November 13, 2019

He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.: Losing might spell the end of organized youth sports...

posted by billsaysthis to culture at 05:29 PM - 6 comments

Almost all of my umpiring is done at the middle school level, and in southern NH that means working with schools ranging in size from one of 2 or 3 middle schools in a city to a consolidated school that serves 2 or 3 towns. In other words, big to very small. Surprisingly enough, most of the coaches, even in the Division 4 (real small) schools, are experienced and dedicated men. The towns that have good youth baseball programs, Little League or especially the Cal Ripken 70 foot leagues, have kids who know the basics of hitting, pitching, and base running. I have run across a few coaches who have little to no experience, but if their players have some previous experience in youth leagues, there's rarely a problem. I do know that I am more likely to get into an argument with the inexperienced coach than the experienced guy.

Putting an inexperienced person into a coaching job is never a good idea. In the case discussed it sounds like it was a situation where you grab the nearest guy who knows where home plate is, or you cancel your season. If you have a potential star on your team, to cancel the season is terribly unfair. So should the suit have been brought in the first place, and was it decided correctly? My own feeling is that the player's father was one who was living his own dreams of athletic greatness vicariously through his son. Thus, when a promising career is cut short, his answer was to sue. Medical expenses should have been covered by insurance, either through the school or a personal accident/medical policy, so a lawsuit is more for punitive purposes than for reimbursement of expenses. Did the jury take this into account? Who knows. Should the coach have called for a slide when the runner was that close? The rules that govern high school and middle school baseball dictate so. If the ball beats the runner to the base, the runner must slide, avoid contact, or give himself up. It's a tough call at 6 feet, but it can be done. One cannot tell from the story, but the player probably had enough experience to know how to slide. He should have been told to slide sooner, but was this negligent? The coach was watching the previous runners score. Why? He should have been watching each one to make sure they stepped on the base and then put his attention on the ball. From that point on, coach the runner. One other thing of note is that some felt that the slide was not necessary because the other team wasn't very good. Coaches and umpires must never presume that a player on an inferior team cannot execute a play. Assume he will and act accordingly. Like any other call in baseball, this one was a tough one. I think they got it right, but it sure was close.

posted by Howard_T at 01:07 AM on November 14

Howard, good comment but I think you somehow posted it on the wrong thread...

posted by billsaysthis at 11:38 AM on November 14

From Howard's [very insightful] comment on the [wrong] thread: One cannot tell from the story, but the player probably had enough experience to know how to slide.

According to the lawsuit, this kid had major league aspirations. That being the case, we should reasonably be able to assume that he understood all of the rudimentary skills to playing the game: throwing, catching, hitting, running bases, and sliding. I was taught how and when to slide at the earliest stages of my baseball playing days, and I sure as hell never had big-league aspirations, or even the ability to play varsity high school ball. I understand that at his level, the game is faster and coaches are forced to think quicker, but come on.

posted by tahoemoj at 11:47 AM on November 14

Comment moved!

posted by rcade at 04:16 PM on November 14

Got to be the 1 kid on the planet who would rather have Lavar Ball as his father. Regardless the outcome of the lawsuit he'll forever carry the stigma.

posted by cixelsyd at 05:11 PM on November 14

Please understand that I wrote the comment at about 1:30 am after coming home from a Celtics game. I was a bit tired, and I am surprised that it was at all coherent. I guess I'm fortunate that it wasn't posted on Ancestry.com.

I have a couple of good stories about dealing with inexperienced coaches, but they're too long to tell right now. Maybe some day when things are slow in The Huddle.

posted by Howard_T at 06:44 PM on November 14

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