Is the chatter heard on youth baseball and softball fields simply

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Is the chatter heard on youth baseball and softball fields simply Powered By Docstoc
               heard on
         youth baseball

        harmless ritual
        of the game or
          Is the chatter

            and softball
         fields simply a

     behavior intended
              to distract
      opposing hitters?

12   summer 2009  
               Visit just about any youth baseball
               and softball game across the country
               and you’ll likely hear this familiar
               chorus, or one similar to it. To some,
               this type of chatter is just as much
               a part of the game as bubblegum
               and batting gloves. To others, it is
               the ultimate sign of immaturity,
               disrespect and poor sportsmanship.

                            By Adam Shilling                                   summer 2009   13
Chatter up!
       Chatter is a ritualistic aspect of baseball that is often        attempt to taunt and distract an opponent. some feel
     accepted at the youth level, but is frowned upon as                chatter is only appropriate when done so positively in
     children progress onto competitive leagues. Baseball               a way that is meant to encourage teammates, such as a
     chatter falls on both sides of the fence. some describe it         shortstop encouraging his pitcher by saying, “here we go
     as a verbal challenge – or taunt – intended to distract an         Johnny, strike ’em out.”
     opposing team or disrupt a player’s concentration while                “As long as the comments are positive and directed
     at the plate; and others point to it as a form of a team           at encouraging your teammates and not to belittle your
     cheer intended to positively motivate a teammate, or               opponent it’s fine,” said Dan Clouser, president of the
     help keep the kids’ interest and concentration fully on            Berkshire Baseball Club, a wood bat league based in
     the game. Chatter is delivered in many forms, ranging              Berkshire, Pa. “Any type of comment degrading your op-
     from individual chanting of repetitive phrases to teams            ponent is unacceptable.”
     reciting organized songs and cheers in unison.                         unfortunately, chatter is often directed toward the
       Although considered a harmless tradition in some                 opposing team in a negative fashion, which can create
     communities, many youth baseball leagues are                              anxiety in many children. For example, chanting
     taking action to ban the practice that                                              something like “easy out, easy out,” when a
     they consider to be unsportsmanlike                                                     lesser-skilled batter is at the plate can
     behavior. As millions of children                                                           present a significant emotional
     take the field this summer the                                                                  distraction. such behavior
     question surrounding many                                                                         can easily be construed as
     programs is this: Is baseball                                                                       unsportsmanlike. When
     chatter a display of poor                                                                             chatter is intended to em-
     sportsmanship or are                                                                                    barrass another child it
     those who are looking                                                                                    has ceased to fulfill its
     to eliminate it from the                                                                                 intended purpose – to
     game simply robbing                                                                                       keep youngsters en-
     kids of a playful aspect                                                                                  gaged and interested in
     of youth baseball?                                                                                        the game.
                                                                                                                 “We encourage play-
     Cheering vs. jeering                                                                                     ers to talk and ‘chatter’
     Chatter is often taught                                                                                 to keep them involved
     to children at the early                                                                               in the game as long as it
     levels of youth baseball as                                                                          is encouraging their own
     a mechanism to keep young                                                                         team and not directed at the
     minds in the game. With a game                                                                  other team in any way, shape or
     like baseball, where there is plenty                                                         form,” Clouser said. “It always has
     of downtime, many children have                                                             to be positive.”
     the tendency to become “dande-                                                                 The most common types of
     lion pickers” while out in the field.                                                       baseball chatter are playful
     Chatter can be a useful way to keep                                                         phrases or chants that come from
     them engaged and involved in the           What’s your take?                                fielders, such as, “Hey batter, swing
     game, even when the ball isn’t be-                                                          batter,” or “three up, three down,
     ing hit their way.                          We want to know what you think when             here we go now.”
        “I think chatter in baseball is a        it comes to chatter. Is it just part of            “The coach ends up yelling at
     great thing as long as it’s directed        the game, or is it poor sportsmanship           the top of their lungs to get the at-
     in a positive way to your own team          that should be eliminated from youth            tention of the batter, so chances
     and not used as a way to try and            baseball and softball? Visit the NYSCA          are the small voices from an en-
     distract your opponent,” said Don           Coaching Forum – which you access               tire infield or team of opponents
     edlin, owner of,             using your Member ID on www.nays.               shouting or chanting ‘swing batter
     a resource for baseball coaching            org – to post your thoughts. While              batter’ will not be heard or cause
     tips. “Chatter can help keep players        you’re there, be sure to take a look at         any ill effects,” said Danny speer,
     in the game and is a great way to           other questions posted by volunteer             recreation coordinator for selah
     show support for your teammates.”           coaches around the country looking for          Parks and recreation (Wash.).
        But many baseball enthusiasts            tips, help and guidance on all sorts of            However, some teams engage
     agree that a fine line exists between       subjects to see if you can help out an          in organized team songs or
     what is harmless baseball chatter           NYSCA coach in need.                            cheers while in the dugout that
     and what is an unsportsmanlike                                                              taunt opposing players. Team

