most cynical see something wrong with that.”

Well, just call me the Most Cynical Man in the World.

There’s something that makes me queasy that programming featuring pubescent boys (and two girls) running around a field in an adult presentation is growing in popularity at the same time the network formerly known as The Learning Channel is giddy with excitement over another season of Toddlers & Tiaras, which features post-toddler girls running around a stage in an adult presentation.

From the Biz of Baseball, a site that I presume just regurgitated a release put together by Soltys and his minions. Bolded text is from the site:

ESPN’s opening weekend coverage of the Little League World Series averaged 1,056,000 viewers for eight telecasts, a 60 percent increase over last year’s opening weekend average of 660,000 viewers for six telecasts.  The corresponding household impressions are up 52 percent (837,000 in 2009 vs. 549,000 last year) and the rating is up 50 percent (0.9 this year vs. 0.6 in 2008).

ESPN2’s four telecasts are averaging a 1,219,000 viewers, up 137 percent over the 514,000 viewers last year.  ESPN2’s 0.9 rating are an increase of 125 percent (vs. 0.4 rating in 2008) and household impressions are up 122 percent (898,000 vs. 405,000).

Collectively, ESPN and ESPN2’s Little League World Series coverage generated five telecasts posting a 1.0 rating or higher over the opening weekendESPN360.com’s usage was an increase of 545 percent in total hours during the Little League World Series’ opening weekend when compared to the same weekend in 2008.

ABC’s Saturday broadcast (Warner Robins, Ga. vs. Staten Island, N.Y.) posted a 1.3 overnight rating, up 160 percent over the comparable 0.5 overnight rating a year ago.  Sunday’s Little League World Series broadcast on ABC (Russellville, Ky. vs. San Antonio) generated a 0.9 overnight rating, an increase of 29 percent over last year’s 0.7 overnight rating.

ESPN’s Little League World Series coverage from Williamsport, Pa., is coming off momentum built during the Regional Finals, which demonstrated significant audience growth including:

ESPN

  • Five telecasts up 19 percent in households (708,000 vs. 596,000 for five telecasts in 2008);
  • a 0.7 average rating, an increase of 17 percent over last year’s 0.6 rating;
  • up 14 percent in viewership (889,000 viewers vs. 779,000).

ESPN2

  • three telecasts up 55 percent among households (721,000 vs. 465,000 for three telecasts in 2008);
  • an increase of 53 percent among viewers (972,000 vs. 635,000);
  • up 40 percent in rating (0.7 vs. 0.5 last year).

ESPN’s coverage of the Little League World Series will continue throughout the week – all 32 games available in HD – including the semifinals and final this weekend (Aug. 29-30) on ABC.

Oooh, in HD! You can see the drops of every tear, the curve of every pimple!

Really, if you don’t have a child or know a child involved, why are you watching the Little League World Series? And don’t tell me because the kids play only for the love of the game, because anyone who has been around youth sports for more than two minutes knows that isn’t true. All you’re doing is encouraging more of this stuff to get on television, like MLB TV’s August foray into televising youth baseball championships.

Or is that what you want? You creepy, creepy television viewer, you.

Written by rkcookjr

August 26, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Is it OK if I just hit this batter, or another argument against Little League on TV

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After the Mercer Island (Wash.) team lost to Urbandale, Iowa, in its first Little League World Series game, the Northwest Region champion coaches made clear that they were just short of suicidal, even if the kids weren’t. “They took this hard initially, but they’re kids and in 30 minutes they’ll be in the pool,” Mercer Island coach Brock Mansfield told the Seattle Times. “[For] us coaches, it could take a year, 18 months — that’s a guess.”

Well, Brock Mansfield’s message that a loss could and/or should ruin your life seems to have gotten through to his team, if the above video is any evidence.

A national television audience (and readers of Deadspin, and now, well, you) got a peek at what Brandon Lawler might be talking about on his therapist’s couch in the future. A live mike caught an exchange between Lawler and his coach after Lawler’s wild pitching helped turn a 2-1 Mercer Island lead in the sixth and final inning into a 3-2 deficit to Warner Robins, Ga.

To further set the scene: Lawler and Mercer Island had romped over their Northwest Region competition, with only the final game going the full six innings instead of being called early because of the 10-run mercy rule. A loss to Warner Robins, though, would be its third straight and would guarantee Mercer Island would not make the championship round. So a team that was used to getting its way, easily, was struggling. There’s already a lot of pressure on kids in a league game when only the parents are watching, and a lot of major-leaguers crack under the kind of pressure of playing in a must-win situation in front of a stadium and ESPN. Clearly, not a situation for a 12-year-old, or a Little League coach, for that matter.

