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Are You an All Star?

Just before the All-Star break last year, I attended a ball game at PetCo Park in San Diego. The new stadium was full of fans young and older, out to enjoy the game, the food and of course the new stadium atmosphere. In the bottom of the third something very funny happened that started me thinking about what it means to be an All Star.

With one out in the bottom of the third, the pitcher was ahead in the count at 2 - 1. His next pitch was up and away in the zone but the batter took a swing at it. As it so happened he popped it up towards the first base line right in front of where I was sitting in the stands. The first baseman eyed the pop fly, positioned himself, and shagged the ball one-handed with the casual flair of disinterest. As soon as the light applause subsided, a fan somewhere behind me shouted at the first baseman, ‘Use two hands, I have kids watching you!’

The fans in the immediate vicinity got quite a chuckle out of the comment, as did I. But then it got me to thinking about young fans and the example pro players and any players at a higher level set for these young fans.

Not more than two innings later, the umpire made a call on a very close play at first and while the crowd was unhappy with the call and provided the usual ‘Boos!,’ one dad in attendance with his son, continued to heckle the ump with some serious effort. As he did this, I watched his young son watch his dad go after the ump. Again I thought about the example this must set for this youngster.

While being at a pro game is more of a ‘unique’ situation for some, think about any of the youth baseball games that you may have attended in the past. How many times have you witnessed the parents and coaches haranguing the umpire because of a close call or even a down right bad call. While the game is important to all attending and playing, is it really worth setting this kind of example for the young fans and athletes?

I'm sure that the umpire, who is most likely getting paid little or nothing, is umping the game because he loves baseball or loves being around these youngsters. This is the same reason the players play and the parents attend the games. They love the game!

Ok, so let's clarify something. Am I saying that we shouldn't boo or participate in the timelessness of the rite of a baseball game? Absolutely not! The time honored traditions of baseball are what make going to and participating in a game fun and exciting. I'm just trying to point out that there are fun ways to participate in the experience. And of course there are negative ways to participate. Singling out a person involved with the game and ‘going at’ him or her is never productive. It only sets a really bad example for the young minds in the vicinity. Other bad examples we've seen in the last few years at pro games are even worse! Throwing drinks or trash at players on the field and leaning over the fence to pick up grounders only exemplify and reinforce negativity and bad behavior.

As we enjoy the planning and thoughts of the upcoming season, take a moment to think about the people in your life for whom you are the All Star. Is it your son? Is it the players on your team?

All Stars come in all shapes and sizes, and at all levels. For a son, a dad can be an All Star. For a young athlete maybe it is his coach or and older brother or player. Fathers, coaches, and players set an example for young players whether they realize it or not. Your actions both on and off the field can shape and reinforce a young athlete's sportsmanship and their outlook towards others for a long time.

Whether you're a pro, a dad, a coach, or an upper division player, remember there are kids watching! Show them how to be great people and sportsman. Somewhere down the line they'll realize it, and appreciate you for it. Oh, and remember when you are ready to shag that fly ball…use two hands!!!