Think twice before questioning a call

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2007

Last month I traveled with my stepmother and sister to watch my sister’s traveling softball team play a showcase tournament in South Carolina.

Cal Ripken was a great ballplayer and the facility bearing his name is a testament to that.

If you ever have a chance to play at the Ripken Experience, take it.

There are six fields, numerous warm-up fields and batting cages, and two snack bars.

The most unique thing had to be the field itself – it was Astroturf.

It was the first artificial field I’ve seen and a first for our players.

They had to practice sliding because they didn’t know how to slide on artificial turf.

A few times they almost slid right by the base.

During one of the games (we played four on the first day) our team had a runner on second with no outs.

The batter hit to the outfield and as the runner rounded third, everyone was shouting for her to be sent home.

When I say everyone, I mean it.

The first base coach, parents, myself; even the coach’s wife wanted her sent home.

The coach held the runner at third.

After the game we were talking about that play and his decision to hold the runner.

He told me that with no outs he didn’t want to send her home and risk getting the out when he wasn’t positive she could outrun the throw.

That out would have shifted the momentum from our team.

Makes sense when you think about it after the game and take all the factors into consideration, but in the heat of the moment we all wanted her to try for home.

He knew we had questioned the call, even though he was coaching third base.

His comment about people questioning the coach’s call got me thinking about all the times I have questioned why coaches did what they did.

Sometimes in a follow-up interview after a game I’ll ask a coach why they played a certain lineup or ran a certain play.

In my years of covering sports I’ve also heard plenty of fans question play calling both during and after the game.

I coached in a youth soccer league for several years and I can remember having parents yell directions at their children that were the exact opposite of what I had told them to do.

I remember thinking that if they thought they could do better, then they could have the coaching job.

If you watch sports, you know you are guilty of questioning the coach, whether it be at the recreation league, middle or high school, college or even professional league.

How many people wondered why Joe Gibbs called that second time out even though there is a rule you can’t call two consecutive time outs to ice a kicker?

It’s easy to second-guess a decision after the fact or even sitting in the stands.

We don’t know the players, the plays or the other team as well as the coach (at least the coach should know all of the above better than the spectator).

It’s almost become a part of sports to gripe about the coaching and the officiating, which is an entirely different column in itself.

I know I question things, but talking with my sister’s coach made me really think about the impact of my questioning his call.

Do we undermine the coach’s authority, at least in the eyes of their players, when we question the calls?

Certainly he knows more about his team and the ability of the team as a whole and individual players’ abilities, so why was I questioning him?

Before my email starts being overloaded with comments let me say that not every call a coach makes is the right one, which is something most coaches admit.

By the way, the runner on third came home two batters later. The second batter got a hit and having a runner on third forced the fielder to hesitate on the throw so the batter had time to reach first safely.

Next batter up got a single and an RBI.

We scored two runs that inning.

Had the girl been thrown out at home there would have been no hesitation on the second batter, so she would have been out at first and there would have been two outs when the third batter came up instead of two runners on base.

Right decision on the coach’s part, wrong call on the crowd’s.