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"9-Year-Old Boy Told He's Too Good To Pitch":

Instapundit and James Joyner (Outside the Beltway) point to this story, apparently condemning the league's actions:

Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player — too good, it turns out. The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more....

"I think it's discouraging when you're telling a 9-year-old you're too good at something," said his mother, Nicole Scott. "The whole objective in life is to find something you're good at and stick with it. I'd rather he spend all his time on the baseball field than idolizing someone standing on the street corner."

League attorney Peter Noble says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast.

"He is a very skilled player, a very hard thrower," Noble said. "There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport."

Noble acknowledged that Jericho had not beaned any batters in the co-ed league of 8- to 10-year-olds, but say parents expressed safety concerns.

"Facing that kind of speed" is [frightening] for beginning players, Noble said....

"You don't have to be learned in the law to know in your heart that it's wrong," [local attorney John Williams] said. "Now you have to be punished because you excel at something?"

Now it's hard to tell for sure how justified the league's action is, especially given the allegations that "Jericho's coach and parents say the boy is being unfairly targeted because he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league's administrators" (something that the league denies). There are also follow-up problems stemming from the team's refusal to abide by the league's ruling, and alleged excessive reactions by the child's parents. I also can't speak for sure about just how much better Scott is than other players in the league. And I should also stress that I have no personal experience with competitive athletics (as opposed to some competitive nonathletic games), so that's one more reason for me to be tentative in my thinking here.

But setting this aside, it seems to me that this doesn't quite deserve to be tarred with the Harrison Bergeron brush that some seem to be using (unlike, for instance, this incident from two years ago). Competitive sports, especially but not exclusively among children, generally works best when the players have roughly the same ability. Including players who are much better than others tends to make things less fun for other players, for spectators, and sometimes for the much better players themselves. And it also makes things less educational for other players and for the much better players.

True, there might be some educational benefits, such as learning to deal with adversity or fear, learning how to lose gracefully, and so on. But on balance it seems to me that at some point the ability differential sucks too much fun and educational value out of the experience, at least for many of the other players and maybe for the much better player himself. And the whole point of youth sports is precisely fun and educational value, not simply determining who the most excellent player is.

We see this reflected in many situations — basketball leagues that are only open to players six foot and under, sports teams that have upper limits on player age, boxing events open only to participants under a certain weight, and the like. Here the league's action seems to be more focused on a direct measure of the player's ability rather than on a proxy such as height or age; that could be better, because it focuses on ability, or worse, because it's more subjective, but in principle it seems to be the same idea.

Players who excel far beyond their age group should of course still be playing. They just should be playing against others who are roughly their equals in ability. It sounds like the other players in New Haven Youth Baseball are out of Scott's league (in a more literal way than usual for that phrase) — and they should indeed be in different leagues. (If the next higher league doesn't allow Scott because he's too young, even if he's good enough, then that should be the target of criticism, it seems to me, and not the actions of the Youth Baseball league.)

Hoya:
This story doesn't make sense to me. Even at the closer range of Little League pitchers' mounds, 40 mph is not really tremendously fast. That is why the backstory explanation is more plausible. I wouldn't be surprised if there were even more backstory than is being reported.
8.26.2008 3:00pm
Bpbatista (mail):
If he is that much better, then move him up to the next league. But don't ban him from the one he otherwise belongs in.
8.26.2008 3:04pm
FantasiaWHT:
My first thought was "What's the next step up in leagues, and have they refused to let this kid play yet?"
8.26.2008 3:08pm
PhanTom:

I have no personal experience with competitive athletics (as opposed to some competitive nonathletic games).


Like, maybe, Dungeons &Dragons?

--PtM
8.26.2008 3:10pm
theobromophile (www):
Some of the proxies you mention - height, weight limits - are for safety reasons. Other limits (often, age) are so that younger players can have a chance to play; it's sort of like having a freshman and JV team at the high school level.

A smart coach would have him pitch a few innings, then let another pitcher (or two) finish off the game.
8.26.2008 3:15pm
Waldensian (mail):

"I'd rather he spend all his time on the baseball field than idolizing someone standing on the street corner."

Are these our only choices?!?

If you want people without real problems going after each other like residents of the Balkans, youth sports is a great place to look. Only neighborhood associations (and particularly architectural control committees) seem to do a better job of fomenting idiotic conflict.
8.26.2008 3:22pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
Forgive an old codger for remembering the days before organized youth sports, when the big job (before the baby boom) was finding enough people to have a game of any sort, which meant you had a very heterogeneous assortment of bodies and skills. Something to be said for those days. (Not much, perhaps, but something.)
8.26.2008 3:25pm
Steve Lubet (mail):
According to Jericho's mother, "The whole objective in life is to find something you're good at and stick with it."

Well, yes, but maybe not starting at age 9. Other parents seem to think that the "whole objective" of little league is to have fun, and it just isn't any fun for 21 batters (3 each inning for 7 innings) to stand at the plate and watch pitches zip past them. Strikeouts don't provide much fun for Jericho's team-mates either, except maybe the catcher.

No one is saying that Jericho can't play. He's probably a very good hitter and fielder as well. And it won't hurt him at all to delay developing his pitching skills for a year or so, until the other kids begin to catch up to him.
8.26.2008 3:25pm
trad and anon:
The players in this league are in about third through fifth grade. The purpose of elementary school sports is to introduce them to what it's like to play a sport and to basic sport norms like being polite to the other team after the game. If he's just striking everyone out, the kids on his side have nothing to do on defense and the kids on the other team never get a chance to hit, so it's no fun for the kids.

If he's really that good, he should move to another league.
8.26.2008 3:26pm
The General:
There are also follow-up problems stemming from the team's refusal to abide by the league's rules, and alleged excessive reactions by the child's parents.


None of the articles you cited say anything about the team not abiding by the league's rules, unless the rule is that you can't be that much better than the other players, but I seriously doubt that was a "league rule" at least at the beginning of the season. There's no moral equivalence here. Let the kids play.

Also, I don't think the parents acted excessively. We have a situation here where the league is targeting a single 9 year old kid and refusing to let him play a position he wants to play. That doesn't promote the sport. That promotes mediocrity. They're saying, we don't want players to play hard and do their best. We want them to slow down so the less skilled can feel better about themselves. What a bunch of BS! Kids should learn that if they want to excel at something, they need to try harder, work harder, and put in more effort. If they aren't physically gifted, then they can learn another sport or be computer nerds. Also, do we tell kids that get straight A's to stop studying and doing their homework so that the dumb kids in class will have a chance? No, we don't because that's dumb.

Also, the other teams that forfeit aren't promoting the game. They're being a bunch of crybaby quitters who take their stuff and go home. How do they know that they won't get a hit off the kid if they don't try? These kids should have a lot more pride than just being a bunch of whiny bitches.
8.26.2008 3:29pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
So, because he can pitch very well, he should be removed from a team that he has played with all season, filled with people he knows and is friends with, and should be made to go play with a bunch of older kids who he doesn't know?

No sir, I don't like it.