So here is the what the mike and camera caught:

COACH: “Hey, we’re going to come up again.”
PITCHER: “Is it okay if I just hit this batter?”
COACH: “What? No. No. Are you kidding me? … Let’s get this guy. Come on. We’re still in this game. One-run game. You wanna stay in?”
PITCHER: “No.”
COACH: “You wanna come out right now?”
PITCHER: “Yes, I do. Can I sit out?”
COACH: “No, you’re going to first base.”

There is so much wrong with that exchange, other than it being during a World Series for 12-year-olds broadcast on national television as some sort of athletic purity ball, pun intended.

I don’t know what was going through the coach’s head, but it certainly wasn’t the best interest of that kid, or even his team. One thing I learned quickly as a youth coach is that if a kid says he or she does not want to play, nothing good can come from him or her playing.

I saw a great example of this a few years ago when working a volunteer shift for concessions at a sixth-grade volleyball tournament (I was there to fulfill a work requirement for my children’s school team). With a game tight late, a coach/mom subbed in her daughter, who loud enough for gyms within a 10-mile radius to hear, announced she did not want to play because she was only going to screw up. Coach/mom put her in anyway. The girl misses a few balls hit at her, but her team gets the ball back, down one. And that girl was due to serve.

Of course, she put the ball into the net.

But before the ball reached there, she jumped high enough to hit her head on the gym ceiling and screamed, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO PUT ME IN! I TOLD YOU! I TOLD YOU! I KNEW I WOULD SCREW IT UP!” And then she, her coach/mom, and her team proceed to run right in front of my concession stand (killing my business, I’ll have you know), with mom/coach pleading, “It was my fault. My fault. My fault. My fault.” I imagined it must have been a hell of dinner conversation that night.

By the way, that Mercer Island coach’s strategy of playing Lawler against his will worked out so well, Lawler struck out with a man on third to end the game at 3-2, Warner Robins. I imagine it’s going to be one hell of a plane ride back from South Williamsport, Pa.

Written by rkcookjr

August 25, 2009 at 11:50 pm

City slicker knocks hick town's Little League nose out of joint

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“That column was written in New York City!” — “New York City!!!!!!!??????”

Daaaaaaaadgummit, are they hoppin’ mad in Georgia over some snooty big-town writer accusing their Little League team of being bad sports. Imagine that, someone in big, bad New York City saying polite Southerners are the rude ones! Well, I never!

The first round in this media civil war was fired by the New York Post’s sports-moralizer-in-chief, Phil Mushnick, in an Aug. 23 column titled, “Lack of Sportsmanship at LLWS No Surprise.” Mushnick’s lede: “Every August, if you’re interested in gauging our starts-young “sports culture,” especially in the hands of TV, there’s the Little League World Series on ABC/ESPN. It can cure stomach discomfort. By making you sick. ” (Wow, pretty subtle for Mushnick, and the Post.)

Mushnick saved his most pointed finger wag for the coaches of the Georgia team, for how it reacted when a pitcher from the Staten Island, N.Y., team (in the Post’s readership area) tried to intentionally walk one of the Georgia players, and for the ABC crew, which didn’t call the coaches on it.

Saturday, the 12-year-olds representing Georgia were up, 4-1, against the kids from Staten Island when a Georgia batter, being intentionally walked, was at 3-0. But with the catcher again setting up outside and the ball again thrown outside, the batter swung and, of course, missed.

On ABC, Gary Thorne, known for presenting bad guesswork as fact, claimed that the batter “swung at that, just fooling around.”

Oh no,he didn’t. If he had, Georgia’s coach, immediately shown coaching third, would not have responded with silence and a knowing look. It was clear that with Staten Island’s starter’s pitch-count nearing the maximum allowed, 85, the kid had been instructed to swing at 3-0, to increase the total.

Here was another example of adults encouraging kids to forget playing ball and instead try to win by hook or by crook, to exploit every rule, to worm through loopholes.

ABC’s broadcast truck half got it. It cut to a shot of an electric pitch-count board in the outfield, except it focused on the wrong team’s. A close-up showed Georgia’s starter to have thrown 44, when N.Y.’s starter, after that kid swung at 3-0, had reached 77.

