The First Stage of 'Tommy John'

The First Stage of 'Tommy John'
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When my kids started playing baseball I knew about win-at-all-cost coaches, especially those that were the parents of one of the kids on the team. After all, I was the director of an organization that included 15,000 kids playing all sports, year round, from boys' football to girls' softball.

One day I wanted to see for myself if these "horror stories" were true.

So on a Saturday morning I decided to check things out and go to a game being played in our neighborhood. The teams playing were 8- and 9-year-olds. On the mound was the son of a coach who was one of the thousands of dads who are out there coaching their kid in baseball every year.

Around the third inning, I noticed that the 9-year-old pitcher was grabbing his elbow after each pitch. In the next inning, it got worse, as he was holding his arm against his chest with a grimace on his face. He was obviously in a lot of pain. His father just kept yelling at him to "get it over the plate."

Suddenly, the umpire stopped the game and called for the father to come to the mound. Since I was seated along the first-base line, I could hear the whole conversation between the umpire and the dad.

The umpire said to the father, "Your son is in obvious pain, and I think it would be wise to take him out of the game."

The dad responded by saying, "He's my son and if I want him out of the game, it's up to me, not you."

At that point, the boy begins crying out loud and says "But dad, my arm hurts."

The dad responded, "Son, I've told you that this is a man's game. Now get in there and pitch."

At that point, the umpire called the game and said to the dad, "I refuse to allow you to abuse this kid like that. Game over!"

I've heard physicians say to me on more than one occasion that organized sports for kids is one of our nation's greatest examples of child abuse. If you've seen and heard what I have for the past many years you would agree with these physicians.

Without communities demanding that there is a system in place to remove coaches like the above, then the "horror stories" will continue and the "Tommy John" surgeries will continue to soar.

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