Regardless of any other factors, I think it is extremely unfair to him.
8.26.2008 3:29pm
Serendipity:
Imagine if a league said to a nine year old "Sorry, but you've struck out every at bat you've had this season. You can no longer play." Would people still feel the same way? I mean after all, if everyone should be of roughly the same ability, let's get rid of all the crappy players too!

I just use that as an example of how absurd this is. Being on a team with or playing against players that are better than oneself should provide the incentive to work harder. If the other kids keep striking out because the ball is too fast, maybe their coach should focus on their hitting ability. Bring the level of ability in the league up, don't drag it down to the lowest common denominator. We don't (at least I would hope not) kick kids off the math team in 3rd grade or force them to play on the 5th grade team just because they can do long division faster than anyone else. I fail to see why athletic ability should be viewed any differently.

Things like this are what happens when we have an entire generation that has grown up thinking "everyone is special."
8.26.2008 3:35pm
KG2V:
I know in Soccer (hey, it's what my son plays) the levels are "U" for Under - aka even though you may qualify for say the U8 league (Under 8) you are allowed to "Play up". if you can make the team. The son of my son's travel team coach regularly plays 2 years up in the summer intermural league, as he has no challenge playing with the other 8 year olds.

I don't think this kid should be banned, but if I was his parents, I'd play him with the 10s or 11s. Why? He's going to learn more playing with kids of a similar skill set
8.26.2008 3:35pm
Serendipity:
I guess The General and I think alike...right on...
8.26.2008 3:36pm
MartyA:
There is more to this story than we see. I don't know what it might be but we don't have all the facts.
A 40mph fast ball isn't that fast. But a fast ball jumping off a metal bat might be going a lot faster. Is this a league that uses metal bats?
8.26.2008 3:46pm
OrinKerr:
Imagine if a league said to a nine year old "Sorry, but you've struck out every at bat you've had this season. You can no longer play." Would people still feel the same way? I mean after all, if everyone should be of roughly the same ability, let's get rid of all the crappy players too!

I don't know about telling it to a nine-year old, but that's the norm with competitive athletics generally, right? If you can't make the team, you don't play on it.
8.26.2008 3:46pm
donaldk2 (mail):
They should let him pitch for both sides.
8.26.2008 3:46pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I know! They should just disband the baseball league entirely because baseball promotes differences in ability which damages the psyche of young children.

First it was dodgeball. Now baseball. What next?
8.26.2008 3:48pm
Splunge:
Professor Volt, you forgot the biggest example of sorting out, which is that we have separate competitions for men and women in just about every physically-demanding sport. The women do not compete directly with the men in track and field, basketball, cycling, soccer, and so forth.

Supporters of this arrangement (and some of its legal backbone, like Title IX) frequently make just your argument about why we should have "women only" competitions.

Interestingly, I expect a similar separation based on race would be violently denounced, even though there are similar differences between races: for example, black men are in general so much better than white men at sprinting that I don't think there's been a top world-class (e.g. Olympic medalist) white American sprinter in forty years.
8.26.2008 3:49pm
A.C.:
What's wrong with having him "play up" as pitcher and encouraging him to learn another position to play with his current team? In my school band camp, we had different levels at different times of day. You played your best instrument in the last session of the day. The first session of the day was for beginners in general and for people who wanted to experiment with something new. There were two tiers in between for people who had been studying a little while.

This was only loosely linked to age. Everybody at the final session was in high school, but there was a mix of ages in the earlier sessions.

The theory is that everyone starts wherever they happen to be, but everybody should have the chance to get better.
8.26.2008 3:49pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
The General: Whoops, sorry, meant to say "ruling" rather than "rules"; correcting it.

Serendipity: Unless I'm mistaken, many teams do indeed have minimal skill requirements; I'd guess that some leagues impose such rules as well. Some don't, and that's fine, and I expect that such minimal requirements are much less common when 9-year-olds are involved than when 17-year-olds are involved. But it seems to me that both minimal and maximal skills requirement are principle quite proper.
8.26.2008 3:50pm
Frog Leg (mail):
Has this kid's pitches been clocked?
8.26.2008 3:50pm
Frog Leg (mail):
Sorry. Just saw the 40mph number. Reading comprehension not really working now.
8.26.2008 3:51pm
Sarcastro (www):
[This kid has real potential, it seems. He should be challenged be people at his level. Skill level is what age and gender groups are a proxy for anyhow.

A kid who is bad at baseball doesn't distort the game as much as one who is awesome does, so far as I know.

Yeah, he'll have to leave his friends and teammates, which is unfortunate, but untilitarian wise it seems to me more people will have fun if he's moved up a level. And as stated above, he'll get the fun of pitching against real competition anyhow]
8.26.2008 3:51pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
I agree with your substantive point (and with baseball there is also the issue of safety), but I'm with Hoya in being skeptical about the story. I was merely a mediocre baseball player at nine, but I still routinely used the 40 mph pitching machines at my local batting cages.
8.26.2008 3:52pm
tarheel:

Competitive sports, especially but not exclusively among children, generally works best when the players have roughly the same ability.

As a coach and as a player (often, sadly, overmatched), I always found that I worked hardest and improved the most when I knew I was up against someone much better than me. I don't think 9-year-olds are so dainty that they can't take a strike out or two over the course of a season. It might even make them try harder to get better.

Artificially leveling the playing field seems very un-libertarian, Prof. Volokh. (That was a joke.)
8.26.2008 3:53pm
Richard Ragsdale (mail):
When I played football in grade school (5th and 6th grades) players over 100 lbs were not allowed to carry the ball. It was just a safety rule and took into account the fact that skeletal and muscular maturity varies enormously at young ages, to the point that a boy can more or less be competing against a man. I don't know how you would frame and apply a rule for youth baseball pitching, but the parents shouldn't be slammed for not wanting their kids to be exposed to serious injury. This is kid sports. Fun and participation should be the guiding principles.
8.26.2008 3:56pm
Scote (mail):

As a coach and as a player (often, sadly, overmatched), I always found that I worked hardest and improved the most when I knew I was up against someone much better than me.


Within reason that may be true. When I was in first grade playing Little League baseball, they had **tryouts** and then let the three coaches select in order, not alternating. Unsurprisingly the first coach had the best team which won almost 100% of the time, the second coach made the second best team and the last coach made a losing team with the leftovers, including myself. It doesn't take much to turn off a kid from organized competitive sports for life, but I think that experience did a rather effective job.
8.26.2008 4:00pm
Serendipity:
But isn't the fact that he's only nine really the main issue? Of course things would be different with seventeen year olds. Most of us would never dream of telling a nine year old that he's so bad he has to go to another team. While this may have to do some with self-esteem issues, i'd assume it also has to do with the fact that 9 year olds want to be with their other 9 year old friends etc.,. Looking at the picture, in the linked article, the kid isn't even remotely close to puberty. Why should he be taken out of the league and away from his friends and teammates and forced to play with kids much older and bigger than he is, who he probably doesn't know? Additionally, what if HE then becomes the player who is well below everyone else's skill level? What happens then?
8.26.2008 4:02pm
keithwaters (mail):
The first basketball game I ever coached, we were "nipped" 56-4. The person in charge gave me the best player off that team, which was loaded, and we won the title.