Mushnick went on to sprain other fingers while wagging them about the Little League World Series, but no matter. To the state of Georgia, specifically Joe Kovac Jr. of the Telegraph in Macon, them fighting words had already been spoken. Daaaaaaaadgummit, apparently Phil Mushnick doesn’t like winners, especially smarty-pants Southerners outslicking the city slickers. Warner Robins American Little League, the Georgia rep,  won the World Series in 2007, and its girls won the Little League softball World Series a month back, making it the first league to have boys and girls winners.

Kovac Jr. responded today in a column titled, “New York City tabloid says Warner Robins Little Leaguers poor sports.” In case you missed the seething dripping from the phrase “New York City tabloid” — as in, “Big City Asswiper” — Kovac Jr.’s lede was, “Leave it to the New York press to stir up a mild stink over, of all things, the strategic subtleties of Little League baseball.”

Mushnick’s observations came two days after the Georgia boys out-foxed the New Yorkers 6-3 in a contest televised on ABC. Well within the rules of the Little League game, Warner Robins sought to do all it could to up the Mid-Atlantic starting hurler’s pitch count.

Warner Robins leadoff batter Justin Jones, who had cracked a two-run homer earlier in the game, was at the plate with two out in the fourth. The Big Apple squad opted to issue him an intentional pass. Its pitcher tossed three pitchouts to the catcher.

On what would have been ball four, with the Staten Island starter’s pitch count within eight of the 85-pitch, Little League limit, Jones, with the apparent OK from his father, Warner Robins manager and third-base coach Randy Jones, took a half-hearted swing at the unhittable pitch. That ran the count to three balls and a strike, the idea being to chase the strong-throwing starter from the game in hope that a lesser pitcher might come on in relief. Or, perhaps, to even coax the New Yorkers to try their luck and pitch to Jones.

In last year’s regional round in Gulfport, Fla., the Warner Robins team bit on such a move. Its pitcher, facing Tennessee’s mightiest hitter, opted to pitch to the slugger after he took hacks at a pair of would-be ball fours. With the count 3-2, Warner Robins pitched to him and, whammo, saw the ball fly out of the park for a home run.

Saturday, Jones didn’t swing to make it 3-2 and instead walked. The batter behind him struck out to end the inning, but in the next frame the Warner Robins leadoff man went down on strikes, but it spelled the end for the New York starter who’d hit the 85-pitch mark.

Monday evening, during a postgame interview session with reporters after Warner Robins’ 3-2 victory over the Northwest team, the Georgia team’s manager was asked if the New York Post piece was accurate in saying Justin Jones was instructed to swing to increase the pitch tally.

“Do I need my attorney?” Randy Jones deadpanned, drawing laughs from reporters. “The pitch count is a part of the game, and it’s here to stay. And for those who aren’t willing to find strategic ways to use it to their benefit, they will find themselves going home.”

He said he figured to get questions as to the appropriateness of Saturday’s strategizing eventually.

“I think the way that that question was answered the best was by one of the umpires. … Apparently the (New York) coach came out and, as soon as we did that, claimed that I was making a travesty of the game, which is a very broad rule in the book,” Jones said. “But, anyhow, the umpire’s response to him was, ‘I think it’s a travesty that you won’t pitch to the kid.’ So he didn’t say anything else and went back to the dugout. So that took care of that problem.”

You know who is right here? The umpire.

It was a travesty that the Staten Island coaches decided to intentionally walk a player in the fourth inning. You’re not Tony LaRussa. You’re Little League coaches. Just pitch to the kid. Tell your pitcher not to throw him anything hittable, but at least look like you’re trying. Also, congratulations, you’ve just told one of your best pitchers he’s not capable of getting one of the best hitters out. Way to build his confidence. Unless you’re getting a cash bonus for winning this World Series (and if you are, that’s disgusting in its own right), forget the intentional walks unless it’s a real baseball reason — like there are runners on second and third with less than one out.

Georgia, if you think the ump sided with you, you’re wrong. Bascially, he called you out for being rule-bending knuckleheads, too, for cheaply trying to push the Staten Island pitcher to his limit. The ump was saying two wrongs don’t make a right, as in, the only thing more ridiculous than the pitcher trying to walk your guy was your guy swinging at an intentional walk pitch. Oh, and another thing more ridiculous — cheaply trying to use the pitch-count limit against somebody. The spirit of the rule is to keep a kid’s arm from falling off, not so you can game who you get to face.

As for Mushnick and Kovac Jr.:

Mushnick, if you were going to finger-wag, you should have included your homeboys of Staten Island for the intentional walk.

