Youth Baseball-Is It Just A Game Or A Path To The Pros?

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When I Was Young, We Played For Fun

I started playing baseball at the age of seven. I remember the first time I stepped onto that little field, I was so scared and nervous but at the same time so excited I couldn't stop smiling. The sun was shining bright so I pulled my brand new hat down to shade my eyes. We played hard and tried our best, that is what our coach instructed us to do. He never yelled or screamed, he didn't get mad if we didn't catch the ball or if we made a bad throw. He made it fun for all of us. I don't remember if we won that day and to be honest, it didn't matter to me then so I guess it doesn't really matter now. All that mattered was that I got to play. Baseball, the best game in the world. That was the beginning of what would become a passion, almost a way of life, for me and for my family.

Within a couple of years, my families' love of the game grew stronger and stronger. My older brother had already been playing for a couple of years so we had been involved with little league for a while. My Dad was asked if he would be President of the league and held that position for seven or eight years. My Mom also became President of the Women's auxiliary board but did so many more things in the league she probably could have run it herself. Needless to say, we were at the park all of the time. But that was okay, we didn't mind, as long as we were either playing in a game or practicing or even starting a game on the side with our friends we were happy as could be.

That kind of love of something makes you devote your life to it. It completely consumes you and it's all you think about. It's not something you can teach and it's not something that everybody has inside of them, especially when they're young. But we had it, bubbling inside of us like a volcano trying to erupt. And we got good too. Our close knit group of friends that were all around together growing up all got better and better. All of us All Stars with people patting us on the back and telling us how good we were. We won a few championships and as we got older did really well in High School. Some of my friends went on to play college with promising pro careers and some of us decided to concentrate on school and stopped playing. I played with my own men's team until I was thirty and have some friends that are still playing today in their forties. It was a great run while we had it. But now it's over. Sure I think about what it would have been like to play Professional Baseball, I'd be lying if I told you otherwise. My friends would tell you the same thing because none of them, as good as they were, ever made it to the pros. What is most important to me is that I can look back at my baseball career and say "that was the most fun I have ever had in my life!" I never looked at baseball as my future or a way to make a living, it was just a game that we played and loved to do.

Why Are Things So Different Today?

Unfortunately, the game of baseball today has been tainted. Kids today don't play because they love it. They play because they're made to or because they want to stay in shape for another sport. There are too many distractions in the world today with video games, cell phones, home computers and other sports. Most kids today would rather spend the whole day inside the house playing with all of their tech stuff than to go outside and play a game they don't really like.

Other kids who do enjoy playing baseball or at least seem to, may be playing for the wrong reasons too. It seems to me that many of the kids that I know that are in the 12-17 year old range, are playing with the intention of becoming professionals. They aren't playing because they love to play but because there's something they want to get back in the end, a paycheck. Oh sure there are some that truly enjoy it. But I hear many of them talking about how they're going to be in the Major League one day and make millions of dollars. It's upsetting to me because that's not why baseball was invented. It's a game that was started to get exercise and have fun. Today it seems like anything you do well you have to look for how you can get paid for it. Does that not bother anyone else? Why are we doing this to our kids? Why can't we teach them to just enjoy life and all of the things they do in it instead of teaching them that life is about chasing the almighty dollar?

Look at me, I'm 44 years old and I have a wonderful life. I have a beautiful wife of 20 years who has been with me since we were 14, (see story about that at http://hubpages.com/_3c5da2khm0ysj/hub/myfavoritestory) I have two beautiful children, one 19 and the other 14, I am a successful businessman with over 25 years experience in packaging and I still am chasing more money here on the Internet. I understand why people are always looking for money, that's not my point. I just don't think it's right to start teaching our kids so young that they have to. Let them have a childhood. Let them experience their friends and focus on getting an education. If they do play sports, let them enjoy it. It will help them appreciate it and maybe then will they be able to play with some enthusiasm for a longer period of time instead of getting burned out by the time they are 18 or 20. If they are good enough to become a pro that's great but don't base their whole childhood on a possibility. That is what I'm teaching my boy. Play sports if you want and work hard to get better if that's what you really want to do. But don't sacrifice your education or too much time that could be spent with friends and family to play sports. Understand that 99.99% of the best players in the world never make it to the Major League. If you want to let your kids base their future on the possibility of being in the .01% that do make it, I hope you have a good back-up plan for them.