Almost all of us like competition, but it's not fun when you never have a chance to win, and it's not because you haven't worked hard enough but because the other team has almost all the talent. Evening up the teams provides more competition and fun for everyone.

Making the teams equal may go against a libertarian impulse to "let the chips fall where they may" when it comes to choosing sides, but the goal is for children to have fun. And it doesn't mean the good players have to hold back once the game starts.
8.26.2008 4:04pm
tarheel:
Scote: Agreed. Can I just say (while hoping your dad was not in charge of the league), that is a totally f-ed up way to pick teams.
8.26.2008 4:05pm
TM boy:
Eugene: "It sounds like the other players in New Haven Youth Baseball are literally out of Scott's league — and they should indeed be in different leagues."

There's no way to say this without coming off hopelessly pedantic, but the other players are not literally out of Scott's league; rather, they're figuratively out of his league (i.e., beneath his ability), and therefore should be literally out of his league, i.e, in a league below Scott's.

It's silly, perhaps, but it's distressingly common to see people, even highly educated people, misuse the word "literally" when they mean "figuratively."
8.26.2008 4:14pm
john dickinson (mail):
Couldn't they be using the word "literally" figuratively?
8.26.2008 4:20pm
Angus:
Reading some more articles on this, the situation looks even more extreme than the linked article suggests. According to the kid's Wikipedia page, his team is 8-0, *with the kid having pitched 8 no-hitters!*.

In other words, if true, in 8 complete games no kid in the league has been able to get a single hit against him. I also read a couple articles that said that the New Haven league asked his parents to move him to a baseball league with slightly older players, but they refused.

This looks to be a league mostly devoted to getting kids interested in the game, not about trophies or being a champion. How is "fun" served when one team can't even be hit against?
8.26.2008 4:28pm
john dickinson (mail):
I played little league when I was 11-12, and we often had a couple of kids on our team who were below age but too good for the younger league. Of course it's usually voluntary. In this case it seems like the parents are refusing to do something that's normally common practice, and everyone else is getting huffy about it.
8.26.2008 4:28pm
TM boy:
John, I recognize that you're joking, but to give a serious answer, no, because the word "figuratively" means "not literally," and then we would have no way to express what was previously meant by "literally."
8.26.2008 4:29pm
Don Miller (mail) (www):

Within reason that may be true. When I was in first grade playing Little League baseball, they had **tryouts** and then let the three coaches select in order, not alternating. Unsurprisingly the first coach had the best team which won almost 100% of the time, the second coach made the second best team and the last coach made a losing team with the leftovers, including myself. It doesn't take much to turn off a kid from organized competitive sports for life, but I think that experience did a rather effective job.


When I was going out for my 2nd year of Little League, enough kids turned out for 4 teams. They had 3 coaches.

I was on the leftover team. We had to find out own coach. Mr Carlson weighed 375, but said he would be our coach. He played every kid on the team at least two innings every game, including the kids that couldn't hit or throw a baseball before they joined our team.

He turned to be an exceptional coach who really drilled us on defense. We had a couple kids who had never pitched before that turned out to be pretty good.

Overall we went 12-0 including 2 wins over the team with all the stud athletes.

Community broke a long time tradition though that year. For the first time they didn't ask the coach with the best record to be the All-Star coach. They asked the coach of the team with the stud athletes to do it. He only invited 2 guys from my team to be on All-Star team. The only consolation was they were eliminated from the post-season tournament in the first round.

That was my last year of recreation baseball.

My son's little league for 10 and under uses pitching machines. Pitching is really hard on developing arms and safety is improved because less hitters are hit by pitches.
8.26.2008 4:32pm
loki13 (mail):
TMBoy,

I think you're being awfully prescriptivist. What you're doing is literally like defacing signs in National Parks.
8.26.2008 4:37pm
Splunge:
Serendipity, you should keep in mind that most of us have massively rose-colored memory glasses on when we remember what it was like to be nine years old.

Being a 9-year-old boy in the company of others is a lot like being one immmature hyena among a pack of them, all a bit hopped up on crack. The interpersonal interaction can be savage, and at that age cuts and thrusts that an adult would laugh off can cause amazing pain. Really, kids only a few years older (with the added burden of hormones) can hang themselves just because of what their peers say.

What do you do about that as a parent? Yes, there's a certain amount of teach 'em to "swim" (negotiate social settings) by throwing 'em in the deep end. This is life, better get used to it. But there's also a certain reasonable wish to teach them to swim gradually, starting at the shallow end. Boys so often use athletic competence to acquire excessive social dominance (What do you know? You can't even hit the ball. You play like a girl. I bet you're gay, hahaha) that it's quite reasonable to wish to limit the degree of separation of athletic competence with which your kid has to cope, at least initially, so that arguments like "but you're better at something else" or "just because Tim is a hugely better baseball player doesn't mean you're worthless" can have a chance.

I'm not surprised that the theoretically-oriented lawyers here should think the Great Abstract Principles always trump any measure of human cost, but if you listened in on a bunch of mothers discussing the issue (and kept in mind they are the real practical experts), a different perspective might emerge.
8.26.2008 4:38pm
OrinKerr:
Serendipity,

It seems to me that once you say the age issue trumps -- that is, we're not going to treat this like the usual competitive athletic issue, and instead focus on the kids' feelings, because they're only 9 -- then we have to consider the feelings both of the pitcher and everyone else impacted by the decision. And at that point, isn't telling a kid he is too great to pitch pretty different than telling a kid he is too poor to pitch? It also seems relevant that the rule is that he can't pitch, not that he can't play at all.
8.26.2008 4:39pm
JB:
As usual, this is a story of corruption rather than excessive self-esteem-boosting.


Jericho's coach and parents say the boy is being unfairly targeted because he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league's administrators.


The defending league champion would easily repeat if not for Jericho, and the league administrator is just getting revenge.
8.26.2008 4:41pm
john dickinson (mail):
I wasn't really joking. I think many people who say "y literally x" -- where y obviously only figuratively x -- use the word "literally" for figurative emphasis. It indicates when something they are saying shouldn't be taken as common hyperbole -- i.e., it's so remarkable, it's as if something absurd were literally true. Whether or not it makes for good writing or speaking, it's perfectly within the rules.
8.26.2008 4:43pm
TM boy:
loki13: "I think you're being awfully prescriptivist. What you're doing is literally like defacing signs in National Parks."

You're right, I'm literally making a mountain out of a molehill.
8.26.2008 4:44pm
loki13 (mail):
TM Boy-

*smile*
8.26.2008 4:46pm
A.C.:
At one level, I admire the parents here. They aren't trying to push their kid ahead, and they want him to stay with his social peers. Plenty of parents would be pushing their sons to compete as hard as possible, even to the extent of stunting their development in other areas. Refusing to go too far down this road when the child is so young can be a good thing.

