By Thomas Skernivitz
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital. No, I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years. Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” Seventeen inches, the coaches answered. “That’s right,” Scolinos said. “How about in Babe Ruth?” Again, 17 inches, they said. “Now, how wide is home plate in high school baseball? And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college? Any minor league coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball? And in the major leagues, how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?” In each case, the coaches provided the same answer.
“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES.” Scolinos confirmed. “And what do they do with a big-league pitcher who can’t throw the ball over these 17 inches? They send him to Pocatello. What they don’t do is this: They don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s OK, Bobby. You can’t hit a 17-inch target? We’ll make it 18 inches or 19 inches. We’ll make it 20 inches, so you have a better chance of throwing the ball over it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches.’”
“Coaches, what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? What do we do if he violates curfew? What if he uses drugs? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?
Scolinos then turned the plate toward him and, with a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned home plate toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate.” Then, to the point at the top of the house Scolinos added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate. Where is that getting us? And this is the problem in the church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate.”
“If I am lucky, you will remember one thing from this old coach today. If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”
With that, Scolinos held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.
“… dark days ahead.”
Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91. His story lives on, more powerful than ever.
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