Mazzuca: What baseball can teach us about accountability | VailDaily.com

Mazzuca: What baseball can teach us about accountability

With the Major League Baseball season upon us, I thought the timing appropriate to relate a story about an event that occurred a number of years ago at the American Baseball Coaches Association’s annual convention in Nashville Tennessee. 

The keynote speaker that particular day was retired college baseball coach John Scolinas, who when he took the stage to deliver his address surprised the audience by appearing with a full-sized home plate tethered to a thick string looped around his neck.  

Amidst snickers from the crowd he said to those assembled “You’re probably wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck…” and proceeded to share with the audience what he had learned about life using home plate as his focus point.

When I first heard the story, I recall thinking to myself, what a creative way to communicate with that particular audience. But after reading this I think you’ll agree one needn’t be a baseball fan to to understand the powerful message contained in the coach’s allegory.

Home plate in Little League is 17 inches wide. Take that up a level and we find home plate is also 17 inches wide in Pony League. Coincidentally, the home plates used in Babe Ruth League are also 17 inches wide. And speaking of Babe Ruth, guess how wide home plate was when the “Babe,” Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazerri made up “Murderer’s Row” with the New York Yankees in the 1920s? Yup, 17 inches.

And in the minor leagues, home plate is again, 17 inches wide. So now guess how wide home plate is at Coors Field and at each of the other 29 cities where major leaguers play ball? Surprise, surprise —17 inches!

Now let me ask a (rhetorical) question that anyone who has ever watched a baseball game should know the answer to: What does the manager do when a pitcher cannot get the ball over that 17-inch wide plate? 

Does the skipper tell the pitcher that if you can’t hit a 17-inch target we’ll make it 18 inches or 19 inches wide? And if you still can’t get it over the plate, the manager sure doesn’t say, how about if we make it 20 or 25 inches wide? Of course he doesn’t; he does what managers do and pulls the pitcher from the game. And if the pitcher continues to miss that 17-inch wide home plate as the season moves along, he’ll be sent down to the minors.

Now allow me to ask, what do many teams do when the best player shows up late to practice? Or when the team rules set a curfew and the superstar violates it? What if he refuses to take batting practice? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?

As Coach Scolinas related, this is the problem in our homes, with many marriages, the way we parent our kids and with discipline in general. Most of us don’t realize that when we fail to teach accountability to our children, and when there are no consequences for failing to meet standards, we’re simply widening a metaphorical home plate.
 
I’m not going to bore you with statistics about our schools because unless you’ve been living under a rock it should be apparent that discipline in schools today is very different from the way it was not all that long ago.  And it doesn’t stop there.

Sadly, even our most revered institutions, such as the Catholic Church, are examples of cultures gone awry. Vis-à-vis what was revealed about the Church in Pennsylvania last fall, we now know that for years, dozens of priests took undue advantage of children only to have their reprehensible actions swept under the rug. The church for all intents and purposes widened home plate. 

The moral of this story is obvious. By failing to hold our schools, our government, our churches, and yes, our kids and even our spouses and ourselves accountable, we effectively “widen home plate.”  And that’s not good for anyone.

Quote of the day:  “People know you for what you’ve done, not what you plan to do.” — Unknown

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@comcast.net.