But even so, the other kids won't learn much if he is THAT much better. However, I see nothing wrong with having him catch for the 9-year-olds and then pitch with older kids, or with some sort of elite team. Or even with having him do baseball as his elite sport and play soccer with friends from his elementary school. Elite competition in any area doesn't have to be incompatible with being a regular kid in other areas.
8.26.2008 4:46pm
bikeguy (mail):
Makes sense to me. Punish the high achievers and "level the playing field" so the less gifted can feel good about themselves.
If the goal is to produce a uniform level of bland mediocrity, this is an undoubtedly an excellent approach.
8.26.2008 4:48pm
TM boy:
John, I don't know what "rules" you're referring to, but from a policy perspective, the whole point of using the word "literally" is to indicate that a figurative expression is not being used.
8.26.2008 4:55pm
A.C.:
What's your golf handicap? This stuff happens all the time, pretty much everywhere below world-class competition.

We will always going to have ability tracking of one kind or another. The goal isn't to get kids to "feel good about themselves" so much as to get them into the activity at all. Then they can develop the skills that might lead to real self-esteem. The alternative is that only the best players will ever play, and that people who show up not knowing the game already (which is to say kids who didn't learn at home) will never get the experience that it takes to improve. Recreational sports are developmental as well as competitive.
8.26.2008 4:59pm
A.C.:
Please excuse the made-up verb tense. Of course I meant "are always going to." I'm literally dying of embarrassment at that mistake.
8.26.2008 5:02pm
A.S.:
Competitive sports, especially but not exclusively among children, generally works best when the players have roughly the same ability. Including players who are much better than others tends to make things less fun for other players, for spectators, and sometimes for the much better players themselves.

Oh, I completely agree, Professor Volokh. In fact, I was saying, just the other day, that Michael Phelps should be disqualified from the Olympics, so that they could let all the other swimmers - men with roughly the same level of ability, clearly lesser than Michael Phelps - compete against each other.

Where's the fun of Olympic swimming when all those other athletes know that they are not good enough to compete with Michael Phelps?
8.26.2008 5:07pm
A.C.:
Michael Phelps probably would not have become Michael Phelps if he had been left to his own devices in a town parks and rec league. At some point, somebody notices extraordinary talent and puts it where it can get the training and higher-level competition that it needs to develop. Which is not always among the kids who are just learning something new.

The winner-take-all society does exist to some extent, but not to exactly the same extent in every single institution and organization.
8.26.2008 5:17pm
loki13 (mail):
TM Boy,

I'm curious. If I say something is really 'hot' and something is really 'cool', would you agree that in some contexts I could be talking about the same thing, even though 'hot' and cool' are antonyms?

In that sense, 'literally' can have multiple meanings.

Literally can (literally) mean 'literally', as in not figuratively.

It can also be used to indicate emphasis. "If you don't finish your homework, young man, I will literally ground you forever!"

While I agree that can cause confusion, I think this might be a pet peeve for you . . . not that you have an animal named a peeve. I have the same problem with people saying "Actually" to start sentences. As opposed to what, virtually? But it's a losing battle. Get used to it.
8.26.2008 5:18pm
loki13 (mail):
Oh yeah, AND GET OFF MY LAWN!
8.26.2008 5:19pm
Houston Lawyer:
My 10-year-old son plays very competitive soccer. We placed him with the competitive club to keep his interest high. Also, it's not fun for the other team members when one of your players scores 90% of the goals, and he's too small to play with the older kids.

A kid as good as the one in the article should play with a more competitive group. At this age range, we want as many kids as possible to play and for them to have fun. They'll have lots of opportunities in life to be beaten, but they should have some fun first.
8.26.2008 5:21pm
GMS:
At the age of 9, it's kind of hard to characterize someone as a "high achiever" simply because he's a good pitcher. At that age, the differences are usually either size, innate athletic ability, or a combination of the two. There's nothing particularly heroic about being a naturally gifted 9-year-old. The world is full of people who dominated Little League because they developed early (or were born in the right part of the calendar year), but got passed by as they got older.

That being said, the suggestion that he's being targeted because he didn't agree to play for the defending champions (who happened to be sponsored by a league administrator's company) rings very true. I have a hunch that, if he was playing for the "right" team, this wouldn't be an issue. So, of course, the proper solution is to have him pitch against the defending champions, and play in the field against everyone else.
8.26.2008 5:22pm
Adam Z (mail) (www):
Something stinks . . .

8 no-hitters in 8 games? I've been through Baseball programs with my son over the past few years and while our local league is not Little League, we use Little League rules and our pitchers are subject to rules that restrict the number of innings they can pitch per game, per week and per series.

LL official rules say that 8 year olds are restricted to 50 pitches per day with the following additional restrictions:


If a player pitches 61 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest and a game (see e. below) must
be observed.
If a player pitches 41 - 60 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest and a game (see e. below) must be
observed.
If a player pitches 21 - 40 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar days of rest must be observed.
If a player pitches 1-20 pitches in a day, no (0) calendar day of rest must be observed.


It would also be both unsporting and irresponsible for this kid's coach to pitch him for full, consecutive games. It seems unlikely that any coach would do that. Arm health is a major concern in youth baseball today.

There's another part of this story this is likely not being told.

-adam
8.26.2008 5:29pm
RPT (mail):
"Things like this are what happens when we have an entire generation that has grown up thinking "everyone is special."

Better to have only one person special, and too bad for everyone else, as the "playing flied is leveled"? Great ideological result.
8.26.2008 5:31pm
A.C.:
Don't forget coaching at home. I grew up with no older siblings and a father who spent most of his time traveling for business. My mother did not play sports. The result? I arrived at school with no idea how to play ANY sports. It was a couple of years before I even realized that throwing a ball was a learned skill that other people practiced at home. I thought it was an innate ability that some people had and others were incapable of learning.

Sports for very young children have to cope with that sort of thing. It may be that, long-term, the best players will be people who never learned the game before the first day of practice. The same applies at any age, really. Plenty of people turn out for Master's Swimming in their 40s and become competitive -- not Michael Phelps competitive, but competitive in their league. Which is fine.
8.26.2008 5:34pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
TM Boy: Interesting -- I'm inclined to say that I probably shouldn't have used literally; my point was that this literally involved a league, but you're right that they weren't literally out of his league (yet). I'll change the post accordingly. Thanks!
8.26.2008 5:36pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Its a league of 8-10 year olds so he is only mid-aged. Yet, his "choice" is to play with 11+ kids. Not fair to him. Age level is more important than skill level at that age.

I do question some of the "facts". Kid pitchers with extraordinary speed seldom also have good control before high school at least. He has not hit anyone which I find unusual if he really is so fast.

It seems we are missing something important.

There are usually three versions of something. Side 1's view, Side 2's view and the truth.
8.26.2008 5:36pm
VRWC:
There is something not quite right about this story. I've coached Little League for 5 years. My best pitchers threw over 40 MPH when they were 8 years old and I know several 9 and 10 year olds well over 50 MPH. My own kid was clocked on a radar gun at 48 when he was 9 and there were at least a half dozen kids who threw harder.
There's no reason 9 year olds can't hit a 40 MPH pitcher. 50 would be tough, but then the kid should play up in a higher division. We had one outstanding 9 year old in our Majors Division last year playing against 10 to near 13 year olds and he did just fine.
8.26.2008 5:45pm
SFC B (mail) (www):
The safety issue for the other players from this pitcher are a bit overblown. Just because he's throwing 40mph doesn't mean that a kid being hit by the ball will suffer an injury more severe than being hit by one thrown, say, 30 mph. At 40mph, even at the mound distance of Little League, a baseball just isn't going to cause much injury (unless the batter takes a pitch to the face, but that's a different issue). The greater injury risk comes from balls in play; grounders taking a bad hop, fielders running in to each other, a player being distracted and not seeing a throw from another fielder.