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My Thoughts: What You Should Do As Parents And Coaches

Look, I'm no expert in the field of child psychology but I do have two kids and I understand the daily pressures they already face in the course of a normal day. With one child in College (Cal State Fullerton) and the other in his freshman year of high school, I see how much pressure they are under to perform normal duties just being a student. Class lectures and taking notes for tests, studying for exams or even worse midterms or finals. Not to mention the everyday struggle with homework in two or three classes. Pile on top of that the extra effort they have to put in to play a sport like baseball, with so many aspects that have to be diligently practiced and suddenly you have a child that has to make decisions as to what more important, studies or baseball. And you know what they are going to choose 9 times out of 10. Baseball, because it's more fun to play baseball than to do homework.

As I review my own writing I realize that I may not be getting the point across that I had intended when I started. So let me summarize my feelings more clearly.

I have seen first hand how some young men have been pushed by both parents and coaches to play, baseball in particular, at an extremely high level of competition. To keep the skills it takes to play at such a high level, the child or young man is asked, or forced in some cases, to play on many teams, in many leagues and almost every day of the week. There is only one possible reason why a parent or coach would allow a young man to subject himself to that kind of daily punishment, to become a pro someday. So many of these boys don't even realize that they don't have to put so much of themselves into the sport and that they might even be hurting themselves in the long run. The body can only take so much abuse and with all of the throwing and hitting they are doing on a daily basis, their young muscles are being broken down more than they are being built up.

Even more, most of them don't see that the probability of them even becoming a professional baseball player is very slim at best and are setting themselves up for the biggest letdown they will ever have in their lives. But by the time they find out it will be too late. They will have already missed many important things in life, like time they didn't get to spend with friends or family or vacations they couldn't go on because they were doing something baseball related. And it is sad to me to think that that child is going to come to the realization someday that maybe he should have done things differently and enjoyed life a little more when they were younger. I understand that baseball is fun too, I played 23 years myself, but I enjoyed many other things as well.  Like camping and riding motorcycles.

So to the parents and coaches out there that are pushing those 12 to 16 year olds so hard and you are telling them that it's for their own good. STOP IT! It's not for their own good. It might benefit you some day but look at what you are taking away from them. You can teach them the game and all about discipline a couple of days a week and let them enjoy the others. Prepare them for what to expect in high school and then back off and let the high school coaches do their jobs. They in turn can get them ready for college where it gets taken to another level. If they are good enough at that time and have stayed healthy, that is the time in their life that they might have the chance to become a professional. Stop trying to turn those kids into pros at such an early age and just let them be kids.  They will thank you for it later instead of remembering how hard you were on them.  Think about it.

Jim B

How Many Future Pros Do We Have Out There?

Do you think your 12 to 16 year old has what it takes to be a Pro athlete?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Yes but I see your point and will back off
  • Don't have kids that age but agree with you
  • Don't have kids that age but you are stupid and wrong.
See results without voting

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Comments 16 comments

Ardie profile image

Ardie 7 years ago from Neverland

Hi Jim

My daughters are still young at 7, 4, and 3. My oldest played softball last season and I noticed what you are saying about the parents pushing their kids too hard, even when they are still so young. My 7 year old isnt great at softball but she has a passion for it that makes up for skill. However, some of the kids got angry if they missed a ball and would look at their parents as if to see if they were gonna get yelled at...and some of them actually did! I was shocked. As for older kids, I am not looking forward to those teams. Either my daughter will have to get much better or she will have to play with friends only. I dont want her to get caught up in the competition of it all, with parents yelling and calling names.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

It's sad isn't it? At least you are looking at it and seeing it early. That way you'll have it in the back of your mind as they are growing up. It's easy to lose sight of it in the heat of the moment, beleive me. And don't worry about her ability, if she really enjoys it, she'll put enough practice time in where she'll get better. She's still way too young to worry about ability. Thanks for the comment. This Hub is really close to the heart for me.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 7 years ago from Neverland

I could read the passion behind the words. My husband has been a baseball guy all his life too. He played up until the birth of our 3rd daughter, when we just lost any and all free time. His parents kept the games fun for him and his brother and even made it to every one of my daughter's games. Heck, I NEVER cared for baseball or softball before, but now I am learning to love it too.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

Once you get hooked it's hard to let go. I'm glad to hear the game is still fun for people to watch and be a part of. I worry that it's too boring for most people and will eventually die out.