14   summer 2009                                                                                                
Chatter up!
     cheers, such as “pitcher in a whole, ten feet deep, can’t      “some chatter is okay, but sometimes it gets to a
     get out cause he’s got big feet” or “3-2, whatcha gonna      point when it is distracting to the young players and
     do, walk him walk him,” tend to have a much more             takes away from the joy of the game, said Carla stone,
     negative connotation and are more likely to be viewed        recreation director for the town of Limon (Colo.).
     as poor sportsmanship.                                       “Cheering for your teammates is better than against
        “Organized team chatter, such as singing or some          your opponent.”
     sort of choreographed chant, is unacceptable and dis-          Administrators and league officials need to determine
     plays poor sportsmanship because generally even if it        guidelines for what they consider to be appropriate
     is something being said to encourage your team, the          forms of chatter and make sure that those policies are
     whole idea of choreographing it is designed to present       adequately communicated to coaches, players and par-
     a distraction to the other team,” Clouser said. “Indi-       ents. What falls in the appropriate category may vary
     vidual chatter is fine as long as they’re staying positive   between communities, depending on the program em-
     toward their teammates.”                                     phasis and philosophy.
        even most chatter advocates agree that the practice is      “I think chatter should be allowed and it’s really up to the
     appropriate only to a certain degree.                        leagues to put procedures and rules in place to make sure

                                                                     When it comes
                                                                         to allowing
                                                                      leagues don’t
                                                                    have to take an
                                                                      all or nothing

                   By the numbers
                                                   Percentage of respondents who said that
                                                   chants of “Hey batter, batter…swing” to
                                                   opposing hitters is poor sportsmanship. To
                                                   view the complete survey results, or to cast
                                                   your vote, visit

16   summer 2009                                                                                          
that it’s done in a positive way,” edlin                                           Honest to gosh, I didn’t have any
said. “many leagues already do a great
job of this. The other aspect is contin-
                                               “If you’re                          trouble doing this.”
                                                                                      epplen’s justification for the ban is
ued education of coaches about proper
behavior by them and by their team.
                                            saying, ‘swing                         based on major League Baseball rule
                                                                                   4.06(a)(1) and (2) which states: No
For me, it’s really simple: I want to
have the type of team that other teams     batter,’ and this                       manager, player, substitute, coach,
                                                                                   trainer or batboy shall at any time,
like to play. You’re simply not going to
be one of those teams if you choose to      poor little kid                        whether from the bench, the coach’s
                                                                                   box or on the playing field, or else-
have your team talk in a negative way
to their opponent.”                         is swinging at                         where incite, or try to incite, by word or
                                                                                   sign a demonstration by spectator or

                                            everything, he
                                                                                   use language which will in any manner
Striking out inappropriate chatter                                                 refer to or reflect upon opposing play-
When it comes to allowing chat-                                                    ers, an umpire, or any spectator.
ter, leagues don’t necessarily have
to take an all or nothing approach.
                                             feels bad and                            Although this rule can be inter-
                                                                                   preted as referring to chatter, the
some leagues simply implement
rules to prevent any negative or
                                           maybe he turns                          specific word is never mentioned in
                                                                                   the rule book.
taunting type of comments while
still allowing chatter – if it’s deliv-     to the catcher                            “If it’s not acceptable to do when
                                                                                   you’re 18 to 35 years old, then why
ered in a positive fashion.
   “In the City of Gaithersburg (md.)      and gets mad.”                          would it be okay to do when you’re
                                                                                   10-years-old?” asked an anonymous
all taunting, trash talking or negative                                            poster on regard-
                                                      — Dave Epplen
comments are banned from youth                                                     ing the topic.
sporting events,” said Dave Ludington, recreation pro-         many parents and coaches responded to the Knot-
gram specialist for the City of Gaithersburg. “We are a      hole Baseball Club’s decision unfavorably, calling it an
“Character Counts!” city and as such we encourage all        extreme form of political correctness that is sheltering
players and spectators to keep their comments positive.” today’s youth.
   Two years ago the Knothole Youth Baseball Club of           “Another age-old tradition being challenged,” speer
Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky made headlines              said. “I played baseball as a youngster, through high
across the country for being one of the first commu-         school and college, and even played semi professional
nities to publicly ban chatter from their leagues. In        ball while in the Air Force. In all that time, never have I
a special aired on esPN’s Outside the Lines, league          witnessed a batter being influenced by the chatter of an
president Dave epplen said the no chatter rule was           opponent in swinging at a pitch.”
put into effect following an incident involving play-          As another summer rolls in millions of children will
ers and parents where chatter and trash talking got          once again don colorful uniforms and participate in
out of hand.                                                 baseball and softball programs around the country. Dur-
   “We didn’t want Knothole to get a bad name for            ing the season many players will step to the plate to face
anything,” epplen said in an interview with the Cin-         pitchers while accompanied by a chorus of chatter from
cinnati enquirer. “If you’re saying, ‘swing batter,’ and     the opposing team, and the debate whether this is sim-
this poor little kid is swinging at everything, he feels     ply a part of the game – or a part of the game that should
bad and maybe he turns to the catcher and gets mad.          be removed – will rage on.                                                                                                   summer 2009      17

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