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Sleepless in Seattle

When Fun is Forgotten

Hello baseball fans! I am a 16 year old sports fan from Seattle, Washington. My dad first got me into baseball back in 2001 when I was seven years old. I recently retired from eight years of youth baseball last year in order to get involved in other activities. My friend Ben and I have spent the last two summers going to about 12 Seattle Mariner games a year to snag baseballs and talk about how we hope the M's will do better next year. Anyway, I'll move on to the topic of this article.

For the past three years, my brother has played baseball on the same team as one of his good friends. For the sake of privacy, I will call his friend "John". John is a great kid and a pretty good athlete. He also plays on the same basketball team as my brother. One of the reasons John is a good athlete is the fact that he has a father who is willing to go pretty far and spend some money to help John improve his skills. John's dad has mentioned that he is willing to spend a little money because he has hopes that John will play in college and possibly get drafted.

As you read the next few sentences, remember that John is eleven years old. In John's backyard is a full batting cage with an L-screen and a high-end pitching machine. John plays baseball YEAR ROUND on top of basketball and football in fall and winter. In the spring, he plays on his regular league baseball team.

In the summer, he plays on the all-star team from his league. In the fall, he plays fall ball. In the winter, he does positional clinics. This includes pitching, hitting, and catching (the position). Towards the end of the summer, John is always out of energy and can't put forth full effort because he is so wiped out. He never stops complaining about how his arm hurts. Guess what? I don't blame him! My arm would hurt too if I played as much baseball as he does. Remember, John is only eleven years old.

Usually when parents let their kid play year round and spend money on clinics and a batting cage, there is a method to their madness. Most of the time, the parents are either rich or know that there is a chance of their kid earning a college scholarship because the parents were great athletes back in their prime and have the perfect body size for an athlete.

John's parents definitely aren't good athletes nor have they been able to pass on great physical genes to him. His dad is no more than 5' 8" and his mom is about 5' 1". John's grandparents attend all of his games and I don't think that any of them are more than 5' 8". John is a little on the chubby side and has a set of thick, slow legs. His build helps him on the basketball court, but hurts him on the diamond. Even though John is about the same height as most of his peers, I know that it won't be this way for long because of his ancestry.

This being said, I don't think that the current results or the projected future results will justify the money and time spent on clinics and equipment. John's parents don't realize that they are pushing their son too hard toward a goal that most likely won't be achieved.

Max Van Hollebeke is a contributing columnist to

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