“Nothing is more contagious than example, and no man does any exceeding good or exceeding ill but it spawns new deeds of the same kind. The good we imitate through emulation, the ill through the malignity of our nature, which shame keeps locked up, but example sets free.”
– François Duc De La Rochefoucauld
I’m not Lou Piniella. Aside from general baseball acumen, I have only been thrown out of exactly one baseball game in 14 years of coaching, and I didn’t even earn that one. Seriously. I got tossed for saying the following, and ONLY the following: “That was a bad interpretation.” Over the years I have been asked numerous times why I don’t lash out at umpires more, or scream and yell at kids like some coaches. People see things on TV and they think it’s cool. Hell, it is kind of cool to watch, right? I remember a Mariners game that my brother and I were watching late one night. There was a close call against the Mariners, and, sure enough, here comes Sweet Lou out of the dugout. In his haste to get to the umpire in question, Lou bit the dust on the steps of the dugout. I can only imagine that this threw gasoline directly on Lou’s already blue flame. So, he picks himself up, runs out the umpire, loses his mind all over this guy, and, in typical Lou fashion started kicking his hat and the dirt and throwing bases and…well, you’ve surely seen Lou at work before.
I know and have played for coaches that bark at umpires for 7 straight innings. In a game over spring break 2 seasons ago, I watched a coach come absolutely unglued, so much so that he actually ran onto the field of play in a live ball situation to yell at an umpire. I guess I have never found the value in acting like this. Is it for intimidation? Do these coaches feel like it will earn them an extra call or two down the line because umpires will be afraid of the backlash if they rule against them? Look, I’m not perfect, and I certainly have had my moments with umpires, but here’s the thing; in Northern Kentucky, umpires make $54 a game. They do it because they love the game and enjoy being around it. Some are really good at it, and some need some improvement. Just like a lot of coaches, including myself. So, I have made it a hard and fast rule that if I have an issue with an umpire, I will call for time, approach him like a person, and have a discussion that doesn’t end in screaming profanities.
As a coach, I am guilty of the following: kicking ball buckets, throwing equipment, punching a gym door, and tossing my fungo like a helicopter over a backstop onto a neighboring field (Noah can vouch for me on that one. In my defense, that fungo was really getting on my nerves). What did I accomplish with those things? I will tell you EXACTLY what I accomplished: my players mirrored my actions. In my first couple years I had multiple players get booted from games for unsportsmanlike conduct. They were disrespectful to opponents, umpires, teammates, and I couldn’t figure out why. I knew that I wanted to have a classy program with kids that behaved in line with my expectations. What I didn’t know was that I wasn’t holding myself to those same expectations, so how could I possibly expect anyone to follow my lead? The icing on the cake was in a heated game with a local rival. At one point I got so angry that I kicked dirt on an umpire and told him he sucked. Exact words. Somehow, I didn’t get ejected. However, I had a player removed from the game for saying something similar to an umpire, and in the dugout, when the game got tight, I had kids throwing equipment and acting like fools…and I was their king.
The point is this: as leaders, we are tasked with setting the example that we want to see portrayed. It starts with us. We simply can’t do one thing and expect another. I know there are coaches who do some of the things I’ve discussed above, and they do have kids that don’t act like fools on the field. Fantastic for them. I’d simply recommend that they consider what they’re truly teaching the people they lead. Setting an example is something we’ve hit on before and will likely hit on again. It’s important enough that it bears repeating. Choose to lead from a position of positivity and integrity. Your position demands it.
Have an awesome Tuesday and Merry Christmas Eve,