Well the answer to that is, when it’s 17 inches. Today, let’s explore my answer by reading a famous speech engraved in the history of baseball.
Baseball Hall of Fame President Tim Mead and his friend Chris Sperry recall Coach John Scolinos’ speech at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention in Nashville in 1996.
Here is the memory of Sperry, edited a bit by me.
In 1996, Scolinos was 78 years old and retired for five years from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He took the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt and a string around the neck of which hung a full-size white plaque.
After speaking for 20 minutes, he said, “You are probably all wondering why I wear a marble around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital. I laughed with the others, acknowledging the possibility.
“No,” he continued. “I might be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand in front of you today is to share with you baseball players what I have learned in my life and what I have learned about home plate in my 78 years.
Several hands were raised when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide the plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone shouted hesitantly, “Seventeen inches?” “It’s true,” he said. “What about Babe Ruth?” Are there Babe Ruth coaches in the house? Another long pause. “Seventeen inches? Asked another reluctant coach.
“It’s true,” Scolinos said. “Now how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands went up. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “” Seventeen inches! They said, sounding more confident. “You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “You college coaches, how wide is the home plate at college? “” Seventeen inches! The coaches said in unison.
“Minor League coaches here?” What is the width of the home plate in the professional ball? “” Seventeen inches! “Right! And in the major leagues, how wide is home plate in the major leagues?” “Seventeen inches!” “SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” He confirmed, his voice screaming against the walls . “And what do they do with a big league pitcher who can’t throw the ball above that 17 inches?” Pause. “They send it to Pocatello!” He shouted about the small town. of Idaho.
“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy.’ Can’t hit a 17 inch target? We will do it 18 inch or 19 inch. We will do it in 20 inch so you have a better chance of touching it. If you can’t achieve that, let us know so we can make it bigger again, say 25 inches. ‘ “
There was a silence. “Coaches, what do we do when our best player arrives late for training? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him responsible? Or are we changing the rules to adapt it and widen the marble?
The laughter gradually faded as the 4,000 coaches fell silent, the fog dissipating as the old coach’s message began to unfold. Finally, he turned the plate towards him and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it towards the crowd, the plaque pointing up revealed a house, with a freshly designed door and two windows.
“This is the problem in homes today, and with marriages, and with the way we raise our children. We do not teach our children discipline and responsibility, and there is no consequence. not to meet the standards, instead we are widening the plate!
Pause. Then he drew a little American flag on top of the house. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is deteriorating rapidly. Teachers have been deprived of the tools they need to successfully educate and correct our young people. And we have allowed others to widen their marble. Where is this taking us? “
Silence. He replaced the flag with a cross. “And that’s the problem in the church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, to have such atrocities swept under the rug for years to come. These church leaders enlarge their original plaque for themselves. And we allow it.
“And it’s the same with our government. Our so-called representatives make rules for us that do not apply to themselves. They receive bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen the marble. We see our country falling into a dark abyss as we watch. “
From an old baseball coach with a marble on my neck, I had learned something about life. I learned about myself, my weaknesses and my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable for what I knew to be right, lest our families, faith, government, and society continue down an undesirable path.
“If I’m lucky you will remember something from this old coach today,” said Scolinos. “It is this: ‘If we fail to maintain ourselves at a higher level, a level of what we know to be right; if we don’t hold our spouses and children to the same standards, and if our schools, churches, and government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is only one thing. to hope … ‘”
With that, he held the marble in front of his chest, turned it over and revealed his dark black back. “We have dark days ahead of us.”
Scolinos concluded his speech with this exhortation: “Coaches, keep your players – no matter how good they are – your kids, your churches, your government and, most importantly, keep yourself 17 inches. “
Scolinos gave this speech in 1996. It is even more true today. A wise man once said, “Lukewarmness is measured not by what you oppose, but by what you tolerate. Spending today complaining about yesterday’s news won’t improve tomorrow. Be the right change. Do not find fault. Find a cure.