What happened to Respect in Baseball?

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I’ve seen a lot of things in this game, but what I witnessed this past weekend took it to another level.

My son’s been playing for a club team for about a year now. He loves his team, its players and coaches very much. You know when it clicks, and for him, it’s clicked. They’ve played some pretty decent teams and the coaches on the other side for the most part have been pretty good when it comes to professionalism and respect.

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This past weekend it took a nasty turn. A coach on the other team got pretty fed up, arguing a play very similar to the one that got his own player out earlier in the game. The difference however was our player stayed IN the baseline when he stole, his player did not. Whatever the case, the umpire called our guy safe and that’s when the whole thing changed.

After a few minutes of screaming at each other about getting squeeze by the ump and “favoring teams” and all of that, coach‎ made a critical error. He blurted out that the umpire needed to “Open his f**king eyes and shut up!” I’m not kidding. There was silence from both benches. That was followed by parents asking that coach to “stop” and the umpire then pointing to the exit and asking him to leave the field. He did, but continued to voice his displeasure as he walked to his car.

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But while the audience was fixated on the chaos, I was watching the kids reaction. They witnessed the whole thing. Some we’re stone faced, some smirked at the profanity. But all stood still and watched the entire incident unfold. And that got me thinking, where’s the respect?

Now I’m a coach and I’ve had my own moments with umpires but my approach is very different. For one, I always speak to the officials as a human beings and never argue balls and strikes. If a play doesn’t go our way, I will usually ask questions, but not go for the throat. Although, and I’m being honest here; if it’s a tight game and it’s a bad call, I will definitely lose my cool. Here’s the difference though; There is never profanity. Secondly, I make sure that umpire knows that while passionate about the call, I ultimately trust their overall judgement and respect their job and the game.

A player once asked me, “Coach, how come you told us to respect the umpires and not question a call, but you did?” I addressed the team that day and explained that as a coach, you protect your team in those critical moments, but in the end, the umpire is the most important person on the field, and what he says goes.

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And this past weekend, the umpire was the authority, bottom line. He took control of the situation right away and that unruly coach was removed, not because he questioned a call, but because he embarrassed himself by swearing in front of 24 kids. It was obvious that coach wasn’t looking out for the players. He was showing up the umpire, and the moment that F bomb was dropped, it was evident, it wasn’t about the best interest for his kids. He was kind of just being a jerk.

I have news for you. Parents are just as bad. I was reading a great article from the Sun Sentinel about youth soccer for example. In it, there’s a quote from a referee, Lou Hecht of Delray Beach who said: “I’ve been refereeing for 25 years down here, and it has gotten progressively worse…Parents think it’s the World Cup, World Series and Super Bowl all rolled into one… It has gotten downright dangerous sometimes.”

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According to the National Alliance of Youth Sports, “…fifteen percent of youth games involve some sort of verbal or physical abuse from coaches and parents, up from five percent just five years earlier. NASO reported receiving two to three calls a week reporting physical threats or acts of violence against sports officials.” That’s incredible to me. By the way, that quote was from momsteam.com.

But why? Why does it happen and why is it getting worse? The answer is simple. For kids these days, it’s gotten much more competitive, pitting kid against kid and a community that typecast players to create a pecking order of “Studs”.  That makes these “studs” entitled and that’s when the whole thing goes haywire.

Here’s how it works, and this is just an outline or scenario… insert name here…

–A “sport” dad who loves the game and was once a Division 1 athlete has a 6-year-old kid. He takes him for batting lessons, spends too much money on baseball clinics and is constantly in the Farm league coaches ear about how good his son is.

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–That son is now placed on that coaches Travel team and before you know it, 4 more kids on that team, all 6 and 7 years old start taking batting lessons as well. The coach is now drooling as his super team is forming. Before long, that travel coach now has 5 “studs” on his team.

–As games begin, those parents of those kids are in and around the dugout all the time… coaching first base, asking to do the book and getting in the manager’s ear whenever possible about where their kids play and why it’s their “spot”. The culture becomes all about winning and hitting and less about the kids, who, if you sneak a glimpse of them in the dugout, are playing with dirt and stealing each others hats…like kids do.

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–One of the studs hits a grounder to second base, and as the throw is made to first, the umpire calls him out. Suddenly that kid has a fit on the field because he’s “always safe” and here comes his old man to argue the call because he happens to be the first base coach too.

–Before long parents are complaining and as the game continues, the manager is now taking cheap shots and mumbling under his breath in ear shot of the umpire just enough to piss him off and let him know he’s terrible at what he does.

And that my friends is a scenario of what is going on in our youth baseball culture in 2016. We’re no longer about respecting the game. We’re about winning at all costs and making our children not only machines, but entitled. It’s a bunch of crap.

Bottom line, the umpire is in charge and if you want to make your kid a stud player at 6, 7, 10 or 12 years old, you best be sure to also explain the importance of character, integrity and respect for not only the game, but for the officials as well.

