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Jerry Davich: Reminder to Little League parents: It’s for the kids

Updated: May 28, 2013 5:49PM



With Little League baseball back on our local fields of dreams, it’s the perfect time to remind parents of something they already know but often forget as the season progresses.

It’s for the kids, not you.

Wait a minute, I didn’t say that correctly. Let’s try again. IT’S FOR THE KIDS, NOT YOU. There, maybe those parents – you know who they are – will get the point this baseball season. Maybe not.

“The game at this level is supposed to teach sportsmanship, team play, and adhering to the rules of the game. It can be the most rewarding experience for the children as well as the adults involved,” said Greg Hajduk of South Haven, a former Little League umpire whose two sons played ball back in the day.

Hajduk umped kids’ baseball games for 10 seasons at the minors, majors, and Babe Ruth levels so, of course, he’s had his share of “horror stories” involving unruly, complaining, disruptive parents. As well as some coaches and managers, too.

“Some parents, coaches, and managers take it too far – way too far,” he said, purposely repeating himself to make a point.

Hajduk always allowed parents, coaches, and managers “their say” during heated moments of games, but it wasn’t always easy to do so.

“Was I correct in every call I made? No,” he said. “But I was the only man looking out for all three bases for 95 percent of the season.”

He gave those outspoken critics “three strikes” during a game to voice their opinions and then he would eject them from the field. I couldn’t imagine getting one “strike” against me from an ump during a game, let alone three and an ejection.

“It had gotten so bad one game that afterward I had to be escorted to my car by four Chicago police officers,” Hajduk said. “I had to have thick skin to umpire Little League.”

Imagine that, a thick skin to umpire kids’ Little League baseball games. And not to protect himself from the players’ wrath, but the parents’ shameful behavior.

Hajduk got into umpiring unlike most other Little League umps.

“I was one of those loud mouth parents watching my two sons play,” he explained. “I would stand at the fence and scream my head off.”

Sound sadly familiar?

“The man who ran the league came over and asked me, ‘Can you do a better job?’” Hajduk recalled. “I replied yes and that started my 10-year stint.”

But once he got behind the plate on a regular basis he soon realized how his previous antics as a parent were “detrimental” to his sons and also to the team as a whole.

“Who wants to see their dad acting like that?” he asked rhetorically.

That’s exactly the point of today’s column. Who wants to see their father or mother acting the fool in public, and supposedly for the betterment of the game? And, get this, for the kids. Yeah, right.

Too many of these parents are living their lives vicariously through their kids, and it’s as obvious as fast ball down the middle on a 3-0 count. Maybe it’s because those parents had failed dreams as a Little Leaguer. Maybe failed dreams in life. Or maybe they are delusional in their rationalizations that their embarrassing actions are “for the kids.”

Hajduk said the minors are more about learning the game, teamwork, and sportsmanship. The majors are a faster game, where players can better study our national pastime. And the Babe Ruth level is the most exciting for top-notch playing.

But, after Hajduk stopped being a loud-mouth parent, he has always stressed to others that “Play ball!” means “Have fun!”

“Before each game, I always told the first batter and the catcher, ‘Let’s have fun!’”

Someone should remind those parents before they strike out again in front of their kids.

Hoarding problem?

The photos are disturbing, one after another of “life as a hoarder” as the accompanying letter explains.

Garbage strewn everywhere. Junk piled to the ceiling. Clothes littered all over the home. filthy sinks, toilets, and furnishings. Boxes stacked high, with little room to walk through each room.

“As you can see from the photos, I’m in trouble,” the letter begins. “I’ve seen the ‘Hoarders’ TV program and Oprah’s and Dr. Phil’s shows on this issue, but they did not help me. I live with one, a hoarder.”

“Please explain the mental and emotional toll that loved ones endure because of this disease,” the reader wrote to me regarding her husband.

The reader – an older woman, I’m guessing, from her handwriting – has tried calling the local health department and other authorities for help, but no one can help her, she said. Unless a neighbor complains, their hands are tied, they tell her.

“I am miserable,” she writes. “My health is an issue. There has not been another in our house in seven years. There is no place for anyone to sit.”

“Maybe if you could highlight this problem, it could help people in my situation,” she wrote. “But please don’t use the photos. It will destroy my marriage.”

The woman, unfortunately, didn’t give me her name. She’s obviously fearful of her husband and shamed by her living situation. But I’m hoping someone else will contact me to shed light on this issue, whether it’s a hoarder, a loved one of a hoarder, or a mental health professional who can connect me with one.

I’m willing to write about this sensitive subject, but only from the inside out. I once had a good friend who was a hoarder, so I have somewhat of an understanding on the mental mechanics behind this. But he has died and I need to talk to someone in the daily trenches, so to speak.

Feel free to call my voice mail, at 713-7237, email at jdavich@post-trib.com, or via social media.



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