Halfway through my little 7 year old son's 2nd baseball season of his life, I was asked to verify whether he could commit to a post season all-star team if he was selected. Of course I replied "Yes". He didn't get chosen, but he had a blast playing baseball this Spring!
But the e-mail I got today just verified why I think the kids aren't to blame for the changing culture of youth sports. It was a nice letter that simply asked everyone to come out and support the all-star teams that will be playing at our local park. The letter posted the 12 player rosters of each of the 7 to 10 year old teams.
I had to laugh though, because after the rosters, the names of players that "were chosen, but could not participate" was listed. Is it just me, or does anyone else find this to be ridiculous! Why are these players being recognized? The players and parents that chose "not" to commit to their ballpark all-star team are being recognized along with the ones that chose to commit.
Then I realized why. If little Johnny's not on this list, he will get his feelings hurt because other people will think he wasn't good enough. But since the parents chose a two-week vacation over baseball, they couldn't commit to the team!
I may be the only one that feels this way, but commitment has always been very important to me as a player and as a coach. In fact, I think the letter should have listed the players that were committed but not chosen, instead of chosen and not committed.
Daniel Roy Fowlkes quit school as a teenager and started playing professional baseball over 100 years ago. My sister, 3 brothers and I all knew him as "Big Daddy". He was a wonderful man! Everyone loved his kind and gentle spirit. He grew up in Dyersburg, Tennessee and served his country in the first World War.
Little did my grandfather know, but his passion for the game of baseball has been carried down for three generations. My dad was so proud of him. Big Daddy stood 6' 6" tall and was an outstanding pitcher for the Memphis Chicks. Baseball was his life.
Not many people can say that their grandfather once pitched to Ty Cobb in an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers. He also signed a Major League contract with the Boston Red Sox and was on the roster when they played New York in the first game ever played in Yankee Stadium!
My dad always instilled in me the important qualities of the game of baseball that he learned from his father. It's a child's game. But the game can teach us a lot about life. Being prepared for anything, learning how to deal with failure, and enjoying the success of others as well as your own.
I grew up playing every sport imaginable, but we will always be known as a "Baseball Family". Thanks to my grandfather, who was loved on and off the field. Thanks to my mom and dad, who taught me how to respect this great game.
I have never understood why baseball coaches talk to the kids for 45 minutes after a game. It happens in little league, it happens in high school, it happens in other sports too. Why?
Not only is the coach's speech way too long, but the coach does what I call talking "at the players" and not talking "to the players". He or she does all the talking ( or yelling at them) and no one else gets a chance to talk.
Keep it under 4 minutes. I've been doing this for years. Not to make the parents happy (which it does), but for several reasons. The players already know what they did wrong if they lost or played bad. Their attention span lasts about 4 minutes, and what you are telling them is better to talk about the next day when everybody has a chance to go home and sleep on it.
Let the players do the talking. Let them vent or compliment each other on a great effort. Point out the good and bad of the game, and let them tell you what they need to work on the next day at practice.
I have always taught coaches to talk with their players, not "at them". Believe me, this develops a team atmosphere. They may yell at other players, complain to you, or bring up something you haven't thought about that would help the team succeed. Doesn't that sound like what happens at home with your family! My point exactly.
Keep it short coaches. Go home and come back tomorrow ready to work.
I admired players like Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, and Pete Rose when I was growing up in Atlanta, GA. But in all my years of playing, watching, and coaching baseball, my favorite player of all time was Shanil Naik.
I met Shanil when he was a young little league baseball player looking to improve his skills in a sport that he loved dearly. The first thing I noticed about him was his respectful behavior and genuine politeness. The only child of Ramesh and Manju Naik, he was such a pleasant person to be around. It was always "yes sir", "no sir", "thank you" and "please".
I always looked forward to working with Shanil on his pitching and hitting. His mom or dad brought him out to a park in Duluth, GA about once a week, off and on for well over a year. My relationship with this family became very special. Not only because Shanil's work ethic was second to none, but the love these parents had for their son was beautiful to see.
Shanil would always ask me how I was doing, knowing that my only sister had recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was genuinely concerned. I remember surprising him by showing up to watch one of his games. He couldn't stop thanking me for coming. Of course I made it a point to come to more of his games.
