Letter from "Joe Torre".....
I said many years ago that the only team that I would coach would be a team of orphans, and now here we are 15 years later. The reason for me saying this is that I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents. No, not all parents. This is a general, broad and sweeping statement. It's not meant to offend anyone either. I think that it is best to nip this in the bud right off the bat. I think the concept that I am asking all of you to grab is that this experience is ALL about the players. If there is anything about it that includes you, we need to make a change of plans. My main goals are as follows:
(1) To teach these young men how to play the game of baseball the right way,
(2) To be a positive impact on them as young men, and
(3) Do all of this with class.
We may not win every game, but we will be the classiest coaches, players, and parents in every game we play. The boys are going to play with a respect for their teammates, opposition, and the umpires no matter what.
With that being said, I need to let you know where I stand. I have no hidden agenda. I have no ulterior motive other than what I said about my goals. I also need all of you to know that my priorities in life will most likely be a part of how I coach, and the expectations I have for the players. My Christian faith is the guide for my life and I have never been one for forcing my faith down someone's throat, but I also believe it to be cowardly, and hypocritical to shy away from what I believe. You as parents need to know for yourselves and for your boys, that when the opportunity presents itself, I will be honest with what I believe. That may make some people uncomfortable, but I did that as a player, coach, scout and I hope to continue it til I take my dirt nap. I am just trying to get as many potential issues out in the open from the beginning. I believe that the biggest role of the parent is to be a silent source of encouragement. Please be your son's biggest fan. I think if you ask most boys what they would want their parents to do during the game; they would say "NOTHING". Once again, this is ALL about the players. I believe that a baseball parent feels that they must participate with loud cheering and "Come on, let's go, you can do it", which just adds more pressure to the players. I will be putting plenty of pressure on these boys to play the game the right way with class, and respect, and they will put too much pressure on themselves and each other already. For those of you who are about to start the recruiting process, this will be the most stressful summer you have endured. There is nothing I can do or say to make it any easier. Imagine how much pressure and stress the 17u and 16u players will feel. This will be the most important summer of their lives. Life changing, to say the least.You as parents need to be the silent, constant, source of support. Hug 'em. High five 'em. If they have a bad game, they will not need you to remind them or criticize. Trust me, they know when they play bad.
Let the record stand right now that we will not have good umpiring. This is a fact, and the sooner we all understand that, the better off we will be. We will have balls that bounce in the dirt that will be called strikes, and we will have balls over our heads that will be called strikes. Likewise, the opposite will happen with the strike zone while we are pitching. The guys will not be allowed at any time to show any emotion against the umpire. They will not shake their head, or pout, or say anything to the umpire. This is my job, and I will do it well. I am really doing all of you parents a favor that you probably don't realize at this point. I have taken out any work at all for you except to get them there on time, and enjoy. The thing that these players need to hear is that you enjoyed watching them play. I know that it is going to be very hard not to coach from the stands and yell encouraging things to your son, but I am confident that this works in a negative way for their development. Trust me on this. I am not saying that you cannot clap for your kids when they do well. Clap for all of them. All of the time. Keep it in perspective. Do not be ugly. Do not make a comment about another player or opponent that you would not want said about your son. I am saying that if you hand your child over to us to coach them, then let us do that job.
A large part of how your child improves is your responsibility. The difference for kids at this level is the amount of repetition that they get. This goes with pitching, hitting and fielding. As a parent, you can help out tremendously by playing catch, throwing batting practice, hitting ground balls, or finding an instructor who will do this in your place. The more of this your kids can get, the better. This is the one constant that I have found with players that reached the major leagues....someone spent time with them away from the field.
We will have a pitching philosophy and will teach the pitchers and catchers how to call a game, and why we choose the pitches we choose. There is no guessing. We will have a reason for the pitches that we throw. A pitching coach will be helpful for the guys to get their arms in shape and be ready to throw throughout the season. We will not over use these young arms and will keep close watch on the number of innings that the players are throwing.
