I got a serious chuckle out of the graphic posted this morning on the Instagram account called The Baseball Authority. The graphic is a distillation of youth baseball, mid-point on the spectrum between cynicism and truth.
In grade school gym class ballgames, I started by playing second base. I wasn’t the smallest kid (he was out in right field) but I was the skinniest.
I eventually moved over to shortstop and spent most of my time there in little league, pony league and what our town called “E-league.* (I leave it to you to draw your own conclusion on “best kid.”)
I also spent time at “the hot corner,” my dad’s favorite position when he played in his youth. Neither he nor I could ever lay claim to being the strongest kid on the diamond, although if it meant arm strength, we’d have been contenders.
Over time, I played every position except catcher. At 15 and weighing 125 pounds, the toughest kid I was not.
Looking at the graphic, I laughed the hardest at the pitcher being the coach’s kid. The best pitchers I played against were typically the best athletes on their teams, often the best hitters as well. Sometimes they were the kids of the manager. Were they the beneficiaries of favoritism? Or was it merely that they had parents who were serious about coaching them and they were more skilled as a result? A bit of both, but more likely the latter, I can say with the perspective of an adult.
My first year in little league (our town’s organization was not part of Little League), I started at shortstop and pitcher. My favorite catcher was the manager’s son, who didn’t pitch. I thought all of us on the team were treated fairly, and I had no reason to complain about playing time. As I recall, I sat the bench briefly in just one game.
The next two years, I sat the bench in misery almost every game, frustrated that the manager played his own son at shortstop. While I was the starting shortstop on my grade school CYO team in the spring, I spent the summer as a utility player, coming in during the last three innings, sometimes at third, sometimes at first, sometimes in left, and I pitched a relief inning or two.
I did get a few innings at shortstop — when the manager’s son was pitching.
*Editor’s note: no computers or other electronics were involved in Cleveland Heights-University Heights E-league games.