Thursday, May 13, 2010

Youth Baseball: If You Ain't Cheating, You Ain't Trying

This morning on XM radio,  I listened to Rob Dibble and Jim Memolo of the MLB show talk about cheating in Major League Baseball. They were talking about the allegations against the Phillies for using binoculars to steal the catcher's signs. During the show, Rob Dibble made the following comment, "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."  Sadly, I had heard that very phase on a youth baseball field two years ago.

Crazy Youth Sports Parent Series

Two seasons ago, my son's team was very very good. Good enough to come in second in the CABA World Series. When a team is that good, it's often difficult to find local teams to challenge you. Heck, it's hard to get local teams to even play your team. To find good competition, our team accepted an invitation to play in a friendly 3 game series against a superstar team from Knoxville, Tennessee. At the time, the Knoxville team was in the middle of an 83 game winning streak.

The first game was really exciting, our boys battled all game long and ended up losing in the final inning 8-9.

Between games, the two teams gathered for a hot dog and hamburger cookout hosted by the moms of the Knoxville team. It was really nice.

The second game was not as exciting as the first game. Our boys got thumped 15-3.

The following morning, the two teams met again for the third and final game. The Knoxville winning streak was standing at 85 games. Our team jumped out to an early lead, but the Knoxville team battled back. Both teams were held scoreless in the middle innings, then in the top of the 6th inning, our team jumped ahead 4 to 2. We had one of our best pitchers on the mound to close out the game 6 inning game and end the 85 game winning streak.

Our pitcher walked the first batter, who would eventually steal second and third. Our pitcher then recorded the first out with a strike out. The next Knoxville batter walked and stole second without a throw.

It was second and third with one out when the craziest thing happened. The Knoxville coach called for a suicide squeeze bunt play. The runner on third ran home as the pitch was delivered. The Knoxville batter bunted the ball up the third base line. With a 2 run lead, our coach called for the pitcher, who fielded the bunt, to throw the ball to first for the second out. Both the homeplate umpire and the umpired situated behind the mound, watched the close play at first. The field umpired made the call loud and clear,  "out". As that was happening the Knoxville runner who started the play at second base slide across home plate for the tying run.

What, two runs scored on a suicide bunt? How could that happen? There was no error. There was no delay or hesitation by our players.

What happened will confound you. The runner, who started the play on second, did not touch third. He simply rounded the corner and headed for home while most everyone was concentrating on the play at first.

Our kids were scratching their heads.

Our coaches and fans saw this egregious play and complained immediately. The umpires didn't see the infraction so could not call the cheater out to end the game. Our team ended up losing the game in extra innings and the Knoxville team preserved their winning streak.

After the game, our head coach told the assistant coach of the other team that that play spoiled a great baseball experience for both teams. He told the assistant coach that your team is better than than. The assistant coach replied with southern twang, "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying." In other words, the kids were coached that play.

Our coach sent an email to the head coach after a few days had passed and expressed his disappointment. The Knoxville coach did an honorable thing, he forfeited the game. Sure enough the team website showed the loss, the streak was over.

The Main Point

I think that stealing signs from the field or dugout has been a part of baseball since the beginning, this is smart baseball and is not cheating. Using high powered surveillance from beyond the field is cheating.

The egregious move perpetrated against our team by Knoxville was cheating. Cheating ruins the game for all involved. It also ruins reputations.

Is it really worth it? Ask Bill Belichick the coach of the Patriots who I absolutely admired and respected until he was caught cheating. On second thought, maybe you shouldn't ask him because I wouldn't be surprised if he responded with, "if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying".


  1. We had a similar play during our playoff game last Saturday. It was the bottom of the 6th and the score was 3 to 2 us and there was one out and runners on first and third. The ball was hit to the pitcher and he threw home to the catcher. The runner slid and the catcher tagged him on the runners face. The Umpire called an immediate timeout. The runner that was on first was standing on second base when the timeout was called. The third base coach told the runner from second to come to third even though time was called. It took the runner about 30 seconds to get to third as he kept looking at the third base coach like to say coach I shouldn't be doing this. The parents from the away teams seats were directly behind third base as they witnessed what happened. They were screaming at our coaches to protest the play as the runner should be on second. We asked the third base coach if he was on third when the timeout was called and said yes. The Ump sided with the home team as he did not see what happened and the home coach was in his ear the entire game. Bottom line is all the parents witnessed the play and the third base coach lied just to give his team a chance to tie the game. Great way to teach 9 year olds to cheat. Needless to say the runner on third scored and then they won in extra innings. The parents on our team wrote letters to the league about these coaches actions. What a disgrace as coaches and OH that kid who was on third he admitted that he was on second in school to a few kids and the third base coach told him to keep his mouth shut when we asked about what base he should be on.

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