We will be throwing so much info at these guys that they are going to suffer from overload for a while, but eventually they are going to get it. I am a stickler about the thought process of the game. I will be talking non-stop about situational hitting, situational pitching, and defensive preparation. The question that they are going to hear the most is "What were you thinking?" What were you thinking when you threw that pitch? What were you thinking during that at bat? What were you thinking before the pitch was thrown, were you anticipating anything? I am a firm believer that this game is more mental than physical, and the mental may be more difficult, but can be taught and can be learned.
If it sounds like I am going to be demanding of these players, you are exactly right. I am definitely demanding their attention, and the other thing that I am going to require is effort. There are several thing you cannot control on the baseball field. However, every single player can control their attitude, effort and energy. If they give me these things every time they show up, they will have a great experience and good things will happen.
I would like for every player to have some responsibility for having their own water, Gatorade, etc... not needing you to keep running to the concession stand, or having parents behind the dugout asking their son if they are thirsty, or hungry, or too hot, and I would appreciate if you would share this information with other invited guests...like grandparents. If there is an injury, obviously we will get you to help, but besides that, let's pretend that they are at work for a short amount of time and that you have been granted the pleasure of watching.
We will always have them at games early so we can take BP, get stretched and loosened up. We will always have a meeting with just the players after the game. These meetings are not for the parents to wander over and listen. After the meeting, they are all yours again. As I am writing/editing this, I sound like the Baseball Nazi, but I believe that this will make things easier for everyone involved.
I truly believe that the family is the most important institution in the lives of these young men. With that being said, l think that the family events are much more important than the sports events. I just ask that you are considerate of the rest of the team and let the coaches know when you will miss, and to let us know as soon as possible. I know that there will be times when I am going to miss either for family reasons, for other commitments. If your son misses a game or a practice, it is not the end of the world, but there may/may not be some sort of repercussion, just out of respect for the kids that put the effort into making it. The kind of repercussions could possibly be running, altered playing time, or position in the batting order. It's not a big deal nor the end of the world.
Speaking of batting order, I would like to address that right from the top as well seeing that next to playing time this is the second most complained about issue, or actually tied for second with position on the defensive field. Once again, I need you to know that we are trying to develop each boy individually, and we will give them a chance to learn and play any position that they are interested in. I also believe that these teams will be competitive and when we get into situations where we are focusing on winning; like a tournament for example; we are going to put the boys in the position that will give the team the best opportunity to win. We will communicate with the players throughout the season. We will do our best to let them know why they may be asked to play different positions, bat in different spots in the lineup, etc...We will not call the parents to disuss these things. As this season progresses, there is a chance that your son may be playing a position that they don't necessarily like, but I will need your support about their role on the team.
I know that times have changed, but one of the greatest lessons that my father taught me was that my coach was always right...even when he was wrong. The principle is a great life lesson about how things really work. I hope that I will have enough humility to come to your son if I treated him wrong and apologize. Our culture has lost this respect for authority mostly because the kids hear the parents constantly complaining about the teachers and coaches of the child.
Players will be required to show up ready to play every time they come to the field. Shirts tucked in, hats on straight, and pants not drooping down to their knees. There is not an excuse for lack of hustle on a baseball field. From the first step outside the dugout they will hustle. They will have a fast jog to their position, to the plate, and back to the bench when they make an out. We will run out every hit harder than any team we will play, and will learn how to always back up a play to help our teammates. Every single play, every player will be required to move to a spot. Players that do not hustle and run out balls will not play. The guys will catch on to this quickly. The game of baseball becomes very boring when players are not thinking about the next play and what they possibly could do to help the team. Players on the bench will not be messing around. We will constantly be talking with them about situations and what they would be doing if they were in a specific position, or if they were the batter. There is as much to learn on the bench as there is on the field if the players want to continue to get better.
I know this works because this was how I was taught the game.