Playing time can be based on teaching or on merit

Ask Cal

December 09, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- Our 11-year-old has been allowed to play for only two innings in the field and one at-bat in our fall educational league. When we confronted the coaches and league president, we were told it was because he played in the dugout. They started the season out like this and have not even given him a chance to show them what he can do on the field. The spring season was the exact same. The only time he has played more than the two innings was when they were short on players and he had to play. Shouldn't they be giving the kids equal play time in order to give all of the kids the opportunity to learn and excel at the game?

Mark and Lisa Willimon. Green Cove Springs, Fla.

DEAR MARK AND LISA -- There's a bigger issue here than just the playing time or your 11-year-old boy. The philosophy of the league needs to be stated or defended. If it is to teach kids how to play baseball and help them develop as players, then you have to question the playing time and say there should be more equality of opportunity in hopes of developing the players instead of focusing on the outcomes of games.

If the philosophy of the league is that at this age the kids should play based on merit and is more of a travel-team mentality, you should look for another place for your child to play. There are plenty of good recreational leagues that will adhere to the philosophy of developing the child first. Sometimes, they are hard to find, and if you are in a situation where there aren't any of those leagues in your area, you might want to try to gather some momentum and get other parents who feel the same way involved in the discussion. Try to schedule a meeting with the heads of the recreation department to find out what the philosophy is. That effort will lead to a good debate and ensure that the issue will be addressed.

DEAR CAL -- My 8-year-old son played fall ball in a rookie machine-pitch division of a Babe Ruth/Ripken Baseball league. He has a pretty good aluminum bat, one-piece construction, with a comfort grip, and he hits the ball hard. As I look at what's available for 2008, I'm seeing half-and-half construction with microfiber handles and some with double-wall aluminum alloy. And the manufacturers are making these in youth sizes, now. How do you feel about this? And, what is Ripken Baseball's position, on this technology?

Rick Heldman, Richmond, Va.

DEAR RICK -- As technology gets more advanced, it allows kids to hit the ball harder earlier, and that could present a danger to some kids. Kids don't have as much hand strength and can't generate as much bat speed when they are younger, so I generally think that putting a lighter, stronger bat in their hands promotes teaching them to hit the right way more than a heavier bat would. Having said that, baseball has to come to some kind of understanding about how far this will go. I don't see too much potential danger at the youngest ages because they can't generate enough bat speed. Maybe what you are seeing in your group is that some kids might be ready to play in an older age group where they will be more comparable to the kids who are a little bigger and stronger.

A good aluminum bat or something lighter promotes a shorter swing, so I like that at the younger ages. But at the high school and college level, the technology could get so advanced that it puts the fielders at risk. No one condones that, so attention must be paid to keeping the game safe for all participants.

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