Ardie profile image

Ardie 7 years ago from Neverland

Well, from the sounds of it, my family and your family will still play and watch! My 3 girls have learned the love of the game and I am quickly learning it :) Now if we can just make our kids promise to pass it on to the next generation...


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

From your mouth(or fingers I guess) to God's ears. My son is just starting high school baseball and hopefully I've done my job and kept it fun for him so he will enjoy it all the way through college. Good luck with your girls.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

Exellent hub. My son was not into sports, but my girls both did soccer. I coached soccer for a while for the town "rec" league. We weren't even supposed to keep track of the score. It was all about fun. That's how it should be when you're a kid, I think: all about fun.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

I couldn't agree more Tom.  I hated that when my son was young.  Everyone was so competitive.  Can you imagine caring whether your team won or lost when your child is 6 or 7 years old?  It's insane!  Thanks again for visiting and commenting.


SteveAngeles 7 years ago

When I coached football I knew a lot of kids that used football as their conditioning for baseball. unfortunately I was cut from baseball in high school, and it turned out to be a good thing. It allowed me to concentrate on football. But nowadays it seems like Little League is dying, aside from budget cuts, we live in a fast ADD world where baseball has become too slow and boring. I think the steroid scandal has also plagued everyone. I don't think parents are ready to invest in steroids to get their kids up there with the A-Rod and Barrys of the pros. the roid rage has completely turned the game off for me.

Overall, any sport should be done for the love of the game, it's sad how some kids are pushed so hard that hey begin hating the game.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

Those are some really great points you made Steve. I agree that baseball is slowly dying a painful death for those of us who still love the game. Although I would argue the boring part, I can certainly see why kids today are having a hard time being enthusiastic about playing.

As far as the whole roid rage thing goes, I am really having a hard time with how much attention that whole situation is getting. I mean honestly, it's Baseball. With everything else that is happening in the world today, how can we consider whether or not someone took steroids or not to be an important topic?

I started this whole long response about this and realized I just found my next Hub.

Steve, Thank you for your comments. I truly mean that. Your last statement could not be more true. I hope you help the kids and parents you coach to see that and help them to enjoy the sport. I look forward to hearing from you again.


Dee 7 years ago

My grandson is playing for the first time ever this year. He is in peewee 7 -8 he is having a difficult time learning the game, and he gets yelled at and made fun of. He loves the game but he is just learning, and he has a very short attention span to begin with. They has a game Sat. he made some sort of mistake and one of the coaches just came unglued, they were losing to, but he just charged after my grandson and yelled at him and just talked to him awful, this coach is a very big man to, but it wasn't that he got on to him I was behind him on that, but it was the way he lost his temper and just charged at my grandson that concerned me and the hateful attitude he had that made me mad, but I remained calm all though I got out of there as soon as my grandson was finished cause I was afraid I would blow up. I thought baseball was suppost to be fun and I thought they were suppose to teach them how to play, my grandson knows nothing about playing ball he is just learning. I am so disappointed in his coach I don't know what do. I know that they have to learn I have nothing to say about that, and there will be times things are not pleasant but being treated that way was just a bit far I thought, and after the game he was about to the point of quiting the game, I told him no, if you want to win keep trying, don't ever let anyone scare you away, just keep trying and you will get it, you have to follow the rules and do what they tell you and we will pratice eachday to, but don't give up if you love the game. I am so heart broken over how that coach handled that situation.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

Hi Dee. Wow, it's been so long since I wrote this Hub I didn't think anyone read it anymore so thank you.

