On June 17, 2015, Wednesday, the Babe Ruth Baseball League boys of summer, in the form of the Farmington Falcons and Livermore Eagles, came together in contest. All too soon the game came to an end, rather abruptly. In the bottom of the 4th inning, following a call by the umpire at home plate, the Eagles were called from the field by their coach and the game ended.

The National Alliance for Youth Sports advises in baseball, the umpire is the person in charge with officiating the game, which is to include beginning the game and ending it! The umpire enforces the rules of both the game and grounds to make judgment calls on plays and handle disciplinary actions.

An Alliance suggested book for reading regarding coaching is written by the Alliance and writer Greg Bach and is available as a learning tool. Worthwhile advice is given on subjects such as teaching skills, running practice sessions, leading a team, providing information, keeping the team focused, having the game and season be memorable to players and lastly, end the season on a high note!

Umpire Mark Cyr on the field appears to be a no-nonsense man, well focused, self assured, and very much in control; the ultimate voice of authority. His recollection of the facts during the Falcons and Eagles game are the following:

One of the Eagles’ ball players had been taunting an at-bat Falcon, and a first warning of discipline was given by Umpire Cyr to the offending players. The bottom of the 4th inning saw the challenged player called out at 3rd base. As the youth crossed the infield to his own dugout, unsolicited grumblings towards the umpire were heard and prompted his being ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct. Immediately, an objection was raised by the Eagles coach who then withdrew his team from competition.

The athletes of both teams appeared bewildered, attending fans were aghast by the turn of events and expressed disappointment. One mother expressly chided her own son (Falcons) that “if he were playing on the Eagles team, that coach would be getting a piece of her mind.”

In order to understand the implication of the decision to end a game by a coach who does not have the authority, interviews were conducted with several people with knowledge of the game of baseball, one of which is on the Falcons team.

One promising Falcons baseball player with a bright mind was asked for his thoughts. He noted neither the score of the game, nor the win, was of any satisfaction. The boys were embarrassed for their brother players on the Eagles team who also had trained hard and wanted to just play baseball; that was the reason they came to Hippach Field.

Another voice was that of a long term educator in the elementary education system in Farmington, a person who follows her own students’ extra curricular activities for a variety of professional reasons. Over the years she has come to appreciate the umpire/referee position as to be supported. Not all calls may be correct, however, no one is without the ability to make a mistake.

Overall, the authority on the field is proper. A comment alluding to the team leaving the field prematurely was “exactly what was the message being given the team here?”

A local sports living legend, Cyndi Pratt, the former Mt. Blue and University of New Hampshire athletic standout, currently is on staff with the athletic department at UMF, with a focus on women’s field hockey. Her coaching/managing skills in baseball, softball, and field hockey speak volumes and thus I asked some penetrating questions regarding the coaching position as a category.

“Sports in general make available for a potential athlete to learn the game; they learn to set goals in the field and in their lives and to meet real life challenges under pressing conditions,” said Mrs. Pratt. “They realize even when they have given their very best, they may fall short of their intended goal.

“Sports teach one to deal with failure in the imperfect world we live in. Athletes come to the game with intelligence in hand; a coach helps to improve on that. In spite of an adverse umpire/referee call, or a bobble of the ball on their own, the art of keeping one’s head in the game is party to the process of learning.”

Mrs. Pratt said coaching is a minute to minute activity with winning not being the focus; rather, the goal is one of improvement. In baseball, game-day provides each athlete with the power to make a difference by taking center stage at home plate; they also get to show their skills in the field under pressure. Be it a successful swing of the bat, or a misplayed ball in the field, it’s all a learning experience.

The coach sets the example for the team and he/she brings the team together as a unit. They help create life long memories, and in an imperfect world, the athlete learns to deal with less than perfect calls being made. Both the coach and the athletes are held to a higher standard and the coach must give his/her team the opportunity to succeed.

Bill Rosa is a gentleman goat farmer from Temple, Maine.

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