One of the last bastions of insensitivity is apparently collapsing before our very eyes. And while I fully understand the world we live in, this makes me a little sad.
Conservatively, I’ve probably been involved in some capacity in at least a thousand high school baseball games. As this season began, I’ve come to find out the players are not allowed to say anything that even resembles derision of the opposition.
Basically, it’s “cheer for your own team but don’t say a word about anybody on the other team.” Until this season, when the opposing pitcher tried a lame pickoff move, you could count on hearing a sarcastic “he’s got a better one!”
You might hear it again, but not for long. That harmless remark will now bring out a warning from an umpire.
High school baseball coaches have received a directive that anything directed at another team will not be tolerated.
That’s too bad.
One of the things to love about the sport is all of the things that are best described as “that’s just a part of baseball.” Maybe not all of them are so great – i.e. throwing at a batter’s head – but catcalls from the dugout have been around since Babe Ruth was skinny.
I hesitate to call it “the art of bench jockeying” because it’s not really an art any more. These days, quite frankly, they’ve gotten a little lame.
But a creative bench jockey? That guy has almost disappeared. For years, even the opposing team would appreciate the creativity of a pointed barb.
Once again, I am fully aware of self-esteem concerns, but when you play baseball, you accept that (almost) all bets are off when it comes to sticking it to the other team. There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, but now the high school rule book editors have even eliminated the line.
You sailed one off the first baseman’s head on a routine ground ball with runners on second and third with two outs to give up a one-run lead? (I did that!) You better believe you were going to hear about it. AND YOU SHOULD. Don’t like it? Make a better throw.
“Have a seat!” or “seeya!” on strike three? I promise they’ll get over it without counseling.
“I’ve seen better swings on a porch!” after a flailing hitter swings wildly on a curveball? Admire the creative genius.
“You eat with those hands?” after a dropped infield popup? Nobody is going to lose sleep over that.
Like most everything else, the things that pass for “bench jockeying” have recently been kindergarten stuff compared to what it once was. Try saying “he’s got a better one” more than a few years ago and you would have been laughed out of your OWN dugout.
A creative bench jockey can be as effective as a sign stealer – and both roles are filled from the dugout by those not playing. Which is the point. It’s a way to keep bench players involved and “in” the game instead of worrying if Mom will go get a blue Powerade from the concession stand and bring it to the dugout.
Look, I get it – no one wants snarky digs to get out of control and ignite trouble. Parents don’t want to hear someone “making fun” of their little Jimmy. But it has gotten so harmless these days anyway that there’s no reason to put the clamps down completely.
First of all, Little Jimmy will get over it. Secondly, he’s probably got a few stored up himself, just waiting for that perfect moment.
Too bad that moment has left us.