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Sports Column: A healthy hiatus from the Hi-10

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opinion Perham, 56573
Perham Focus
(218) 346-5901 customer support
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Like it or not, amateur baseball is back. I used to love it, but in my fourth season of coverage, I am now firmly planted in the “not.”

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The summer of 2012 brought the topic of sportsmanship up at nearly all levels of regional baseball. So much so, the Minnesota State High School League and Minnesota Public Radio chimed in on my efforts to bring to light what I truly believe is ridiculous: The absurd antics of adults either watching, coaching or playing what amounts to a game.

Maybe it is just me, or bad timing, but on my first effort to cover the Hi-10 League this year, by personal request, I buckled down for 11 innings on a Saturday night that ended in what I’ve come to suspect from league games: Nonsense, screaming, cursing, and berating of the umpires, who, guilty or not, are not there doing the job because it pays well. They’re also human beings, as are the players.

Nobody in attendance at these games is perfect, especially me.

It isn’t just the Hi-10, either.

In the first game of the Wood Bat Tournament this past weekend, it took exactly four outs before the umpire started taking bellowed heat from a fan in the stands. As if the strike zone is so much easier to call from a dozen rows up and 40-feet to the right behind home plate.

A  number of other regional sports reporters have recently taken to Twitter during games to release the stress they feel about the words and gestures directed at officials at games in baseball and plenty of other sports.

By attending so many games, this nonsense begins to stick out sorely to reporters. It may seem like good fun to spectators, but when these events are viewed from objective perspectives, the line that has been crossed is blaring to those of us who try to adhere to it, as opposed to those who pay a ticket, or play the game, just to jump across that line.

I have a saying I’ve been using at the bar for some time, as the watering hole is another arena in which people can get out of hand: “If I have to be the standard of moral fiber and the line in the sand of decent public behavior, with my track record, well, this place is really screwed up!”

Looking from the perspective of those on the other end of the abuse will greatly change one’s experience. I am ready for a change in my summer baseball experience.

Call me every name in the book if you wish.

First game back, I wrote about, published online, then retracted the meat of the story for the print version, after an hour of being berated by those who I originally noted as berating at the game. This is what happens often. It isn’t the first time I’ve had angry people in my office yelling at me for doing my job.

It is no big secret how I work. It can be a startling surprise to some, but old hat to those in the know.

One recent Perham graduate saw the writing on the wall post-game. He beckoned to me after witnessing the antics at the end of the game with a sardonic expression and said, “Now you’ve got a story to write.”

Thank you, Nick, for understanding.

Which is exactly what I did, and from the responses of readers and fans who read the original version, it seemed quite normal for me to be making mention of a blatant disrespect for the game of baseball. That is what I do; I choose to do it and I will continue to do it.

If I am going to apologize for anything, it’s caring too much about my favorite sport to watch it proffered to the public as embarrassment.

Krueger Field is not Yankee Stadium. The entire town isn’t cramming the parking lot to watch these games. All I have done is try to give some publicity to the league and keep readers interested in what goes on at what can be highly entertaining games. I enjoy hanging out by the dugouts and talking to the players. This is not a personal grudge against any individual or team.

However, after witnessing another instance that baffled me, I’m ready to join the countless other area residents who find something else to do for awhile on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.

Furthermore, I’d rather trade that publicity I share with deserving players of a younger age like the Babe Ruth 13s and 13-15s, along with more great baseball in New York Mills, and the Perham Buzz, made up of nearly the entire state tournament team.

After making the run to Target Field with the Minnesota Class 2A state runners-up Yellowjackets, I have become accustomed to watching, enjoying and reporting on fundamental baseball, on a group of guys playing as a team and for the team.

The Perham varsity squad showcased great pitching, timely hitting and supportive defense, making the plays that took this year’s team farther than any other Yellowjacket baseball team in school history.

More noteworthy, when speaking with players and coaches after the games, it was never about personal accomplishments, the calls of the umpires or rowdy fans. It was about baseball, the baseball team, and the town they represent.

That is why baseball is great. That is why it will always be America’s Pastime to me, and why it’s a shame I have to routinely call out what I believe is a distinct lack of respect to the game around here.

I can also see how some readers could think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Might I suggest donning an umpire’s get-up and mask and trotting out there for nine innings?

If one needs more information on the Hi-10 League, there are a couple of websites that offer the latest information. A quick Google search will have you well on your way. League Treasurer Ron Berns has the most up-to-date information at baseball.bernsinfo.com.

On one of the sites, you’ll find a message board if you search hard enough. There, you’ll find a short thread titled “Sportsmanship.”

In it, you will find one gem of reason from an anonymous poster going by the apropos alias Dr. Phil, who notes my own personal issues don’t even cover all the bases (pun intended).

He states, “Sportsmanship is something to me that is nature rather that nurture. If you are around a group of guys that display great sportsmanship, you, in turn, will do the same and visa versa.”

Well said, faux Dr. Phil.

Another local fan who was at the Shockers/Pirates game, who I won’t name so he can go about living his life sans public harassment, really summed up my feelings perfectly when he said, “Amateur baseball sure isn’t what it used to be.”

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Robert Williams
Robert is the Sports Editor of Detroit Lakes Newspapers. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 
(218) 844-1442
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