Baseball coach’s advice: ‘Don’t widen the plate!’ | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Seattle is beautiful this time of year: brilliant warm sunshine, blue skies and cool breezes. I want to bottle it all up and take it with me when I finally head home.


My first great-grandson picked me up in Vancouver on a clear warm Monday night. We checked on the weather forecast. It was nothing short of spectacular. What a perfect way to start my Seattle holiday.


Next morning.


From my perch on the redwood deck I hear the sounds from a Congressional hearing.  An FBI agent is in the hot seat. I see well-dressed self-serving bullies in action. It gets ugly.


I can almost understand why some athletes and celebrities have chosen not to rise to their feet for the national anthem.


And I suddenly wonder if our own “duyan ng magiting” has also become a land of empty hearts and false promises.


My coffee starts to taste bitter.


I watch the scene on TV and it seems all too familiar. It is the same circus. These are the same unfunny clowns that I see back home.


I remember the valedictory speech of the young college graduate who lamented: “We have no heroes. Where are our role models? Our leaders have betrayed and abandoned us.  Whom do we emulate?”


I talked to my pastor friend about this. Unperturbed, he said, “We must set our eyes on Jesus.”


A home run


Once in a while, one finds a gem online. I am not a baseball fan, but this piece touched me. In the interest of space, I have edited and paraphrased it some. But I hope to have kept the heart.


Veteran baseball mentor John Scolinos spoke in a 1996 convention in Tennessee. More than 4,000 aspiring coaches came hoping to pick up a few valuable tips.


Scolinos, then 78 and retired, stood on the stage wearing dark pants, a light blue shirt and a string around his neck from which hung a full-sized home plate.


He spoke for 25 minutes, not once mentioning the prop around his neck.


Finally he said, “You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”


Scolinos then asked Little League coaches in the room:  “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” Someone said, “Seventeen inches? “That’s right,” he said.


“How about in Babe Ruth’s day?”


Another coach guessed: “Seventeen inches?”


Scolinos went on to ask high school and college, minor and major league coaches the same question.


Their answer: “Seventeen inches.”


“You’re right!” Scolinos declared.


Then he asked: “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over 17 inches?


“What they don’t do is this: They don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay.  If you can’t hit a 17-inch target we’ll make it 18 inches or 19 inches. We’ll make it 20 inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. And if you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches.’


“Coaches, what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven?  What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?


“This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!


“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate!


“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our Church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.


“And the same is true with our government. Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”


“If I am lucky,” Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing today. It is this: If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to—we have dark days ahead!”


Scolinos died in 2009. His advice today rings loud and clear. “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at 17 inches.


“Don’t widen the plate!”






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