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#13: Jericho Scott and New Haven Youth League Baseball

August 26, 2008
Yesterday I read the story of nine year-old Jericho Scott being banned from pitching in the New Haven Youth Baseball League 9 and 10 year old division. I’ve read a few blogs and opinions and as a former youth standout and high school pitcher, figured I’d go ahead and insert mine.
Certain elements of this story just story seem to add up. First there’s this:
Officials for the three-year-old league, which has eight teams and about 100 players, said they will disband Jericho’s team,
So what you’re telling me is that this 9 year old, in a league of 100 players, is the best, and because of it, he will not get to play the position he is best at? Maybe the rules have changed (I doubt it), but when I played pitchers were limited in the number of innings they could throw per week. Pitchers at this age were allowed to throw no more than six innings per week and were forced to take three calendar days rest after pitching four or more innings in a game. This is typical fare for youth leagues and an official rule of Little League Baseball. While Jericho’s team had a perfect record, it’s not like he pitched every game.
Now the league’s attorney said, “There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport.” How is preventing one child from playing failing to promote the sport? If anything the league is diminishing competition by preventing this kid from playing.
Of course, the league would like Jericho to pitch in an older division or in a different league. While I can’t speak for the viability of other leagues in that area, moving a 9 year-old into a division of 11 and 12 year olds is foolhardy at best. Now, I don’t recall seeing radar guns out or how fast I could pitch at that age, but my gut tells me that 40 mph at 9 years-old really isn’t that hard. Maybe it’s hard enough to be the best in a 8-10 year-old division, but I know that at the 11-12 year-old group 40mph isn’t hard enough to be considered batting practice for the good hitters. When I was 11 and 12 we had at least one kid in the league who was throwing in the upper 50s/low 60s. I remember playing against a guy from another league in my 12 year old All-Star season that threw in the mid/upper 60s. It’s not unusual to see a few kids in the Little League World Series throwing in the 70s. A nine year-old throwing 40 in an older division would just get crushed. The league tries to make the case that Jericho is preventing other kids from getting the most from a “developmental league”, but pushing a kid into a division where he would likely not even be competitive could deliver a serious blow to his own development. In the Little League World Series they like to show the “MLB equivalent” speeds based on distance conversion and reaction times. Just to play along, a kid throwing 70 mph from 45 feet (the pitching distance in most 12 year old divisions) is throwing the equivalent of a 93 mph. I’d guess the average 12 year old throws around 55 mph, or 73 mph in MLB terms. Jericho Scott’s 40 mph fastball would be a whopping 53 mph. Even Tim Wakefield throws harder than that.
Of course, I’m still trying to picture the talent pool in this league or the mindset of the coach that pulls his team from the field and forfeits when this kid comes up to pitch just because the league banned him from pitching. If my kid is on that team I’m going to the league to get that coach removed. The last thing I want is for my kid being taught to give up when things get tough. I don’t remember my 9 or 10 year old seasons well. I think my 9 year old year I was one of the older players and my ten year old year I was in the middle of the age group, but I do remember hitting against guys when I was 11 and in my first year of majors. We might as well have not shown up against that team, but we learned to take our losses all season long. Losing happens, and all the kids in this league are learning is when someone is better than you, quit.

It sounds like there’s some nasty politics going on in the backstory. Kid’s parents didn’t want him to play for the team sponsored by a league administrator’s company so the league administrators tell the kid’s coach he can’t pitch then disband the team? Sounds like sour grapes to me. Parents need to toughen up and realize that adversity molds character. Kids need to learn that not everyone is equal and a society where everyone is genuinely equal is a scary place indeed.

I have to give a big THUMBS DOWN on this whole deal. Let the kid play ball. Some of the comments I’ve seen on sports blogs say this kid is going to be the Next Big Thing and that we’ll be seeing him in the Little League World Series in 3 years and in the pros within the next 15. I’ve definitely seen my fair share of burnouts to know that while it’s a nice thought, the odds are still slim to none. Let the kid play. Let him enjoy his youth so when he’s older he can look back and say, “I enjoyed this game when I was growing up” instead of, “when I was a kid I ruined baseball for all of my friends.” Shame on the parents and the administrators who want to prevent Jericho from playing. As my dad would say, “this whole thing stinks to high heaven.”

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