Tag Archives: coaches

“HOME PLATE” – COACH JOHN SCOLINOS

My good friend (Claire S.) recently shared this wonderful article with me. It’s a powerful message about coaching, parenting, and life. Well worth reading! Enjoy the message from Coach Scolinos.

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In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the heck is John Scolinos, I wondered. Well, in 1996 Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Pointed side down.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

Homeplate 17 Inches

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.

“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Bobby. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause.

“Coaches …”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold.

Then he turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful….to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

(copied post – author unknown)

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Don’t widen the plate! Accountability in life is a must! Everything we do in life has consequences.

If you are interested in reading a story about a young boy learning life-lessons as he pursues his dream to play baseball, I invite you to read ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream. It’s a good story for readers from preteen to grandparents, and all coaches. Available on Amazon.com

Have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2016

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor  LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels

Finding Dad

FirstGameNoDadWPFond memories often invoke some sad ones too. My dad came to every baseball game I played from little league through American Legion. He and my mom were obviously the most loyal fans I had watching me. Mom was more of a spectator while Dad taught me everything I learned about the game. Just his presence at the ballpark was a stabilizing mental factor for me, serving as an anchor for my performance during the games.

Each time I took the mound, I looked around the fence line to see if Dad was there to watch me play. I knew he would be, but it was tough finding him sometimes because he never sat in the stands. He liked to walk around the field, perching himself in different locations, and never stayed in any one spot very long. He’d always tell me to concentrate on my game and forget about him being there or where he was.

I never listened to him though. I would look around the field every inning until I found his new location. Seeing him standing quietly by the fence gave me the self-confidence I needed to perform at my very best. It was as if we were playing a little game of hide-n-seek within the baseball game itself.

The first time I pitched without Dad watching me occurred at my first college game. It was very difficult for me. Even though I knew he wasn’t going to be there, I still searched every foot of the fence line around the field in hopes of finding him. You see, a heart attack had taken Dad away from us three months earlier at the young age of forty-five—the very number I chose to grace my uniform. The thought he would never be there to see me play baseball again was a tough reality I had to accept.

I was scared, nervous, and had more anxiety than ever before. The butterflies in my gut were about to push me to the point of feeling as though I was paralyzed from the neck down. I sat in the dugout before the game wondering how I was going to pitch that first time without Dad being there. I wanted to play—heck, I needed to play our little hide-n-seek game within the real game, but he was nowhere to be found. I felt all alone on the green diamond for the first time in my life. I finally collected myself and found enough courage to force myself to run from the dugout out to the mound for the first inning. It was the longest run in my baseball career.

It was time for me to suck it up and do exactly what Dad had taught me to do—BELIEVE IN MYSELF! With my back facing home plate, I removed my cap and looked up at a puffy, white cloud in the sky. I prayed, not for God to help me, but for Him to let Dad somehow be with me that day. I tossed the rosin bag to the ground and then faced the batter. My whole body was shaking as I toed the rubber for my first pitch in a game without Dad being there to give me that much needed confidence.

I took several deep breaths as the catcher signaled for a fastball with his index finger pointing straight down. Visions of Dad doing the same thing a million times flashed before me, causing a warm feeling to spread throughout my body. I felt an inner peace, and my self-confidence quickly grew stronger. I realized I had found Dad’s new location and felt his presence in that puffy cloud high above the field.

My anxiety seemed to vanish as I hurled my first pitch of the game and heard the umpire yell Dad’s favorite word, “Stttriiikkkeee!” It was exactly the sound I needed to hear at that critical moment in my life. From then on, I knew exactly where to find my Dad at the ballpark—he was always looking down at me with a big smile on his face, and that was all I needed.

Dad, thanks for all the things you did for me, but most of all, thank you for all the things you did WITH me…

If you are a player, I hope your parents are there supporting you the way mine did. If you are a parent, be there and cheer for your child, but let the coaches do the coaching. Your presence means more to them than you can possibly imagine.

Topic from the novel, On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum

Twitter: @TomTatumAuthor

LinkedIn: TomTatum1

Facebook page: Tom Tatum novels