Bob Huelsman
Bob Huelsman

Bob Huelsman is a former high school teacher, coach and administrator, serving for more than three decades at Covington High School, in Miami County. In his 13 years as head basketball coach at Covington, Huelsman won 228 games and five times guided the Buccaneers to the regional round of the state tournament. Currently, he serves as the associate athletic director at Newton High School, and treasurer for the Southwest District Athletic Board. A former member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Control, Huelsman’s broad background in athletic administration has won the respect of his peers statewide.

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I ask the burning question pertaining to adolescent sports.  Is your kid too young to play in a competitive manner when he stands in center field, pays no attention, and has his hand down his pants?

We all know how grandparents are when it comes to their grandchildren. We think they‘re the smartest, cutest and the best things since sliced bread.  Why?  Because we think “the little guy” will be the next Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth…don’t we?

This summer I had the pleasure of going to my two grandsons’ baseball games.  One is seven and the other eight years old.  The seven-year-old plays in a league in Beavercreek, and when we arrived with our lawn chairs in hand, he was thrilled to see us, especially his grandmother.  Of course Grandma acted like he was already in the big leagues…hoopin’ and hollerin’ and carrying on with all the other grandmas in attendance.

Having been involved in the coaching scene myself for many years, I sat back and watched the proceedings.  I was impressed with the organization of the teams, umpires, and the coaches.  And let me tell you, my grandson has all the equipment.

He has this huge bag that he can hardly carry.  He got out his bat, batting helmet, glove, batting gloves, a ball, towel, and a “cup”!?!  Now what in the world does a seven-year-old need with a “cup”?  But, he dumped it all on the ground.  He was ready!

As the game began, with their own coaches pitching to their teams, I noticed the young boy playing second base was in “la-la land”, with his hand down his pants.  Maybe he had to go to the bathroom, I don’t know.

A mother got up from her chair to tell her son, who was playing right field, to turn around and face the pitcher.

The center fielder was picking dandelions, and the third baseman was playing with the dirt.

Now the left fielder, who just so happened to be my grandson, was paying attention, when the ball was hit his way.  He moved slightly over to catch it, and it hit him square on top of his head.  That must be why he had that “cup” with him. Too bad he didn’t have it on!

I don’t remember much about the game, because if a youngster can hit the ball, it goes for a hit because nobody can really catch it.  One thing these kids can do, though, is spit!  My wife always asks me, “Why do baseball players always have to spit?”  I never can come up with a good answer.

As the game went on, my grandson came up to bat with a couple runners on base.  He hit one that nobody could catch, because they either didn’t see the ball, or it came as a surprise that someone actually hit one out of the infield.  Anyway, as he rounded the bases for a three-run home run, Grandma going “bananas” in the lawn chair section, he exited straight out the gate to slap “high-fives” with the fans.  He then announced to everyone in the lawn chair section that they “won the game because of me!”

Grandma and I quickly got our lawn chairs and headed for the car!

Now the eight-year-old up in Cleveland is a different story.  They actually allow the players to pitch a few innings.  Of course, those innings last a long, long time, to say the least.  But, there are a couple innings when it is still “coach-pitch”.  You know the routine.  When it is still “coach-pitch”, a player is placed in the area of the pitcher. Well, a ball was hit straight back to the pitcher, who grabbed it, turned, and threw it straight out into center field.  Even I jumped out of my seat on that one.

It is not all fun and games, let me tell you.  A father got out of his seat, walked down the first base side and yelled at his kid “to get his head out of his butt and pay attention!”  A coach was really upset at the umpires for not calling a player out for stepping on home plate when he hit the ball.  We were all happy he just hit the ball.

The question remains, how young is too young?  Are these seven and eight-year-olds learning from this organized activity?  How many are turned off by a coach or even a parent at that age?  Why have parents elected to place their child in this atmosphere?  It must just be the thing to do.

Some parents opt for “select teams”.  My seven-year-old grandson had to try out this summer for next year’s team.  They will have approximately 37 games next year plus 3 or 4 tournaments.  He has to pay $250.00 to be on the team and make a commitment to be at all games and practices.

Seven years old?  Like I said in an earlier article I wrote, “I was still playing with my mom’s pots and pans” at that age!

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