DEAR CAL -- What do you think about players and coaches using cell phones during an 11-year-old all-star game? I was watching my brother play, and my dad noticed that the other team was text-messaging what pitches were coming to the batter on the other team. Do you think there should be a rule for it, and is it fair play?
Eddie Lowery, Audubon, Pa.
DEAR EDDIE -- First, I don't think relaying another team's signs to batters is a good idea no matter how it is accomplished. If, by chance, the person relaying the pitches to the batter provides bad information -- which is possible -- the batter doesn't stand a chance. As a hitter, I didn't want anyone telling me what was coming, because you never know when the other team is on to your game and has changed its signs.
As for cell phones, I don't think they have a place in athletic competition. Yes, it is a great idea to have a cell phone in case of an emergency, but if coaches are asking the kids to give us their full attention for up to two hours, I believe we owe them the same. If we are on the phone in the middle of a game, what kind of message does that send?
DEAL CAL -- We played a lot of baseball tournaments this summer. The team was competitive, but we saw lots of really good teams, including some that were sponsored by athletic gear manufacturers. The kids on those teams were recruited from all over the place and came together just to play in the high-profile tournaments. What do you think about these sponsored teams?
DEAR DAVID -- It's hard to really answer your question completely without knowing the age group involved. With older age groups -- maybe 15 and up -- there is a place for teams that are sponsored and recruit some of the best talent from a particular area. Most times, these teams are designed to give young athletes an opportunity to showcase their abilities against other top talent from around the country. This helps with the overall development of these players and provides a service for players, parents, college coaches and professional scouts alike.
Obviously, when you are talking about a sponsored team of elite players, the goal is to put together a club capable of competing with like-minded teams. Winning is a primary objective along with getting exposure for the sponsor and the kids in the program.
I don't think that sending that message to kids in the younger age groups is healthy. The game gets serious enough fast enough. At times we already are teetering on the edge by burning kids out physically and mentally with the number of games we schedule and the time commitment we are asking them to make.
Asking them to try out for elite, sponsored teams that are designed to win as many tournaments as possible at a young age exposes them to a situation they might not be prepared to handle physically or emotionally.
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