Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Our blog from last week on the state of amateur baseball drew swift response from readers in the area and from around the state…who took the time to share their own opinion on the state of a boys game that in the words of one, “is just too simple for the times.”

When we posted the blog about the future of high school baseball as we know it – last Friday from the state tournament (The Elephant In The Room) – it brought swift response received over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

The subject of that column dealt with the relevancy of high school baseball in the future, given that it’s having to fight for its very existence against competition from not only other sports  sharing the same athletes, but from the elements themselves.  It pertains to pressure on kids to make tough decisions about what to do with their time, pure and simple.

And, in the case of new rule changes for 2017 (the pitch count rule), more than one high school player has asked the same relevant question.  Why should I train and prepare all year to play (pitch), and then be told I can’t pitch tomorrow if I throw more than 31 pitches today?

It’s a game that appears to be over-regulated for the sake of the health and safety of those who play, some suggest.  And, it’s a game that frankly deserves, for the sake of those who play, the better climate conditions that come with a later start in the spring and a season that extends into summer and beyond traditional graduation dates.

In particular, we received three letters from those who read, who share our concern, and the point of view that baseball is fighting a losing battle in an attempt to remain relevant to kids faced with the choice of which sport to spend time on, given a calendar that demands that you play every sport year-round to remain competitive;  and given that no other sport in Ohio can really compete with the glamour of playing football under the lights of Friday nights before packed crowds.

Here’s the first of three particularly good letters we’ve received.  Please take the time and enjoy it:

To the people at Press Pros, I want to thank you for pointing out that high school baseball is fighting for its life.  No one else that I’ve read or heard seems willing to say it as clearly, and as emphatically, as you stated in your article from June 2.

But I’m writing to add that if the future of baseball is in doubt, it’s merely a reflection of our times.  That baseball is a game that’s too simple for the complex culture in which we live.  Interest in baseball is dying because there is no time for baseball, and as you wrote,  from competition for athletes from other sports.

But there’s more.  Baseball is a game that was once taught and shared in leisure time, between fathers and sons, and sadly, there aren’t enough fathers who take the time now to teach baseball to sons.  They’re busy, they’re working, or worse, there are no dads at all.  It’s just easier to let someone else teach them, and then complain when the son doesn’t play well, or enough. 

Today they pay $500, as you point out, to buy playing time on select teams that aren’t select for the fact of talent and skill.  The only thing select are the people with the $500 and the means to travel to tournaments on weekends and call it quality time.

I grew up playing baseball and it was special because it was something I shared with my  friends.  We would talk for hours after games about each pitch and each inning.  It was cheap, simple fun.  And every boy in my grade had the same relationship with his dad through baseball.  When we got together we compared and shared what each of our dads had told us.   

Some of us played other sports,  but baseball was the unifying bond that made us grow up playing for each other and the community.  It was the favorite sport because you could have fun by simply playing catch.  Now that kind of fun is far too simple and out of touch for this generation of dads and boys.  It takes time to learn to play baseball and have fun playing.  And no one takes the time anymore.

Ken Fanning

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