When our game was over this past weekend, the families and players walked to our cars. So did the umpires. I thanked the umps for a good game and the umpire apologized to me for that unruly coaches incident.

You don’t need to apologize to me,” I said “that coach was out of line.”

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The umpire looked at me, “That’s why I asked him to leave. I don’t mind if a coach challenges a call. In fact, in some respects it’s part of the game. But as soon as he started with the profanity, and I saw all these children standing around looking, I knew enough was enough.”

Being an umpire or a referee in youth sports is a tough, tough gig. You’re always the bad guy. You have 2 teams and their entourage to deal with, and you always have to be right. Unfortunately, when you make the call, someone gets the wrong end of that call. Sometimes it’s them and sometimes it’s you. Ultimately though, I think it’s pretty important that we remember one thing; Youth baseball is exactly what it is… baseball for YOUTH.

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We as parents and coaches are too far ahead of what it was meant to be. We need to settle down. In fact, Little League mission reads like this: “…promote, develop, supervise, and voluntarily assist in all lawful ways, the interest of those who will participate in Little League Baseball and Softball.”

While not all Youth baseball is Little League baseball, there’s one more word that’s equally, if not more important. Respect.

We as human beings have been taught about what respect is since we were little. Our parents taught us to respect our elders, friends and family. It’s the right thing to do. So why does that change the moment we hit the baseball field?

There’s only one solution, folks.  We need to get back to basics.

Rob Monaco, Little League coach & Commissioner

Read more items like this on our Facebook page The Heart of Youth Baseball.

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15 thoughts on “What happened to Respect in Baseball?

  • February 8, 2017 at 2:15 am
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    I agree with all of these comments. It is out of control. However, I have a comment on the pictures in this article. What bothers me is the 2 pictures of an umpire with his cap turned around backwards on this head. This looks really unprofessional and does not command respect. Dress professionally and wear your uniform correctly and you will get more respect.

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  • January 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm
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    umpires should never argue with coaches on judgment calls. what the umpire calls is final. he is NOT going to change his mind on judgment calls, so, do not argue with the coaches about them. and, umpires, NEVER let a coach get up in your face to argue a call. turn your back to him and walk away. let him know you are not going to let him get up in your face. umpires DO NOT argue judgment calls, ever!!! you can tell him what you had in your decision, or why you made your call, but DO NOT argue with him. just stay calm, and tell him, “coach, is there anything else your would like to know? if not, let’s play ball. I am not going to argue the call with you.” if he persist, tell him, “coach, you, now have ONE of TWO places you HAVE TO GO…to the DUGOUT, or TO THE PARKING LOT, but I am FINISHED talking about the call with you”. so, which one is it going to be??? right now you have a choice…you keep on and you are NOT going to HAVE a choice…NOW, let’s play ball!!! at that point, IF…he does NOT turn and start TOWARD the dugout…EJECT HIM and DO NOT LISTEN TO ANYTHING ELSE HE HAS TO SAY…your PARTNER should come running down there to get him OFF the field…if he Won’t leave the field…call the Police and have him removed. but, DO NOT listen to ANYTHING ELSE he has to say, and, DO NOT let him GET UP IN EITHER ONE OF YOUR FACES WHAT-SO-EVER!
    a coach is NEVER ALLOWED TO GET UP IN YOUR FACE…EVER…the NEXT THING THAT COMES AFTER THAT IS HIM PUSHING YOU, OR HITTING YOU WITH A PUNCH…SO, NEVER LET A COACH GET UP IN YOUR FACE…THOSE DAYS ARE IN THE PAST!!!

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    • February 7, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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      Maybe less capitalization in your writing. Makes it sound like you are yelling. Having worked many levels of baseball, there is one word that defines an umpire, “Confidence”, or lack of. We make a call, we signal confident, and vocalize our call with confidence. Anything short of that opens the door for additional criticism. As an umpire, we need to have tools to de-escalate a situation. As the manager a question. Listen first, then respond with a short, brief description of what you had. Then end the conversation. If he doesn’t want to end it, warn him, if he gets in your face, eject him. Simply as that. We have tools at our disposal. Why are umpires afraid to eject a coach who disrespects him. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself, your call, and the Great Game of Baseball!!

      Reply
  • December 8, 2016 at 11:45 pm
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    what has happened is that coaches have been watching too much TV. they think they have the right to get up in an umpires face and say what he wants, or to stick his finger in his face, or to push the umpire, or to cuss him, or to kick dirt on him, or to say he will meet him when the game is over. and the fans think they can do the same. well, the laws have changed. you cannot do that any more. the umpire can eject the coach, fans, or anybody in the park…then call the Police and have them removed from the Park, or have them put in Jail if they have refused to leave after the umpire has told them to leave…it is all up to the umpire at that point. and, if that umpire says, “take him to jail”…they are going to jail. or if the umpire says, “remove all these people from this park because they are becoming a hazard to my players…that police will remove everyone from that Park!!! so, the Umpires have tremendous AUTHORITY. and, the Umpire-in-Chief (plate ump) can eject his Base umpire if he feels he is cheating, or doing things intentionally wrong.

