On 10-Year Olds Playing Baseball, Adults Raging At Umpires, And Playing FIFA For Therapy

A coach strolls to the mound, staring the umpire down his entire walk to the dirt. A pitcher awaits him, struggling to find the strike zone. A conversation ensues between the two as the umpire takes more ribbing from the gallery of fans in the stands. Soda helps wash down the popcorn, hot dogs and cuss words are muttered in no real direction.

This is baseball. Well, sort of. This is youth league baseball, the 10U (10-and-under) division to be exact. I watch the crowd as my girlfriend’s son steps to the plate. A check-swing is called a strike. The reaction is immediate. A mom of one of the assistant coaches lets out an audible groan. Parents continue to say “come on” as if the umpire who gets paid 25 dollars for this two-hour extravaganza between the Cedar Park Royals and the Cedar Park Athletics is fixed on the outcome.

Two poorly thrown strikes later and my future stepson is back to the bench. I clap and yell “nothing you can do about that one, bud. Worry about the field.” My encouragement is met with a glance by the head coach. I hear his wife mumble “this fucking umpire” as she takes out her iPhone to start recording his calls for the final inning. She announces it will be turned into the Board of Commissioners, whatever the hell that means.

Source: TeamSnap
Source: TeamSnap

“This umpire has it out for us,” she explains to the front row, just loud enough for all to hear. “It started last week at our daughter’s softball game. He’s incompetent.”

My eyes rolled. We found the common denominator. Let’s wrap this up, grab a free drink, a sandwich and go play some FIFA, I thought. It didn’t end there. A few plays later, the Athletics score on a passed ball. The pitcher tagged the runner, but not before his slide met the plate for a victory. The fan club of the Royals, my team by association, explodes into a fit of anger.

More cuss words. A few parents throw down what is in their hands out of protests. The players hear and see this, joining right along with their overlords who feed and shelter them on a daily basis. Tears emerge from a few players’ eyes as complaints continued to be hurled at the umpire who is now only worried about getting the pitch counts correct before he heads back to his car, his family and his real life.

Our head coach calls him “garbage” as he makes his way back to the dugout. The parents are talking about the highway robbery in the grass as the kids gather their baseball gear and clear the dugout for the next victims of poor officiating.

None of this is new to me. I’ve covered sports for seven years. It is the only job I’ve ever held. My first gig out of college was covering minor league baseball. Hearing disgruntled fans was nothing new. I run a message board focused on recruiting now, so I totally understand adults who overreact towards a child’s decision. Yet, this game made me feel depressed.

My future father-in-law left in the middle of the game. Not because he was mad at the sub-par umpire, but to avoid getting into a fight with one of his grandson’s own fans. I remember never feeling better about the family I hope to one day join.

After each game, the coaching staff holds a team meeting of sorts. The 10U Royals gather outside of the field to listen to their general one more time before heading back home. The parents are still squawking. The kids are still crying over their first loss of the season.

“We didn’t play our best baseball today,” he starts, “but we also didn’t get the right calls. Some people are against you in this world, and that’s a valuable lesson to learn. The one thing I don’t want to see again is y’all losing composure over the umpire. Let the coaches take care of that, you guys just focus on baseball.”

F*ck. You.

The lesson picked up by the members of the team that day didn’t come in the team meeting. It came in the previous hour where half of the parents in the stands were hurling insults and verbal trash at someone who basically volunteers to officiate a youth game. In no place was “do as I say and not as I do” more clear. The adults – mostly suburban, middle-class white people – were asking their own kids to grow up.

My blood boiled. The whole time my girlfriend, her kid and I walked back to the car, I prepared my speech. He wasn’t going to think how a decent portion of the crowd and team reacted was acceptable. My morals don’t extend very far, but being the pompous dick in the stands or the crybaby child throwing his bat after a called third strike wasn’t going down on my watch. He was going to learn today – you take a loss with the same manner of manhood as you take a win.

We piled into the car. As we rolled out of the parking lot I looked in the rear-view mirror. Our ball player’s eyes were staring right back at me.

“Before I start, you tell me what went wrong in that game,” I demanded.

“We lost?” he asked with all sincerity.

“Well, yes,” I replied. I’ve only been doing this dad thing for a year so I still find myself surprised and amused by half of his reactions. “Anything else?”

“I don’t know,” he started. “Everyone seemed mad, but it’s just a baseball game. We’ve won all the other games. Doesn’t everyone lose in sports?”


“Okay, so can we play FIFA when we get home?”

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