'sandlot day"


#1

In the sports section of today’s New York Times there’s a timely article by Mark Hyman which addresses the issue of what has happened to youth baseball over the past few decades, how it has become over-organized and how adults have become perhaps too involved in the game. He says it’s no wonder that baseball has dropped in popularity among kids these days, what with adults constantly interfering and overcoaching and placing win-at-all-costs on a pedestal. And he suggests a solution to the problem.
I remember when I got into the game. It was sandlot baseball, pure and simple, where we kids learned to play the game by playing the game. In New York City nobody ever heard of Little League; nobody ever heard of this rule and that regulation other than the basic rules of the game itself. No adults ever got in the way (except for parents yelling out the windows for their offspring to come in for dinner). And we all had fun as we learned the game by playing it; we learned how to hit the ball and throw the ball and chase the ball down in the outfield by doing all these things. And now? Look at it. It’s become so organized, so hemmed in by often unnecessary rules and regulations, what with age limits and pitching restrictions and other elements of supervision—no wonder so many kids drop out, because it’s become an extension of “my way or the highway”, or “you have to do this, you can’t do that”.
Now here’s one possible solution to the problem. Tim Donovan, the director of the Youth Sports Institute in Cortland, New York, sent a three-page memo to hundreds of New York youth leagues describing what he calls “Sandlot Day”—one day in the season where the kids take over, make their own choices as to coach or not coach the bases, do their own umpiring and make any rearrangements necessary to play. These are just suggestions, but they seem to have taken root. Cities like Methuen, Massachusetts and Bayonne, New Jersey have jumped at the idea, even scheduling a whole week or a summer camp devoted to this, and even some Little Leagues such as the one in Pittsford, N.Y. like it. The whole point is that the kids are being empowered by being left alone to work things out for themselves; they are permitted to flex their own creative muscles, to form new teams and make their own decisions, and in the process to learn to face problems alongside their friends and teammates and to arrive at solutions to these problems. The only thing that might need to be done is to have a few mothers and fathers around to make sure that the kids don’t jump into the Erie Canal which runs by two of the playing fields.
There’s time enough to get into this whole organization thing. There’s time enough to structure the game—when the kids are a little older. So why not just give it back to the kids, let them have fun and learn to play the game by playing it? 8)


#2

[quote=“Zita Carno”]
There’s time enough to get into this whole organization thing. There’s time enough to structure the game—when the kids are a little older. So why not just give it back to the kids, let them have fun and learn to play the game by playing it? 8)[/quote]

IMHO, organizational thing arose from parents fears of predators being “out there” and kids preferring virtual world instead of the real world. Unfortunately, the days of when we road our bikes unsupervised ten miles across the city to play ball are gone. As parents, we don’t know who is and isn’t a child predator, so we protect our children by keeping them by our side, entertaining them with Play Stations, WII, video games, TV, etc. During the summer my sons will be in the schoolyard playing ball, but no other kid will be outside. They’ll be safe, indoors, 72-degrees playing video games and watching TV, unless there is an organizational thing going on where their parents are in charge. And, this organizational thing is expensive, whereas schoolyard ball is free.


#3

[quote=“shoshonte”]

IMHO, organizational thing arose from parents fears of predators being “out there” and kids preferring virtual world instead of the real world. [/quote]

Cant agree with this statement more.


#4

I dunno. I grew up during a time when we kids wandered miles from our homes unsupervised, building forts in the woods, heading home at 6:00 PM when we heard the church bells ringing, etc., and yet I still played organized Little League and Babe Ruth League (and later High School) baseball. So I wouldn’t say the organizational aspect of sports is a response to the rampant child abuse in our society today; organized sports have been around a long time.

As for the drop in popularity of baseball among American youth, I’d say part of the reason is the almost complete lack of interest in baseball among black youth. My town has a black community literally blocks from the biggest Little League in the county, and in my 4 years of coaching there I haven’t seen a single black kid playing baseball. I once inquired as to why this is, and I was told the league had tried some years earlier to interest the black kids, even offering to arrange transportation for those who needed it, but they simply weren’t interested. They do participate in the football and basketball programs at the same park, though.


#5

He says it’s no wonder that baseball has dropped in popularity among kids these days, what with adults constantly interfering and overcoaching and placing win-at-all-costs on a pedestal

I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I being one of those overbearing parents and seeing first hand this overcoaching. But I don’t think there’s anymore child abusers now than in the past. I believe just more coverage of it. We are bombarded everyday with negativity whether be it in the news or in print and constantly reminded of the dangers of leaving your child outside alone. As for the video games. Honestly, there’s nothing worse than listening to some of these so called adults bad mouthing each other or kids while playing video games on-line or over a service like Live. It gets so bad that I have to shut them off so my son can’t hear. They are far from protected in a virtual age. At the end of T-ball a few years back, one of the coaches asked any kid who wanted to keep playing to show up. Out of my sons entire team, just he showed up. In total we didn’t have enough kids to field two teams. That is sad. But what was more sad was it wasn’t the kids. It was the parents. They just didn’t feel like bringing the kids. They were too busy. I’m sure that will change when the kids get older and can wander off. Plus a lot of kids in my area are leaving baseball for Lacrosse. Other sports are gaining popularity. I had Atari and I don’t remember that as an important part of my childhood. I remember BMX biking and hanging with my friends. We’d play baseball or hockey or whatever we could. I was average but I had fun. Baseball should be fun at the young ages. But it’s not. It’s played by the kids for the parents and the pressure these young kids are under is ridiculous. Why wouldn’t they quit.


#6

Our league has nearly doubled in size (to 480 kids this year) in the last 5 years. Baseball is alive and well in our town :slight_smile:


#7

Baseball is alive and well in our town, too. We have 5 Little Leagues in the county with thousands of players. My point is that it could be even bigger if the black community got involved.


#8

I think alot of people are missing the point. Youth baseball has become more of a JOB for alot of kids. Way too many kids are playing at a certain level to appease their parents long lost dreams of playing high level baseball.

My son is 13 and in his 6th year of travel ball. I’ve seen it at all levels. Daddy absolutely must have Jr. play Major ball. Problem is Jr. is way over his head with forced mechanics. Kids today have lost the sheer pleasure of playing Sandlot ball. Everything must be organized. They need pitching coaches, hitting coaches, fielding coaches, personal trainers, and sports psychologists. Seriously??

The sandlot days is a great idea. Bring back the roots of baseball. How many of the greatest players of the last 100 years started out in the sandlot. Heck, that’s where players like Yogi Berra earned his name, not in an air conditioned building hitting in a cage with every pitch grooved.

Kudos to the organizers, they are keeping baseball alive and well.


#9

And among other players who started out playing sandlot ball, here’s a twist. Ed Lopat used to play stickball in the snow, in the dead of winter, and he could hit that spaldeen several blocks. Whitey Ford—Joe Torre—they all came up from the sandlots. Yes, turn22, you’ve got it right. We need to get back to our roots. :slight_smile:


#10

Amen and Amen.

Baseball is the great game it is because of the roots. The names may have changed but the game is still played the way it was 100 years ago.

You can’t say the same for any other sport