Honestly though, I'm more concerned about the safety of the 9-year pitcher. What youth league has allowed a 9 year old to pitch 8 complete games? Looking at pictures of his body relative to the ball, he's not throwing any sort of curve or slider, but that's still a whole lot of use being put on to a young and developing elbow and shoulder.
8.26.2008 5:48pm
Phillip (mail):
So you think the kid should be forced to play with older kids because he is good? I was moved up two age groups because I was better than the kids my age. The older kids, despite not being better at sport, were brutal. Think about the nine year old also.
8.26.2008 5:53pm
Suzy (mail):

A smart coach would have him pitch a few innings, then let another pitcher (or two) finish off the game.


Absolutely. This is a coaching problem, not a player problem. As Adam says, most little league guidelines wouldn't recommend having a 9 year old pitch so many pitches so frequently. If he's really wasting the competition every time, he should pitch a few innings and sub out, or he should be a closer for some other starter.

Think about how you'd feel if you were the parent of another kid on the same team: your kid has so far gotten ZERO fielding experience in a game. Your kid with real pitching talent can't develop it at all because nobody else is allowed to pitch. The coach could solve this himself. If he continues in this way, the other teams should just decline to play them. That would solve it quick, and hopefully before 9 year old gets injured. I wouldn't place bets that this coach knows how to develop his arm properly, either, if this is what's going on.
8.26.2008 5:54pm
Serendipity:
Orin Kerr--

Point taken. I guess my instinct though is that in taking the feelings of the other kids into consideration, we ought to tell them not to get discouraged and rise to the level of the pitcher Maybe I'm just completely wrong, but I just can't imagine that this kid is so much better than all the others that a little hard work on their parts couldn't make up the difference.
8.26.2008 6:03pm
TM boy:
You think it's a pet peeve??? Oh, I readily admit that it is! :-)

However, I disagree with a lot of what you wrote (or suggested).

I'm curious. If I say something is really 'hot' and something is really 'cool', would you agree that in some contexts I could be talking about the same thing, even though 'hot' and cool' are antonyms?

I certainly agree that in some contexts you could be talking about the same thing with "hot" and "cool." With respect to a woman, I might describe a woman as both "hot" and "cool" (not meaning the same thing, but certainly not antonyms). However, if you were to describe the weather as both "hot" and "cool," that wouldn't make sense. So, it depends upon context.

That, I think, takes us to your main point, namely that context matters. In your example, "If you don't finish your homework, young man, I will literally ground you forever!", is it obvious what the speaker means? Of course it is. Moreoever, in 95% of the cases in which "literally" is misused, the context makes it clear that the word is being misused and nothing is confusing. But what about those occasions, admittedly not too frequent, when the context doesn't make it clear whether "literally" is being meant "literally" is not clear (the fact that I have to put the latter instance in quotation marks exemplifies my point)? I think this means that there is good cause to use "literally" in its original sense, not to mean its antonym "figuratively." As I intimated earlier, do we then have to create a new word to convey the meaning that was previously conveyed by "literally" (e.g., "literally literally")? If so, should we then start (mis)using that term in a figurative sense for emphasis, thereby necessitating the need to create a new word? Or should we simply use our present words correctly?

Now, what is the cost of not using the word "literally" incorrectly? [sorry to use so many negatives] Not much, I think. You said that "literally" can be used for emphasis, which is true, but aren't there a million other ways to emphasize something? E.g.: "I'll ground you for a million years!" In those cases where "literally" is being used to emphasize an expression (e.g., "he literally walked on water"), does the word "literally" add anything to that? In my opinion, it doesn't (it reminds me of GOB in Arrested Development when Rita literally walks on water at the end of one episode).

So I don't think there's a good reason to misuse "literally." It's unlike the hot/cool example because I think those meanings are universally recognized and the reader/listener knows to use context to determine what meaning is intended. Not so with "literally" in those contexts in which it's not clear whether the word "literally" is being used literally or figuratively. In short, there's no reason to misuse a word (1) that would be misleading in certain circumstances; and (2) for which there are many alternatives, thus rendering unpersuasive any argument that the word is needed to make the point.


Lastly, is it a lost cause that I should just get used to? I don't think so. Like Eugene, I'm a descriptivist, but many people use "literally" correctly, so it's not like we have a situation where everyone misuses it and it has thus become standard usage (where we've almost reached with "myriad"; "myriad of" is/was incorrect, but so many people use "myriad" with the preposition "of" that it arguably is on the verge of becoming accepted usage).
8.26.2008 6:16pm
Lost My Cookies (mail):
I can't figure this out, the machine that we use to pitch to 8 and under is set at 35. I know a 10 year old who could throw 65, it has to be his control.
8.26.2008 6:23pm
TM boy:
My pleasure, Eugene. Keep up the good work!
8.26.2008 6:24pm
Angus:
I've read various posts and comments about this around the 'net, and a few interesting comments from Little League coaches. Evidently "developmental" leagues are ones set up for 1st-time players who are brand new to the game and only have a vague idea how to play. After a season or so in a developmental league, the players then move up to a competitive league.

I'm not sure if this is the same situation, but one coach said there is a recent phenomenon of "redshirting," meaning putting a decent player into a deliberately lower rung of competition so that he can dominate. My guess is that this kid played in a competitive league somewhere and then his parents moved him to this developmental league so that they could have a star in the family.
8.26.2008 6:30pm
loki13 (mail):
TM Boy-

While I agree with most of what you wrote, and I think it is great for writing (and Eugene, having a book on clear, concise legal writing, was pleasant enough to heed your advice) . . .

I'm not sure about "literally" being a lost cause. The majority of the time I hear "literally" now it is used to indicate emphasis.

So, just as in the old days when a teacher, hearing that something "sucks" would ask if it was applying suction, but we can know ascertain that it means that it is bad (but bad in the bad, as opposed to good, sense of bad), so it is with literally.

Literally is not, um, very unique in this sense.
8.26.2008 6:34pm
Angus:

I can't figure this out, the machine that we use to pitch to 8 and under is set at 35. I know a 10 year old who could throw 65, it has to be his control.
I think it's the level of players. This small "developmental" league seems to be for the kids who have never played baseball before or who are weak players. I suspect there are a number of surrounding competitive leagues around that the kid's parents could easily have registered him for.

I see it as the equivalent of parents putting an honors student into a developmental class in school just so that the kid can be the best student in the class.
8.26.2008 6:34pm
loki13 (mail):
*grin*
8.26.2008 6:34pm
PLR:
EV is entirely right, the kid should be moved up. This happens all the time in other sports -- gymnastics being a prime example. The better competitors are separated from their peer group.

