Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing.
That philosophy was drilled into Tom Brown when he played defensive back under Vince Lombardi on the Green Bay Packers teams that won the first two Super Bowls in January 1967 and 1968. Brown also remembers how coaches stressed perfection when he played 116 games for the 1963 Washington Senators.
But the former two-professional-sport athlete developed his own ideas about how to teach baseball. And for the past 20 years, Brown has taught teamwork and equality at his Rookie League baseball camp in Salisbury.
The program is geared toward boys and girls ages 10 to 12. The league comprises 200 kids on 18 teams, which play twice a week from mid-April to the end of August on Brown's two-field, 6 1/2 -acre lot.
"It's a low-key type of program where I try to develop athletic skills," said Brown, 54, a University of Maryland alumnus. "I have a lot of patience and don't expect the kids to be perfect. We want to get the kids up to the next level and keep moving up the ladder without intimidating them."
Brown avoids intimidation several different ways.
His program doesn't have all-star games and doesn't award trophies. To keep coaches from concentrating on winning, it doesn't assign them to specific teams. And no player sits on the bench for more than half an inning.
"We try to simulate a pickup game," Brown said. "So, if all 12 kids on a team show up, all 12 play at once on the field. No one gets to play more than another. No one hollers at a kid for a mistake because you want to build self-esteem."
Building confidence is Brown's primary reason for using a
pitching machine during games.
"In most games with kids their age, batters are either striking out or walking," Brown said. "This way, no one strikes out and no one walks. Players are always running. There's more action."
Brown also holds the players' interest by switching positions throughout the game.
"The kids know when they come here not to take one position," Brown said. "You might start at third base, but probably won't end the game there. It gives them the opportunity to play all the positions. You want them to have the most fun possible."