I'm going to try to be as brief as possible in responding to your comment but because it got me so angry it might be a bit long. You are describing the exact kind of jerk that needs to be taken out back and dealt with like they did in the old days. This fat ass obviously doesn't know a thing about baseball or what it takes to actually play the game. The best part of your story for me is that you recognised right away that his behavior was not right. And even though you could have reacted to him the way he went after your grandson, you didn't. To me, that was the correct way to handle that part of the situation. But it cannot continue in the same manner without some intervention. You need to seek help from the other parents on the team and the league officials. Everyone in the league needs to know that it is not okay for any coach to scream and yell at a 7 or 8 year old player. It's not acceptable under any circumstances!

Now, there are a couple of things you should be aware of that I have seen in my years of being involved in youth sports. Number one is that there is a possibility that the league will back the coach and tell you that it's okay that he did what he did. In some of the more competitive leagues around here it is common practice to be hard on the kids from the time they are 5 and 6 year olds. They hold two hour practices and sometimes even two a day. To me, that's way overboard to teach children how to play a game but I guess some parents don't want their kids to have well rounded lives where they can enjoy other things. But that's off topic a bit so let's get back to it.

The result I hope you get from the league and the other parents on the team is that this moron coach of yours will be confronted and told that if he behaves in this manner again he will be removed from coaching and not allowed back. The chances of this are slim but like I said, that is the result I hope you get.

Dee, no matter the outcome of this particular situation, you should know that you are right and the coach is wrong. End of story! There is no room in baseball for a fat, no talent, know it all, know nothing, so called baseball coach who yells at little kids because he can't get his fat ass on the field and play himself. If he even slightly understood how difficult it is to stand in front of a hard hit ball and try to catch it or how hard it is to learn to hit, he wouldn't be acting that way. He is out of touch with reality and needs to be dealt with. I have coached my own son from the time he was seven years old. He is now almost fifteen and in high school. I have had my share of frustrations with him but I never yelled at him for the way he played. I have on occasion gotten on him for lack of effort but never for making errors or striking out. Those things are part of the game, especially for little kids.

So good for you Dee, for seeing the true colors of this jerk coach and not accepting it. Please make sure your grandson understands one thing. Baseball is a GAME! It is supposed to be fun. Sure you have to work to be better but at the end of the day if you didn't enjoy the experience you had, it was just a waste of time you'll never get back. Life's way to short for any of us to waste even an hour for something we are not enjoying. Good luck to you all. And God bless you.


Dee  7 years ago

Jim,

Thank You so much for your comment. It feel so much better now that I have talked to someone who knows what they are talking about. My husband is still really upset about that coaches reaction Period, and I am afraid he might confront the coach about it tonight, they have another game. But I do feel like he needs to know he was out of line when he yelled a my grandson, weather we go to the league about it or not. I don't want my grandson to quit the game he loves it, but I don't know how they will treat him after my husband confronts him, hopefully they will apolize and move on but if they don't I guess we will just have to pull him out. I don't know we will see...but Thanks so much for your advise...Dee


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 7 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

Dee, I'm glad I could put your mind at ease. Please be sure your husband is calm when he speaks to the coach. If he is the type of person I suspect he is, he could get confrontational and things could get ugly fast. That's why I recommend having one of the board members with you when it happens. The main focus is your grandson and that he is allowed to play and not worry about getting yelled at for making a mistake. Good luck and God bless. You know where to find me if you have any other questions.


Dhart profile image

Dhart 5 years ago from Culver City, CA

Good hub. I was a youth baseball/softball coach for a bit more than 20 years, & I learned some good lessons on how to what a coach's focus should be along the way. I went from a need-to-win coach (not proud of that at all) to a do-your-best-and-let-chips-fall coach, switching my focus to teaching, b/c that's what a coach essentially is.

I wrote a hub called "How To Coach Youth Baseball And Softball" on here that describes the best ways for base/softball coaches to work w/their charges - I invite you to check it out & tell me what you think.


Jim Batuyong profile image

Jim Batuyong 5 years ago from Anaheim, CA Author

Can't wait Dhart. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a message. Look forward to connecting after reading your Hub.

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