Baseball season is upon us, and over the past few weeks, Little Leaguers have taken the field, sporting brightly colored uniforms and freshly oiled gloves. The smell of the grass and the sounds of balls popping into mitts only add to their unforgettable initiation in our national pastime.
But all of that enjoyment can quickly turn sour amid the shouts of angry parents — at coaches, when their children don’t play enough; at umpires, for making calls that go against their team; and, perhaps worst of all, at their own kids, after strikeouts or errors. Venting your frustrations may be acceptable at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, but it has no place at your community park, where children are just learning the game.
A simple search of “Little League parents” on YouTube can be a dispiriting exercise. Moms and dads are shown in all their unsportsmanlike glory, hurling full-throated insults and threats of bodily harm at umpires and coaches who are focused only on doing their best, and getting the best out of those peevish adults’ children. These videos should serve as a reality check.
Many parents apparently forget that coaches volunteer their time to teach the basics and share their love of baseball. Umpires are paid precious little to make games as fair as possible, and the children try their hardest, too many fearing being embarrassed by their parents over the simplest mistakes. How many of them might confess that they play better when their moms and dads aren’t watching?
A sign posted on a backstop at a Little League field in Maryland a few years ago read:
1-These are Kids
2-This is a Game
3-Coaches are Volunteers
4-Umpires are Human
5-You Do Not Play for the Orioles
Little League should be about celebrating the game, and teaching children the basic skills, rules and, most important, sportsmanship. Parents play a key role in ensuring that their children’s experiences are positive ones that have the potential to color other chapters of their lives. Let’s replace “Orioles” with “Yankees” or “Mets” and hang that sign in every Little League park on Long Island.