It started over a year ago.
Two college teams staged a weird game of Chicken. They wanted to see who could stay on the field longer after "The Star-Spangled Banner." Like any other childish thing, others rushed to copy it. The practice has come to be known as a National Anthem Standoff.
This past Sunday, home-plate umpire Zo Evans ejected three players and the acting manager of the Danville Dans before the first pitch was ever thrown versus the Terre Haute Rex. The teams are part of the Prospect League, a unaffiliated collegiate circuit, similar to the Northwoods League, meant to give players with NCAA eligibility experience with wood bats and exposure to Midwest scouts. Evans was enforcing an edict by the league to quash these sorts of displays. Eyewitnesses at Bob Warn Field report the four became belligerent when warned by Evans, thus their quick dismissal. There were no Rex personnel involved.
By the way, the Rex won 3-2 on a sacrifice fly in the 12th. Now, let's put aside the issue of disrespect for the Anthem. I think we can stipulate that we agree on that. So let's move on to the other two things here that bother me.
One is very simple: why would these players, knowing the league's order, risk getting tossed over a stupid contest of one-upsmanship? Moreover, why would their manager -- temporary or not -- not exercise the wisdom he should possess and impart the aforementioned fact to those players?
Would the Dans have won that game with those three players and their skipper? Maybe. Was it worth it? Absolutely not.
It's that lack of managerial guidance that leads me to the second part. I was reading the Rex team Facebook page the day it happened. One fan posted this:
"Why would a manager allow their kids to do that?"
So what about that, other than the incorrect pronoun [it should be "his"], bothered me so much? After all, the poster was on the right track. It is the manager's role to not only show them how to hit, throw and catch, but how to behave as ballplayers and adults.
It's that she called them "kids."
They are all over 18. They are all college students. Not only are they old enough to know better, but they are, in fact, not "kids"; they are adults.
Something about America I may never understand is how people can recognize 18- or 19-year-olds who choose to join the military and defend our freedom in the deadliest of situations as "men" [and "women" of course], yet the same people call a 21- or 22-year-old who chases a ball around a "kid." Maturity notwithstanding, in both cases, they are grown men. Why do we choose to expect more of one than we do the other? Why do we dismiss the childish behavior of the one who makes a particular choice?
The whole point of the Prospect League is for these players to grow. That means more than between the lines. That also means between the ears.
It's time to grow up.