It's best to know coach's philosophy right up front, before your child joins the team

ASK CAL

June 25, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

Our 9-year-old wants to stop going to his baseball games. After this season started, we could tell immediately his coach classified him as "right fielder" and that's where he has stayed. But what really hurts is that of the 12 kids on the team, the same few kids sit out for two innings in a row every game. Neither the coach's nor the assistant coach's sons do. Two innings in a row is a long time in each game for a 9-year-old to be sitting. What do I say to my son? How can we handle his decision? Should we say anything to the coaches?

Bill and Karen Vonder Linden, Vernon, N.J.

DEAR BILL AND KAREN / / This is a situation that happens far too often in youth sports. Nine-year-olds are at a point where they are just learning the game. At that level, baseball should be about providing fair and equal opportunities for all players.

The time to ask about the philosophies of the league and the coach is before the season starts. A good coach will have a preseason meeting that includes an open discussion about his or her goals for the team as well as his or her thoughts about such things as playing time and the importance that will be placed on winning.

Once the season starts, however, at some point you will have to step in and ask for a private, one-on-one conversation away from the field. Let the coach know the concerns that you have about your son, while at the same time trying to understand his or her policies and philosophies.

If you are not satisfied with the answers, there are plenty of other places where your son can play baseball and enjoy it. Sure, there will be a period of adaptation to new teammates and a new friend structure, but kids are pretty resilient. As long as the child is enjoying the game, everything else should be OK.

My 14-year-old son is in his second year of Babe Ruth. He needs a new bat because he's outgrown his old one. Do you think it is reasonable to pay $300 for one of the new bats that are supposed to make the ball go farther? Or should I just buy an average-priced one?

Chris Hamilton, Castle Rock, Wash.

DEAR CHRIS / / Modern technology has allowed bat manufacturers to create products that are far superior to what we used as kids. However, do you really need to spend $300 on a bat for your 14-year-old when he might need another one in a couple of years? Only you can answer that question. There are quite a few high-quality bats in the $150- to-$200 price range that you might want to consider as well. I doubt that your son is at a level where he is going to be able to tell much difference between these bats.

On the other hand, if your son is really serious about the game, has shown that he is responsible enough to respect and take care of his equipment, and you can truly afford to spend $300 on a bat, then I would tell you to seriously consider purchasing the more expensive bat.

Whichever bat you choose, this is a substantial investment. Make sure that your son tries the bat before you buy it and is comfortable with it. Which bat to use is a personal preference, and all the money in the world isn't going to buy base hits if the bat turns out to be the wrong one for your child.

...................... Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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