If Jericho only likes baseball because he gets to strike all his friends out, he shouldn't be playing. If he loves baseball, his parents are holding him back. I see this all the time, young athletes being subordinated to their parents' whims.
8.26.2008 6:35pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
it says the team was 8-0 and jerricho had played one game at second base and then moved back to pitching. clearly, he hasn't pitched 8 no-hitters.


Jericho instead joined a team sponsored by Will Power Fitness. The team was 8-0 and on its way to the playoffs when Jericho was banned from pitching.




League officials say they first told Vidro that the boy could not pitch after a game on Aug. 13. Jericho played second base the next game on Aug. 16. But when he took the mound Wednesday, the other team walked off and a forfeit was called.


is this story being put out by the organizers of the big foot hoax story from last week? pretty soon we are going to hear stories about the kid not playing second base but pitching from second base and still striking everyone out, including the opposing team's coach and special invited guest David Ortiz. who is the first to take crack at writing "Jerricho at the Mound"
(for those unfamiliar with baseball traditions - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_at_the_Bat)

...i just noticed the name of the league "Liga Juvenil De Baseball De New Haven" - if the league's focus is what it appears to be from the name, there is an easy joke in there about a certain public policy. i will, however, not make it.
8.26.2008 6:43pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
In 2nd grade another girl and I were sent to the gifted 6th grade class on the other side of our school for reading. That was after spending every afternoon of 1st grade in the 2nd grade classroom. When I competed in Irish dance, we had both age and ability divisions -- I started as an "over 12 beginner," and then "over 12 advanced beginner," and then became an "over 15 novice" and would have been an "over 16 open" dancer if I'd stuck with it long enough to get a few more 1st places. Meanwhile, one of my classmates was an "under 9 open championship" dancer (and barred from the World Championships for being too young,) while we had teachers winning the "ladies' over 17 open championship" category at Nationals. And yes, even the group dances were segmented by both age and ability, though without quite so many divisions.

It makes no sense to me why this should be an issue at all. There is at least one adult (probably several) who has failed to behave rationally in this situation.
8.26.2008 6:43pm
Anderson (mail):
A kid as good as the one in the article should play with a more competitive group. At this age range, we want as many kids as possible to play and for them to have fun. They'll have lots of opportunities in life to be beaten, but they should have some fun first.

I so rarely get to agree with Houston Lawyer that I won't pass up this opportunity to do so.
8.26.2008 6:57pm
TM boy:
So, just as in the old days when a teacher, hearing that something "sucks" would ask if it was applying suction, but we can know ascertain that it means that it is bad (but bad in the bad, as opposed to good, sense of bad), so it is with literally.

Literally is not, um, very unique in this sense.


Hey loki13: No, the word "literally" is not unique in that it can mean different things in different contexts (like "hot" and "cool"). Context means everything. If someone says that College Team X "sucks," would anyone look for a suction context? My point was that the (societal) benefits of using the term "literally" correctly outweigh the costs of misusing the term, and we should therefore use the term properly.

P.S.: My girlfriend insists that she's both "hot" and "cool," with which I agree.
8.26.2008 7:06pm
loki13 (mail):
Y'know, I agree with Anderson (above, pretty common) and Houston Lawyer (what.... WHAT?). I think almost all parents would agree that, especially at really young ages, the point is to have fun and learn (including learning about competition). You don't want to be *that* guy, you know, the one screaming at your kids, the other kids, and the ref/ump on the sidelines.
8.26.2008 7:08pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Why do we think it's a good idea to move this kid up to a higher league? Just because he is exceptional in one area of the game (pitching) does not make him as good a hitter, fielder or base runner as any of the older kids. He could be normal in those aspects of the game, so moving him up would be deeply unfair to him.

Does the league tell kids who hit the ball very hard that they cannot hit in games? If not, then they will have a hard time defending the safety rationale.
8.26.2008 7:29pm
Dan M.:
Since when is 40 mph fast for a 9 year old? We had 9-year-olds in Little League facing off against a kid who threw 81 mph by the time he was 11. Heck, some kids might have even been 8 facing the kid if they had a summer birthday. I'm sure the kids throwing in the 70s and 80s in Little League at 11 and 12 were throwing well above 40 when they were 9. Otherwise there wouldn't be any young pitchers in Little League unless they had movement on their pitches.
8.26.2008 7:47pm
loki13 (mail):
TM Boy-

But wouldn't that same argument have been made before "hot" and "cool" became synonyms? I can see TM Old Man . . .

Bah! Why use cool? If something's good, it's good, not cool. 23 skidoo!

Then TM Middle Aged man . . .

Bah! Why use hot? If something's cool, it's cool, not hot! Kilroy was here!

For that matter, you could be arguing against bad becoming good.

Anyway, it a prescriptivist argument. Not a bad one, but from what I've been hearing from the young uns, a losing one.
8.26.2008 8:04pm
TM boy:
Loki, did you read my previous posts? I'm not sure that you did, or if you did, you missed the most important points, namely that "the (societal) benefits of using the term 'literally' correctly outweigh the costs of misusing the term, and we should therefore use the term properly" and "[i]t's unlike the hot/cool example because I think those meanings are universally recognized and the reader/listener knows to use context to determine what meaning is intended." You also evidently missed the part about me being a descriptivist.

Before "hot" and "cool" became synonyms? First, they're not synonyms. Secondly, and more importantly, use of one term for the other would not, prior to their new meanings not having anything to do with temperature, be confusing or deceptive. Do you see that? Assume that "cool" means what it currently means and "hot" doesn't mean what it currently means. Now, someone in this context says that something/someone is "hot." Huh? What does that mean? It's not "cool." It's an unknown term, but what does it mean? That's not the case of someone using a term to mean exactly what it didn't mean previously (like "literally").

But wouldn't that same argument have been made before "hot" and "cool" became synonyms?


Since they're not synonyms, I don't know. However, assuming for the sake of argument that they are indeed synonyms, who cares whether such an argument would've or might've been made? That's not the point at all (nor is whether an argument should've been made by someone against "bad" becoming "good"). Your statements simply ignore my argument that "the (societal) benefits of using the term 'literally' correctly outweigh the costs of misusing the term, and we should therefore use the term properly." The word "bad" has, in some contexts, come to mean "good," but that is irrelevant. Does it follow that the word "literally" should become a synonym of "figuratively"? Of course not, and that is the argument that I make. Remember the part about me being a descriptivist?
8.26.2008 9:08pm
Hoya:
As I said, and as others seem to be confirming, the '40 mph is too fast and scary' is bullshit -- it's not at all uncommon. And the kid's control is obviously good, so he is even less scary than one of those Nuke LaLoosh kids who can chuck it but you don't know whether you'll get it in the earhole. So something else is going on.

Even if this kid's team is whipping every team it faces because this pitcher is unhittable, well -- these other teams play each other. It is common, even with no shenanigans, for one rec league team to be unbeatable. That is as common as dirt.
8.26.2008 9:09pm
loki13 (mail):
TM Boy,

It sure is a good thing you weren't around for the great flammable/inflammable wars of the 1800s. Those were cool! Um, hot!
8.26.2008 9:19pm
loki13 (mail):
BTW, to respond substantively, you missed what I was writing; you might think you're a descriptivist, but if you watch tv, listen to the radio, and listen to people speak, you will notice that they use literally for emphasis, and often where 'figuratively' should be used.