Kovac Jr., you should stop being such a huckleberry about big cities. Then, you should stop talking about the subtleties of Little League managing as if they involve baseball strategy. The biggest subtleties of any youth sports league involve how you develop players, not only their skills but also a love of the game. Not whether you can work the opponent’s pitch count up. Oh, and nice job referring to “a lesser pitcher” on a group of 11- and 12-year-olds. You sound like a heckling parent, daaaaaaaadgummit.

Written by rkcookjr

August 25, 2009 at 1:50 pm

You suck (at finding a job), ref!

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This is how bad the economy has gotten. It’s driven otherwise sane people who usually try to avoid getting yelled at by strangers to become youth league referees. From the Canadian Press:

Administrators around the country are reporting an increase in the number of people interested in officiating, especially in areas hit hard by the recession. The job typically won’t make ends meet but it can help: A particularly active referee can earn more than US$10,000 in a year.

Barry Mano, president of the National Association of Sports Officials, has long noticed an inverse relationship between the economy and sports officiating. When more people have free time and are looking for work, it’s easier to find officials.

High school sports organizations in the Rust Belt are reporting a significant uptick. Michigan had just over 13,000 officials last school year, up 1,000 from five years previous. The situation is similar in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Hank Zaborniak of the Ohio High School Athletic Association says it’s easy to tell which parts of the state are struggling economically. Those are the places with plenty of officials.

“When the steel mills closed down in Youngstown and the manufacturing drops off, we’ll see a spike,” Zaborniak said. “We’ll see more folks from that area of the state enter officiating, and often times it’s because of the additional income, just to help offset what they might have lost.”

2054636125_c12f6d6ab0“You’re fucking blind! And unemployed!”

If I lost my job, I would have to think long and hard about whether getting screamed at by parents and wanna-be Belichicks would be something I would want to do. I’m not sure I love my family that much.

Written by rkcookjr

August 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Posted in Sports, U.S.

Tagged with , , ,

Girls play baseball, too

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nogirlsYou wouldn’t know it from the rosters at the Little League World Series, but there’s a groundswell growing to let girls play baseball.

Growing only now, you say, 35 years after Little League was forced by lawsuit to allow girls to play? (The ban came into effect after the 1950 season, when a girl posed as a boy named “Tubby” to play in Corning, N.Y.) And what do I mean, “let?” Isn’t this issue settled?

Not by a long shot. Female baseball players are few and far between. In Indiana, the state’s high school athletic association overturned a ban on girls even trying out for baseball only this spring, after determining it would lose a lawsuit. A girl playing high school baseball is still big news. And two different books were published this year explaining the past and current history of baseball authorities at every level being active members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

Little League would certainly not call itself a member. In 2004, when it had two girls in the World Series, it had a special ceremony to honor female ballplayers. This year, for the second time, the Little League World Series roster features two girls: Katie Reyes of Vancouver, B.C., and Bryn Stonehouse of Dharhan, Saudi Arabia. (Stonehouse, a Katy, Texas, native, plays for a team of expatriates residing in the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp, the fenced-in company town for the world’s largest oil company.) Reyes and Stonehouse brings the number of girls who have played in South Williamsport, Pa., up to 15 all-time. Between 2004 and 2009, there were zero girls in the Little League World Series.

Whether there are girls or whomever on a Little League World Series team has to do with the makeup of the league and the all-stars of the locality that has its tournament run. But that two girls is a rare event is evidence of all the years of banning and otherwise discouraging girls from playing. At Little League age, boys and girls are still competitive physically. Reyes is 5-foot-6, 132 pounds, and Stonehouse is 5-foot-4, 150 pounds — each bigger than many of their teammates. For that matter, my 10-year-old daughter is taller than a few of my 12-year-old son’s friends. If girls were encouraged to play baseball, there is no physical reason they could not compete.

However, since Title IX and Little League lawsuits and whatnot forced organizations and schools to let girls play at all, they have been steered toward the stated equivalent of baseball: softball.

Now, I’m not going to crack on softball. My 10-year-old daughter has played it, and well (she’s a three-time All-Star, if I may brag. And because it’s my blog, I can.) I’ve coached two teams. I know that if a girl is going to get that elusive (and often mythical, given how few actually get them) athletic scholarship for a stick-and-ball sport, it will be softball. Also, socially I can understand why girls would want to play in a sport with other girls, rather than be vastly outnumbered in baseball. Reyes and Stonehouse aren’t rooming with their teammates at the Little League World Series. They’re rooming with each other.

But I understand that baseball and softball are not the same, and that if a girl wants the opportunity to play baseball, she should have it. As it turns out, there are more female-only baseball organizations forming for the benefit of girls who would like to play the sport without having to put up with the male bullshit. Part of the ultimately unsuccessful bid to get baseball back for the 2016 Olympics was to have men’s and women’s baseball events.