He was not the best player I ever worked with, but he had tremendous potential. Mainly because his love for the game of baseball was as big as his heart. He made it easy for me to push him to another level. But what I will always remember about Shanil, he made me a better baseball coach.
I was to meet with Shanil and his mom the next day to do another baseball lesson, when I learned of the car accident that took his precious life. Before Ramesh and Manju could ask me, I had decided to speak at his funeral service. It was held at Greater Atlanta Christian School, where he attended since kindergarten. He made a lot of friends there and was very popular.
Shanil was laid to rest in his baseball uniform. All of his friends came dressed in baseball uniforms too. He obviously had a big impact on many lives in the 13 years he was on this earth! I made it a point to tell all the young people that were there, what a blessing it would be for them to learn from Shanil. Be polite, be respectful, enjoy life to the fullest, and make a difference in other people's lives.
Shanil Naik would have graduated from GAC in 2009. The Naik Athletic Training Center on campus was built around ten years ago and dedicated to this fine, outstanding, young man. I feel so honored to have known him. There will always be a special place in my heart for Ramesh and Manju, the proud parents of Shanil Naik, my favorite baseball player ever!
Dear Osborne Family,
When I was hired to be your head baseball coach for 2016, my plan was to be there for a while. Long enough to build the program into something you could be proud of.
To the incredibly hard-working players and extremely supportive parents, it wasn’t my decision to not come back. I was told on the last day of school that a decision would be made by the principal and athletic director. They were going to call me on the following Monday or Tuesday. To this day, I have not received a phone call. I found out through the Cobb County School’s website that I had been replaced.
You deserve to be treated so much better. Four different coaches in the last 4 years! Really? My mom taught me, “if you don’t have anything nice to say about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” That being said, I have a long list of things to say about the people in charge of running the Osborne athletic program, but I’m not saying anything.
I will say this though. I loved my Osborne family! The players, the parents, my graphic arts students, and the teachers that helped me and supported me from the day I started there. My first opportunity to be a high school head baseball coach was very memorable to me.
For those who don’t know, Osborne won only one game each of the last two years before I was hired. No one can remember the last time they had a region victory (5 or 6 years). The players were starving to learn how to win after struggling for so long.
That’s what I miss most about my one year coaching the Cardinals. We developed a special bond, a family atmosphere. Something that a lot of baseball coaches who coach travel ball will probably never experience.
We celebrated when we won our first game on the second game of the season. The players felt that we set a record when we won our third game of the season early in the year. A three game win streak, an article about us in the newspaper, and a win when we run-ruled another opponent, made the baseball players feel like celebrities at the school! It was fun!
I will never forget the players showing up in my classroom to tell me this was their year. They were so confident. We all couldn’t wait to get to the practice field. I didn’t put the state tournament games on the schedule for show. They honestly felt they were good enough to play post-season baseball!
All of you made me proud. We ended up not winning a region game, but I was told by all the opposing coaches that we competed like no other Osborne team in the past. We had only 13 players, no junior varsity program, and played in what was considered one of the toughest baseball regions in the highest classification in Georgia.
To sum up the 2016 Osborne Cardinals baseball season, we played with class, we appreciated the game, we hustled at all times, we improved on our fundamentals with hard work, and we pushed each other to be the best we could be. The players didn’t realize it, but they pushed me and made me the best coach I could be.
I want to thank all the parents of these outstanding young men. I started coaching baseball in 1982, and this past season was one of the most memorable. Thank you, parents, for all your hard work and tremendous support. You were great!
Watching the 2017 season from a distance is hard for me. Players quitting in protest, good players transferring, getting run-ruled almost every game, and having an 0-18 record.It saddens me. It’s just not fair. Like I said, the school deserves better.
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. I honestly believe that everything happens for a reason.I am now working independently to help not only Osborne baseball, but schools like Campbell and Pebblebrook too.
Please contact me anytime. Go to www.fowlkesbaseball.com and let me know what you think. I want to help. After working with the players and parents at both Osborne and Campbell, I’m very passionate about building stronger baseball programs in the area!
I look forward to hearing from you and good luck the rest of the season!