If you have a huge problem with this, I might suggest you're more of a prescriptivist, and that you're fighting a losing battle. In the meantime, I must leave and chastise people for starting half their sentences with "actually."
8.26.2008 9:23pm
TM boy:
I do listen to people speak, loki13, which, in fact, is what prompted my first post on this thread.

As for your suggestion that I'm "more of a prescriptivist" and that I'm "fighting a losing battle," that's kinda the subject of my previous posts. You and I disagree on that point -- fair enough -- but it's hardly a new topic or a new suggestion.
8.26.2008 9:38pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"League attorney Peter Noble says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast."

When did Little League get League Attorneys? Does he get a uniform? This is a signal that the kids need to get back to pick-up games in the park, and bench the parents.
8.26.2008 9:47pm
LM (mail):
loki13,

BTW, to respond substantively, you missed what I was writing; you might think you're a descriptivist, but if you watch tv, listen to the radio, and listen to people speak, you will notice that they use literally for emphasis, and often where 'figuratively' should be used.

I suspect that's a gloss we put on it as listeners, while the people mis-using it think they're saying something. They just haven't thought it through enough to realize they're not. I don't know why this happens, but I don't think it's like most malapropisms that get popularized into common usage. In those cases, I doubt the mis-users knew the word's correct meaning in the first place. But I'll bet most people who misuse "literally" could define it pretty accurately. They misuse it anyway because of some logical misfire or other cognitive lapse. Whatever it is, I don't think it's a typical vocabulary error. It strikes me as different.
8.26.2008 10:44pm
Greg G:
I agree that this appears to be a special developmental league. In Herndon VA, where my kids play, the Machine Pitch league for ages 7-9 uses a machine that pitches the ball at 35 mph at the start of the season and increases to 40 mph at the end of the season. Most kids make contact during their at-bats, though some do strike out.

You can download the rules at Cal Ripken Baseball

For the Rookie League, ages 8-10, kids can pitch, but are limited to at most two innings per game.

My opinion is that if it is a developmental league, then the emphasis should be on letting as many kids pitch as is practical, and to enforce a low inning or pitch count limit. Also, the idea of keeping scores and standings for a developmental league is counterproductive.
8.26.2008 11:15pm
John Neff:
I have to agree that this story does not compute. Little league was founded in 1939 and it took a long time to spread to other parts of the US. When I was a kid we played by our own rules.

My experience with Little League was when my sons played and there were kids that could throw fast balls but nobody had any idea where they would go. If the batter was hit they went to first base and if they were not hit they might make it to second base on a passed ball or third base if the catcher made a bad throw.
8.26.2008 11:21pm
ReaderY:
Of course there could be ulterior motives involved. But...in addition to competitiveness and "fun" issues, there could also be a safety issue. Young children who are beginners at baseball can't necessarily judge whether they're out of the way as well as older or more experienced children might, and a fast pitcher who's "too fast" could be dangerous for the youngest and weakest children. Have no clue whether this pitch speed could really be a hazard or not for this particular group of children, but of course it's not my job to judge such things.
8.27.2008 1:01am
ReaderY:
Of course in the "good old days" leagues didn't worry so much about getting sued if a kid got hit. Some actually folks actually accepted such things as ordinary no-fault accidents and "part of life". Lawyers, lawyers, lawyers...
8.27.2008 1:03am
Daryl Herbert (www):
Stupid bureaucrats.

They should have said they were banning him for "safety" reasons, because fast pitches are dangerous.

They would have been able to get away with that.
8.27.2008 1:23am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
40 mph is nothing special for Little League pitchers. Lots of kids can throw that hard. Pretty thin gruel.
8.27.2008 1:32am
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
BTW the only real safety issue here is for the poor pitcher who has been disqualified. Pitching entire games at that age (at any age) is an invitation for all kinds of nasty joint injuries that could cause pain for life. He definitely should not be banned from pitching, but having young kids pitch entire games is just dumb.
8.27.2008 1:44am
Kirk:
I agree with loki13 and all the rest. There's plenty of time to be *that* guy, if you're so minded, when your kids get to high school. :-)
8.27.2008 1:45am
Russ (mail):
This is insane. The number of equivocating posts on here that agree that a child should be banned b/c he is too good is nauseating.

Here's a wacky idea - if your kid is not good enough, teach him or her better, make them practice more, and let them improve. Rise to the level of competition; don't lower the competition b/c you're not good enough.

But I guess it's too discomforting someone might have that much more talent. I mean, come on - when everyone's super...no one is...
8.27.2008 6:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
This is all very well, but the kid isn't going to be throwing anything by the time he's fifteen. There's a reason that grown-up pitchers throw every four days. And they've completed their growth.
Unless he's just as good with the other arm.
8.27.2008 9:04am
tarheel:
Just saw video on ESPN of the kid pitching. It only confirms that there is something else going on with this story. He just does not throw that hard.
8.27.2008 10:44am
Lucas Williams (mail) (www):

Competitive sports, especially but not exclusively among children, generally works best when the players have roughly the same ability. Including players who are much better than others tends to make things less fun for other players, for spectators, and sometimes for the much better players themselves. And it also makes things less educational for other players and for the much better players.

Of course, having a disproportionately gifted athlete in a youth league could (and in my case did) have the opposite effect. As a young man I played in a youth basketball league on one of the least athletically-prow teams. The league was dominated by a team who had a player that was extraordinarily gifted, and in fact won all of their games but one - the championship game. My team of relatively awkward and inept players pulled off the upset.

Our coach had, early in the season, had a reality-check meeting with us and explained that we would not win if we played alone and instead had to play as a team. And he was right. Did we enjoy that season? You bet we did. Did we learn a valuable life lesson? Of course.

The leage does a disservice to everyone when it disqualifies the most gifted from participating because its not "fair." Is it fair to permit an awkward and unathletic player in the league when its obvious that he'll never be as good as the others? Personally, I'm glad that my league let both the best and worst players participate; I would never had the experience otherwise.
8.27.2008 12:58pm
sjalterego (mail):

Interestingly, I expect a similar separation based on race would be violently denounced, even though there are similar differences between races: for example, black men are in general so much better than white men at sprinting that I don't think there's been a top world-class (e.g. Olympic medalist) white American sprinter in forty years.



Jeremy Wariner?
Valeri Filippovich Borzov?
Konstantinos Kenteris?
Fani Halkia?

Don Bebe in the NFL is/was one of the fastest receivers ever despite being short and white.

In the most recent Olympics the womens 4x100 was won by the Russian team with silver to Belgium?

Or consider Lolo Jones a favorite to medal in the 110 hurdles (she was leading through 8hurdles but hit the 9th one and tripped falling to 7th.

Her bio lists her as French, Creole, African-American, Native American, and Norwegian.

