Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Banned! A 40mph fastball at 9 yrs old.

Well, everybody's talking about this story. The kid throws too hard for his youth league (40mph at 9 yrs. old) and his parents are suing the league because the league association won't allow the child to play anymore. Why not? He throws too hard. Well, first off there are such things as travel ball leagues where the advanced skill kids go to play. Why the parents won't put their little ace into the travel leagues is beyond me. You'd think that after the 75th strikeout they'd get bored with the non-challenge. Moreover, this is obviously a recreation league where kids go to learn the game from soup to nuts. How to hold a glove, how to field your position, how to hold a bat, etc., etc.

Do you know what this is? It's an ethical lapse on the part of the parents. Perhaps it may even be some kind of a cynical desire for cheap glory. I had to ask myself: could they really be this selfish or uninformed? Surely they know (or ought to know) of travel ball leagues where their son can face advanced and skilled hitters who just might smash a 40mph fastball over the fence. But I'm sensing they don't want to accept that challenge because they're getting an inward glee and satisfaction from the miniature glory of their son as the stud pitcher of the park striking out batter after batter of beginners. If they put him an a league everybody hits 40 mph fastballs - all that glory goes away.

Secondly, let me tell you my family has been in almost exactly the same predicament. Our son was also an overwhelming pitcher at a very young age. Wihout a doubt, from five to about nine years of age he was almost unhittable. But rather than bask in the glory of being "great", we felt it was in the best interests of both the recreation league and our son to play travel ball exclusively and "play up" for an older age group. The challenge we got was not only welcomed but it showed us his capabilities and his limitations also, plus the advanced play was much more comforting safety-wise. Nothing like a near panic attack at the sight of a wicked line drive sizzling by the ear lobe of an unsuspecting six year old, or the sympathy you feel after your son accidentally beans a kid in the helmet with a 50 mph fastball.

Which leads me to my last point: what is the big deal about his velocity? 40 mph at age nine is simply not that fast at all. Depending on the distance of mound to the plate - which for 9 yr. olds shouldn't be less than 45 feet. In my son's 8 yr. old travel league, every kid on the pitching staff threw at least 45 mph from 40 feet. Some, including Nile, threw 50+ mph. At age nine, just about everybody topped out at 50 - from 45 feet. At age 10, we've seen kids top out on a radar gun at 65 from 45 feet. Just this past year my son's team faced a kid from Paulding County, Ga., who threw 78 mph from 50 feet - at age 12 - with a nasty curve and slider! Now that's almost unhittable.

But ya know something? Things have a way of evening out as the kids grow older. Some kids grow faster than others, others grow much later. That stud pitcher fireballer at age 9 might be tomorrow's junker at 16 - or he may be a BMX bikerider and never play the game again. You never know. In a twisted way, I'm sensing this kid's parents are enjoying the glory of a highly skilled player dominating beginners and want sympathy from people and a league who think this is unethical. And that's a shame. But this, too, shall pass. Here's a baseball verse if ever there was one:

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..." Eccl. 3:1

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