Coach's exit raises concern for recruit


September 10, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

MY SON COMMITTED THIS past spring to play college baseball. He chose the school he signed with primarily because he really liked the coach who recruited him. We turned down several other schools that also offered scholarships because we liked this coach so much. Recently we found out this coach is leaving to take a job at another school. I know coaches leave and I know they make moves for their family. I am all for putting family first, but this has left my son in a terrible situation. At this late stage, what do we do?

VICKIE BIAGINI, Greenville, N.C.

DEAR VICKIE / / I'm sure that the decision to leave for another similar position was not easy for the coach. At this point your son should take a look at all the options available to him and begin working on a strategy. Many times schools in similar situations will release incoming players from their scholarships and allow them to enroll elsewhere without any penalty from the National Collegiate Athletic Association. However, before making the decision to go elsewhere, your son should analyze the options and seek advice. I'm sure there were other reasons in addition to the baseball coach that led him to make his original decision, so those factors should be considered as well.

As part of this process, I would use the outgoing coach as a resource. Call the coach. Explain that he was one of the major factors that led to the decision to attend that school. He could be a valuable resource in helping your son make a decision and should feel some responsibility for the position your son is in. The coach should be able to offer advice, and in some cases a solution. He might know that one of his assistants is going to replace him, which might comfort your son enough to convince him to stay. Or he might have other contacts that he could call upon to help your son find a better situation. Obviously, your son thinks highly of the coach, so there is no reason to believe that the coach wouldn't want to help him.

Is there any benefit to wearing high-top cleats for baseball? My son wants them for next year (his friends have them), but it would seem to me that they would slow him down. I can see how in football they could lend support to the ankle, but are they any good for baseball?

LUKE PATTERSON, Louisville, Ky.

DEAR LUKE / / The choice about which cleats to wear really is one of personal preference. ...

Ankle support is important for all athletes. Football players have certain needs when it comes to their shoes, and in basketball it can be easy to twist or break an ankle by landing on another player's foot. Baseball has similar types of needs in terms of twisting, turning and stepping on bases. These days shoe companies have the ability to make shoes that don't bog you down and still provide the support necessary to play a particular sport.

I recommend that baseball players choose their cleats in a similar fashion to how they choose their gloves -- based on functionality and personal comfort. Some people prefer sturdier, stronger and heavier shoes while others like lighter shoes that offer little support but provide a lot of freedom to move. It's really a personal preference, but there is no doubt that high-top cleats have been developed that will not hinder a baseball player's performance in any way.

I played baseball as a boy, and as I remember we started with T-ball at age 8. Where I live now, they start playing organized baseball at 4 and 5. But forget the tee, it's coach pitch! My son, who is 8, has played for three years. His current league has decided to create an 8-year-old travel team and convert the team to kid pitch. I feel this is too soon for the transition. It only [stands] to reason that having 8-year-olds pitching is also pushing them too soon. The coaches making this decision have convinced themselves that this is the right thing to do. I disagree. I believe my son has the skill to play, but I do not plan on having him participate. One drawback of this decision is that he will not be playing with the close friends he has made on the All-Star team. I don't want him to think that he is not good enough to be on the team, because he is. I just hope he will understand why I don't want him to participate this season. Am I being too cautious? Am I making too big of a deal out of this early transition?

BRAD COOK, Atlanta

DEAR BRAD / / My recollection is that the first time I played organized baseball was roughly at age 8. That really is the first age at which kids have the ability to attempt to pitch in game situations. These days, organized leagues are available for younger and younger age groups because of the development of recreational T-ball leagues all over the country. Kids develop physically and emotionally at different rates, so it is not a bad idea to group more talented kids together in an attempt to allow them to get more out of their experience and to not put some of the other players at risk.

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