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  • December 7, 2016 at 10:45 pm
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    the umpires should eject eject all of the players, and coaches, and have the Police to remove them from the Park. then, the Park should remove them from the League for their attitudes. and, an umpire should NEVER allow anyone, coach or player to get up in his face to argue anything…EVER. an umpire should NEVER allow a coach to get up in his face to argue anything…NEVER. that will only lead to physical abuse.

    Reply
  • October 16, 2016 at 4:45 am
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    As a old and wise coach once told me – “You are not here to teach young men how to be ball-players, you are here to teach ball-player how to be young men.”

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  • October 6, 2016 at 4:23 am
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    Here is the real problem. There are way more sports happening and not more officials being trained correctly. There isn’t one picture here of an umpire dressed correctly, so I can imagine their training is not up to snuff either. To be fair, you give someone a little training, pay them forty dollars a game and give them ten games a weekend, who would really say no? Worse yet, show me one travel ball organization that does background checks on their umpires. If you cannot get a job because you have a prior record and their is a shortage of umpires, sixteen hundred a month cash is not a bad gig. In Northern Nevada, we are training as well doing background checks to ensure a reputable experience for the future of the kids and baseball. We still work for travel ball organizations as well as high school and little league organizations, but we have far less ejections and issues due to proper training.

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  • October 6, 2016 at 12:05 am
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    Where’s the double like button when u need it.
    What a beautifully written article that emphasis the foundation of our code.

    Well done sir!

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  • October 5, 2016 at 12:40 am
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    It has become fashionable to heckle umpires in today’s travel orientated teams who think winning is everything. The ONLY reason to disput a call is if umpire is out of position. I’ve umpired for years all levels up to the college level. It’s not a easy gig sometimes!

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  • October 4, 2016 at 9:57 pm
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    Thanks for highlighting this issue!!! I’m a working official in baseball and football since 1991 (I started the summer after I graduated high school). I work all levels from youth league to high school varsity. I will fully agree with you on this, and add another angle that most coaches, players, and fans at all levels don’t understand right now and that bears along both with the argument in this article and the statistics you quote.

    In short, we are becoming DESPERATELY short of officials; as the bulk of our current group of older officials retires, we simply aren’t able to convince young folks, and particularly Millennials, to come out and be yelled at. Within the next few years we’re likely to be so short-handed that we can’t cover games and scheduling will have to change. I live and work in Oklahoma City, and we’re already at a critical level in covering VARSITY games in the OKC metro area. They are already talking about expanding varsity scheduling so that games are routinely played 2-3 nights a week, rather than just Friday nights, just so we have enough crews to cover the games being played. Again, this is at the varsity level, generally the highest level routinely available locally. We have even fewer veteran officials who are still willing to work sub-varsity and youth-league work, primarily due to the issues you’re talking about. I’m one of the ones who still do, but I’ll be honest, it’s getting harder.

    So what’s going to happen is not only are you going to have fewer officials, but the ones you do have are going to more frequently be the mediocre and/or less-experienced officials because we don’t have enough really good ones to cover everything. We used to have the luxury of making sure we put our really solid guys on our really high-quality, competitive, and important games…but not so much any more. So coaches, players, and fans at more competitive ballgames, games that are big rivalries or that are really important for playoff standings, are going to have to start making do with not-so-good officials (even worse than the ones they’re already yelling at)…where do you think THAT will lead?

    We (the officiating community) are doing everything possible to recruit young people to come officiate. We’ve done direct outreach efforts through coaches to local high school students. We’ve done local TV and online commercials/ads. Both local associations and the state have cut registration fees for people who are new to officiating. Many veteran officials (my own football crew included) are even buying a new official’s equipment and uniform to help them get going. That’s how bad it’s getting for us. But ultimately, if people don’t want to come out and get yelled at, they won’t.

    Non-officials seem to assume we just go out back to the Officials Tree and pluck a few more new folks off when we need them. That’s not how it is, and the sporting community in general, and at the lower levels especially, are about to start to see just how important officials really are to sports. That’s where the rubber will really meet the road on the issue you’re talking about here.

    Reply
  • October 4, 2016 at 5:47 pm
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    Well written article about a topic that has troubled me for years. I have coached, umpired, cleaned the field, kept score, served on the Board of Directors, worked concession, managed, and watched from the bleachers- and I have witnessed the decline in respect mentioned from every position. Kids believe they are going to be the next MLB phenomenon, and parents who put kids into LL have expectations for their little angels that are often unrealistic, never considering that the majority of their miniscule dues go to cover direct expenses, and that the league is run by volunteers. Thank you for voicing what is seen on fields across the nation. Now, what to do?…

    Reply

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