The following article was brought
to my attention by one of our BLLA managers and a fine friend who has
been a player, coach and umpire during his time with our league. It is a
good example of some of the lessons that we as coaches and parents, and
especially our children should heed. The bottom line is that umpires have
a hard job to do and they do it to the best of their ability. Children
also have a hard job to do as players, and it is up to us as parents to
ensure that they do it to the best of their ability, both physically and
mentally. Many of life's lessons can be learned on a baseball field, and
below is a touching story of how these lessons should be learned, by
both parents and children. Without further ado I present the story of
Donald Jenson, a Little League baseball umpire.
You Play The Game That Counts
Donald Jenson was struck in the
head by a thrown bat while umpiring a Little League game in Terre Haute,
Indiana. He continued to work the game, but later that evening was
placed in the hospital by a doctor. While being kept overnight for
observation, Jenson wrote the following letter:
Dear Parent of a Little
I am an umpire. I don't do it for
a living, but on Saturdays and Sundays for fun.
I've played the game, coached it
and watched it. But somehow, nothing takes the place of umpiring. Maybe
it's because I feel that deep down I'm providing a fair chance for all
kids to play the game without disagreements and arguments.
With all the fun I've had, there
is still something that bothers me about my job ... some of you folks
don't understand why I'm there. Some of you think I'm there to exert
authority over your son or daughter. For that reason, you often yell at
me when I make a mistake, or encourage your son or daughter to say things
that hurt my feelings.
How many of you really understand
that I try to be perfect. I try not to make a mistake. I don't want your
child to feel he got a bad deal from an umpire.
Yet no matter how hard I try, I
can't be perfect. I made a six-inning game today. The total number of
decisions, whether on balls and strikes or safes and outs was
I tried my best to get them all
right, but I'm sure I missed some. When I figure out my percentage on
paper, I could have missed eight calls today and still got about 95
percent of the calls right ... In most occupations that percentage would
be considered excellent. If I were in school, that grade would receive an
"A" for sure.
But your demands are higher than
that. Let me tell you about my game today.
There was one real close call
that ended the game ... a runner for the home team was trying to steal
the plate on a passed ball. The catcher chased the ball down and threw to
the pitcher covering the plate. The pitcher made the tag, and I called
the runner out.
As I was getting my equipment to
leave, I overheard one of the parent's comments; "It's too bad the kids
have to lose because of rotten umpires, that was one of the lousiest
calls I've ever seen."
Later at the concession stand, a
couple of kids were telling their friends; "Boy, the umpires were lousy
today. They lost the game for us."
The purpose of Little League is
to teach baseball skills to young people. Obviously, a team that does not
play well in a given game, yet is given the opportunity to blame that
loss on an umpire for a call or two, is being given the chance to take
all responsibility for the loss from its shoulders.
A parent or an adult leader who
permits the younger player to blame his or her failures on an umpire,
regardless of the quality of that umpire, is doing the worst kind of
injustice to that youngster ... rather than learning responsibility, such
an attitude is fostering an improper outlook towards the ideals of the
game itself. The irresponsibility is bound to carry over to future
As I sit here writing this
letter, I am no longer as upset as I was this afternoon. I wanted to
quit umpiring. But, fortunately, my wife reminded of another incident
that occurred last week.
I was behind the plate, umpiring
for a pitcher who pantomimed his displeasure at any call on a borderline
pitch that was not in his team's favor. One could sense that he wanted
the crowd to realize that he was a fine, talented player who was doing
his best to get along, and that I was a black-hearted villain who was
working against him.
The kid continued in this vein
for two innings ... while at the same time yelling at his own players who
dared to make a mistake. For two innings his manager watched this. When
the kid returned to the dugout to bat in the top of the third, the
manager called him aside. In a loud enough voice that I was able to
overhear, the lecture went like this:
"Listen, Son, it's time you make
a decision. You can be an umpire, or an actor, or a pitcher. But you
can only be one at a time when you're playing for me. Right now it is
your job to pitch, and you are basically doing a lousy job. Leave the
acting to the actors, the umpiring to the umpires, or you won't do any
pitching here. Now what is it going to be?"
Needless to say, the kid chose
the pitching route and went on to win the game. When the game was over
the kid followed me to my car. Fighting his hardest to keep back the
tears, he apologized for his actions and thanked me for umpiring his
game. He said he had learned a lesson that he would not
I can't help but wonder ... how
many fine young men are missing their chance to develop into outstanding
ballplayers because their parents encourage them to spend time umpiring,
rather than working harder to play the game as it should be
Sincerely ... Donald
The following morning, Donald
Jenson died of a brain concussion.
Let's give all of
our umpires a break this season and instruct our children that it's how
they play the game that counts. Let's teach our children to take
responsibility for their actions and also to take life's ups and downs
with the inner character that we hope they display in their adult