Although the top results predominantly list African-American (hemisphere) athlets there is no particular reason, especially given that numerous caucasian athlets periodically top the stnadings, to believe that "blacks" are inherently significantly faster than whites or other ethnicities. Ice hockey is dominated by Caucasians, does that mean that Caucasians have some evolutionary advantage in skating?
8.27.2008 3:19pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
And the whole point of youth sports is precisely fun and educational value, not simply determining who the most excellent player is.

It's probably a good thing you're raising your boys in California, Eugene. For most Americans, sports to us is probably like math equations to the Volokh's. You don't turn off your talent, or take it elsewhere, just because you're showing up the other kids' lack of talent/work/whatever.

It's great that your own parents "moved you up" academically, presumably weighing the pluses and minuses as parents and deciding where you'd best fit. Of course, your parents would have been perfectly justified in placing you in an age-related classroom that might better fit your social/physical needs. But to tell you that if you stay in the age-appropriate classroom you have to stop doing math equations, so the other kids could "catch up"? I don't think so.

Sports and academics really aren't all that different competitively. It's just what the parents value, and what kind of time and effort they're willing to invest in their child. Trust me, EV, as your boys grow and want to compete physically, you'll better understand.

It really is a Harrison Bergeron situation here -- protecting the "feelings" and learning opportunities of one set of kids by holding back another from developing to his best potential (as his parents/himself are free to choose). Imagine if they did that to the young math whizzes who are just plain too good for their grade level and are breaking the curve all over the place... You wouldn't sit for that surely, yet it's ok in the athletic arena. Weird.
8.27.2008 4:56pm
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
I have coached a kid with this kind of ability in soccer. He was on a 7-8 year old team and had the speed and skill of a (very good) 12 year old. No one in the league could catch him and nine time out of ten when he got the ball he would dribble the length of the field and score.

It presents some real coaching challenges. How do you tell a kid not to excel or make him play a position not to his liking? It is even worse when the parents are pushing. Luckily, this kid's parents were very helpful. He would start at forward and score two goals, then I would move him to midfield where he could get two more goals or four assists (assists were encouraged), then it was back to fullback where I told him not to cross the center line.

The kid got experience all over the field, the others on the team got meaningful experience and we won games but they weren't total blow-outs. Seems to me that the baseball manager could do something similar and go 8-0. If he is such a great pitcher he is probably a pretty good shortstop or first baseman.

The coach is doing a disservice to his team. They are getting really good at standing there while the pitcher throws no-hitters. At some point they are going to come up against a team that can hit and the team won't know what to do. Better for them to win their games 4-2 and have some game experience for when it is necessary.
8.27.2008 5:51pm
A.C.:
Not in a team sport. In individual sports and in most academic activities, kids can make progress at their own pace and in parallel. The stars might still go elsewhere for better coaching or competitive situations that will help THEM develop, but their presence doesn't keep the other kids back. Unless all the coaching/teaching resources are directed at the stars, that is.

But one kid grabbing all the glory on a team can keep the other kids from developing their skills. Somebody raised the issue of the other kids never getting the chance to field if nobody on the opposing team ever hits anything. Certainly no other kid is getting the chance to develop as a pitcher. Which is bad for the other kids, but also bad for the team as a whole. What if the star pitcher gets hurt? There's no reserve, and no alternate strategy for winning.

What kind of lesson is that for kids to learn?
8.27.2008 5:54pm
Hoosier:
There's nothing in the rule book that says an elephant can't pitch!
8.27.2008 6:09pm
whit:
sjaleterego... you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about...

"Although the top results predominantly list African-American (hemisphere) athlets there is no particular reason, especially given that numerous caucasian athlets periodically top the stnadings, to believe that "blacks" are inherently significantly faster than whites or other ethnicities. Ice hockey is dominated by Caucasians, does that mean that Caucasians have some evolutionary advantage in skating?"

get real. let's deal with statistics. last i checked, the 10 sec 100meters (i am only talking 100 meters here - the purest test of sprinting speed), has never been broken by anybody who was not black, specifically of west african origin. east africans tend to suck at sprinting fwiw. west african origin blacks make up a very small %age of WORLDWIDE population, yet the ONLY men to ever break 10 seconds, regardless of country of origin have this racial background. period.

last i checked, 484 out of the top 500 times WORLDWIDE were males of west african origin. NO whites, no asians. period. that stat is several years old, fwiw. can't find more recent.

so, unless there is some sort of worldwide conspiracy, even in countries like china, russia, etc. that prevent whites and asians from competing in sprinting (lol), there is SOMETHING there.

do you have any statistics to support your theory? any reason why china, japan, the US, the UK, etc. cannot field even a few sub 10 second sprinters, when black males do it consistently and have done so for years. where are all these elite 100 m sprinters of white and asian origin. are they all being held back by "the man?"

get real
8.27.2008 6:39pm
whit:
also, let's get real with the dumb hockey analogy. hockey is NOT a universally practiced sport. iow, hockey is predominantly played in northern climate countries, that happen to be overwhelmingly white. iow, there is a sociological/geographical factor at play

there is NO such factor with sprinting. sprinting requires less equipment than practically any sport, and what is more universal than RUNNING? thus, it's a meaningless analogy. I wouldn't expect canada, norway, switzerland to dominate worldwide in surfing competitions, nor would i expect samoa, tahiti, fiji, or costa rica to dominate alpine skiing.

but sprinting is universal, and there is no analogy to niche sports dependant on culture and environment
8.27.2008 6:43pm
Chester White (mail):

Yeah, and at the Olympics they should not have let Michael Phelps swim in so many events. Think of all the other people who could have had gold medals. It's so UNFAIR.

And that Usain Bolt just ruins the sense of drama on the track; you just know he's going to win.
8.27.2008 9:50pm
theobromophile (www):
I asked my (v. athletic) 12-year-old sister what she thought of not letting the boy play because he is too good. Her response: "That's stupid."
8.27.2008 10:40pm
Angus:

Yeah, and at the Olympics they should not have let Michael Phelps swim in so many events.
Can you really not see the difference between the Olympics and a group of 9 year olds learning baseball for the first time?
8.27.2008 11:03pm
Kev (mail) (www):
I just can't help but compare this thing to my own field: music. I teach college ensembles and private students at the middle school, high school and college levels. On occasion, some of the high schoolers (from my own studio and others') showed enough talent that they were invited to play with the college ensembles; a few did this as early as their sophomore years. Some of them even performed professionally before they graduated. Needless to say, they blew away the field in individual competitions.

Wouldn't it have been a shame to say that these guys couldn't compete in those competitions because they were "too good" compared to their peers? And wouldn't it have been even worse to have prevented them from performing with their school groups at all?

I realize there are some differences here, but I agree with those who promote the idea of the whole team rising to the level of those who excel, rather than dumbing everyone down. Otherwise, you end up with situations like the one in the Dallas public schools, where it's now impossible to have a failing homework grade, and blown-off assignments can be made up without penalty--all in the name of assuring that nobody's a "failure."
8.28.2008 4:02am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Kev: musical competition is very different from "game" sports where players oppose one another. A really good violinist in a string quartet doesn't prevent the other players from learning their intruments. But a baseball pitcher who is too good for the league does prevent the other players from getting the full range of experience.
8.28.2008 6:12am