Don’t Widen The Plate #323 – 9/13/2016

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Jane Goodall

Welcome everyone to Drivel Over Coffee, the blog infused with the earthy aroma of French Roast Coffee with a dose of rant mixed in on occasion. My blog is my take on “Life As Seen Through Dog Licked Glasses.”

Sunday was the 15th anniversary of the attacks on the Trade Center Towers in New York City. The attacks as we all know took down the twin towers and took nearly 3,000 lives. Additionally, the crash in Pennsylvania and on the Pentagon. A day of infamy. A horrible tragedy. I remember exactly what I was doing at the time of the attacks. Do you? I hope all of you took time to remember this event and to say a prayer for those lost lives and their families and friends.

Common sense is a flower that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden. Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that. George Carlin

Do you know Murphy? The guy not my Boston Terrier. Anyway, Murphy goes to his friend Pat and says … “I’m sleeping with the Pastor’s wife. Can you hold him in church for an hour after services for me?” Pat doesn’t like it but, being Murphy’s longtime friend, he agrees. After service, he starts talking to the Pastor, asking him all sorts of stupid questions, just to keep him occupied. Finally, the Pastor gets annoyed and asks Pat what he’s really up to. Pat, feeling guilty, finally confesses to the Pastor. “My friend is sleeping with your wife right now, so he asked me to keep you occupied.”

The Pastor smiles, puts a brotherly hand on Pat’s shoulder and says… “You better hurry home. My wife died two years ago.”

I may not be that funny or athletic or good looking or smart or talented…I forgot where I was going with this. Shoot, it was right on the tip of my tongue. Anyway……Don’t Widen the Plate.

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention. The keynote speaker was John Scolinos. Who the heck is John Scolinos? In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally …
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause. “Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?” “Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.
“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?” “Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?” “Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches.

We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause. “Coaches …” Pause.… what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …” With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside. “… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.

Sign on the rear of a horse trailer – “Caution, floor covered with political promises.”

Cowboy Wisdom

Don’t name a pig you plan to eat.
Country fences need to be horse high, pig tight, and bull strong.
Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.
Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plough around the stump.
A bumble bee is faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.
Meanness don’t happen overnight.
Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.
Don’t sell your mule to buy a plow.
Don’t corner something meaner than you.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You can’t unsay a cruel thing.
Every path has some puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.
Don’t squat with your spurs on.
Don’t judge people by their relatives.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
It’s better to be a has-been than a never-was.
The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.
If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.
It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.
Only cows know why they stampede.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’till they get thumped.
Never miss a good chance to shut up.

In a small town way out in the country, a local farmer invited the new preacher and his wife to come out to the farm for supper. While the women were finishing preparations in the kitchen, the men talked in the living room. The farmer was in the middle of telling the preacher that because he was sure that most ministers liked chicken, that’s what he had asked his wife to prepare.

The farmer’s son, playing nearby, spoke up and said, “But I thought it was ‘buzzard’, not ‘chicken’ that we were eating today.”

“Of course not, where did you ever get that idea?” demanded the farmer.
“Well, I overheard you telling mommy that we ought to hurry up and have the ‘old buzzard'” for dinner and get it over with.”

“It’s not that I can and others can’t, it’s I did and others didn’t.” Remember your Vietnam Veterans – All gave some, some gave all!! Bless you brothers!

If I can make at least one-person smile, or laugh till they leak, then my day was not wasted. Until we meet again -TA!