Monday, May 14, 2007

Billy Martin Writ Small

From the KAR Sports Desk

Wall Street Journal reporter, walking chest hair farm and Lake Elmo little league coach Mark Yost finds himself on the hot seat this week after making several controversial comments and moves during a 25-13 thrashing of his team:

I told the kids between innings that they needed to do better. That they were better ball players than that. That they needed to think about the play as the batter was stepping into the batter's box. Where's the play? What are you going to do if the ball comes to you? Things like that.

After the game, I told the kids that they just plain got beat. That they didn't play to their ability. I also benched a kid in the middle of the game for sitting down in left field. I had told the guys during practice that I expected them to be focused, behave in the dugout, etc. During my post-game talk, I explained why I benched this kid. Said I wasn't singling him out; anyone would be treated that way. I also talked to his parents. They initially thanked me for explaining why he was on the bench

Ahhhh but this is little league sports. And as we all know, the parents of little leaguers are always fine, level-headed and totally sane folk:

10 minutes later, as I went to my car, the kid and his dad walked up. His dad said, "[The kid] has something to tell you." I thought, "Great, he's making the kid apologize, take responsiblity for his actions." Shame on me for thinking this was still the 1950s. The kid gave me some dog-ate-my-homework excuse about bending down to tie his shoe. The old man fully supported him. I politely told the kid that I didn't see him tying his shoe, but if that was the case, he should have told me when he came in and I would have considered it. They walked off in a huff.

About 8 p.m. last night, I got a call from the commissioner that "there have been complaints." One mom, who wasn't even at the game, wants me fired for my post-game comments to the kids. The commissioner didn't seem all that concerned. I coached his kid last year and he said he knew I was a good coach. He also talked to the one parent -- out of 11 -- who helped me base coach yesterday's game. He agreed that my post-game exhortations to the kids weren't out of line. But here's the kicker: "If I keep getting complaints, I'm going to have to make a change," the commissioner said. In other words, he knows I'm a good coach, that I did nothing wrong, but if parents keep complaining he'll shitcan me.

Ironically, he asked the mom who wasn't at the game but kept insisting that I be fired "immediately," who would take my place? Silence. That's the one thing that may keep me in the job. No one else will coach. Similarly, it took four email messages for me to get two parents to step up and work our shift at the concession stand, which raises about $8,000 a year for the league ($10,000 if I could get the Stroms and Sisyphus to come to games).

Now that's the kind of crack that gets managers like Ozzie Guillen in trouble!

I think Yostie's delusional. I don't think his problem is with how he handles his kids. It's his rather unorthodox managerial technique:

These kids are 9 years old. I see this as a teaching league. I assign my kids to positions alphabetically, not by ability. I rotate them every inning. By contrast, the coach who beat us yesterday, had his best players in the infield. One kid played right field the whole game. It wasn't until the 5th inning (we play 6) that he had a comfortable lead and put his scrubs in. Yet I encourage the kids to do better, play to their ability, and I get castigated.

Assigning position based on the kids' names? It's just like the Nihilist in Golf Pants' betting method at Canterbury Downs.

If it's a "teaching league," then how come they keep score, hmmmm?

Alas, Coach Yost tendered his resignation, leaving his son's club in the hands of a parent more suited to catering to the tender sensibilities of 9-year-old baseballers. Perhaps this new coach can succeed where Yost has failed, by allowing these obviously overworked kids to take a rest in the field mid-inning and by teaching them the valuable life lesson that losing by 12 runs because you're lazy and have your head up your ass most of the game is not only acceptable in baseball - but in life as well.

At least Yost now has more spare time to groom his thick, manly chest hair.

Poll to follow...

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