Reyes has said she wants to keep playing baseball. Stonehouse, who played softball in the U.S., said she would like to return to the sport. Either is acceptable and should be encouraged. I believe, in the immortal words of “Bad News Bears in Breaking Training:” Let! Them! Play!

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Written by rkcookjr

August 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Play Little League World Series Bingo

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The first pitch has been thrown today for this year’s Little League World Series (formal name: Little League World Series Presented by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar. That’s Kellogg Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar. Good, and good for you, and we have a lawsuit settlement to prove it.)

You might ask yourself: I’m a grown person, so how can I watch the Little League World Series without feeling like a perv? Well, I’m here with the answer: Little League World Series Bingo.

Just create a card, bingo-style. Then put it on your coffee table, along with your dauber and lucky skull candle. Then, fill in the squares as the item in each box occurs. It’s more fun with more people! I’d recommend either inviting your friends, or crabby old ladies pissed they can no longer smoke at church bingo because of clean air rules. Light ‘em if you got ‘em, granny!

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The beauty of Little League World Series Presented by Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar (“Because we know you fat little fuckers will never touch Special K”) Bingo is that you can customize it to the events over the next 10 days of competition, based on what happens during the games, among the announcing crew or with the old ladies in your living room. So here are some categories to put in your boxes until you add your own twist:

– Brent Musberger says, “You’ve looking liiiiivvveee… .”

– Someone calls the game some variation of “pure.”

– A boy cries.

– A boy’s coach and/or father slaps him for crying.

– A coach cries, and his son slaps him for crying.

– A coach has a mustache.

– A coach has a mustache and glasses.

– A coach has a mustache, glasses and a neck port-wine stain.

– A coach argues with an umpire.

– A coach gets kicked out of the game.

– An umpire kicks a coach out of the game because the man in blue has acted all game like he’s the despotic ruler of the Imperial Palace.

– Kids chase after a home run ball like it’s Barry Bonds’ 756th.

– Grownups chase a home run ball like it’s Barry Bonds’ 756th.

– The retrospective of the Urbandale, Iowa, team begins with a shot of a cornfield. (The one where they get the raw materials for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar. Because who needs sugar when you have high fructose corn syrup?)

– There’s a retrospective of former Little League World Series players who became major-leaguers (and Chris Drury).

– There’s a retrospective of former Little Leage World Series players who became shells of themselves after being pushed by starry-eyed parents and coaches who graduated from the Dusty Baker School of Saving Arms to the edge of their abilities, only to fall apart at a tender age in front of a wide audience (and Danny Almonte). (This is not likely, so you get this category, you’re screwed.)

– A pitcher snaps off a curveball…

– …and his arm snaps off.

– Announcers come up with all sorts of euphemisms so they don’t describe anyone and everyone on the Taiwan team as “inscrutable.”

– The marketing director of a sponsor gets interviewed on the air…

– … and that marketing director is from Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Reduced Sugar (“Because they’re Grrrrrr… eh, just OK.)

– A mom is shown cheering.

– A mom is shown crying.

– A mom is shown getting pasted in the face by a line-drive foul.

– Vice President Joe Biden shows up in the booth purportedly to talk about his entry in the Little League’s hall of fame…

– … and President Obama an hour later puts out a statement refuting or trying to explain what he said.

– Fans scream.

– Fans boo the ump.

– Fans dance around in ways that make you wonder if the concession stands sell LLWS-logo emblazoned acid tabs.

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– Someone in the stands holds up a sign that plays off the televising network’s acronym.

– Someone in the stands holds up a sign that plays off their hometown AND the televising network’s acronym.

– A kid looks like he’s 16.

– A kid looks like he’s 8.

– A kid looks like he wasn’t wearing a cup on that play.

– You feel shame you know sideline announcer Moises Arias plays “Rico” on Hannah Montana…

– …because you don’t have a 9-year-old daughter.

– The announcers encourage you to follow Moises Arias’ Twitter posts…

– … followed by the question, “So [announcer/color analyst/sideline reporter who is not Moises Arias], are you a tweeter?” (Sound of everyone in booth chortling.)

– Current or former major-leaguer shows up in the booth…

– … and says, “Why in hell are we televising this? This kids aren’t even teenagers yet! Isn’t this a bit much? Have you no shame?” (This is not likely, so you get this category, you’re screwed.)

Written by rkcookjr

August 21, 2009 at 4:18 pm

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