Sports Editor Brad Spencer's vigorous defense of Oak Park's baseball/softball program is an insult to the players, as well as their parents who sit in the stands, venting their frustrations with each other over the "closed door" structure of the league ("A bat and ball balancing act," July 6). Mr. Spencer's steadfast defense of the league clearly shows that he did not solicit input from baseball/softball parents. Instead he simply followed the party line put forth by Mr. Brashler, its vice president.
As a parent of both a travel team player and house league player, my criticism of the league is not sour grapes. Instead, it's based on week after week of trying unsuccessfully to get straight answers from league officials and coaches to simple questions about how things actually work here in Oak Park, and how decisions that affect our kids are made.
Examples abound. Some teams are formed before tryouts for the team are even held. Tryouts that are promised are not always held. Other tryouts are held but not announced. Rosters fill up in private. E-mails, memos, phone calls, rules, and decisions are promised but not delivered.
It's obvious that there is a group of men in Oak Park who control the league, and that bending or disregarding the published rules is incredibly frequent. Coachs' kids often don't try out and often take roster spots from obviously more talented but less "connected" kids. Getting on a team and subsequent playing time appear related to how well the parents (including me) can influence the coaches. Parents find themselves in the dark about many aspects of both the house and travel leagues, especially if they are not able to "work the system."
The travel teams are the clear priority of the coaches, and secrecy is even more closely guarded here than with the house teams. House league schedules are distributed, but rendered meaningless as game dates and times are changed on the fly to accommodate travel games. I know of at least four instances this season when three or even four teams showed up at the same field at the same time, all under the impression that they were scheduled to play due to confusion caused by travel team games. Worse, those kids who pitch in both leagues rack up a huge amount of innings pitched, well in excess of the guidelines designed to protect young arms.
I'd suggest that Mr. Spencer actually write a balanced piece on league practices, rather than regurgitate the fiction from the league that everything is fair and balanced and carefully thought out. I am in no way suggesting that the kids who play do not have a great baseball/softball experience; I think they do. Most of the coaches do a very good job of teaching baseball skills.
But I worry about all the rest of the kids who are not given the opportunity to play, due to the "insider" nature of the coaches and league officials. The good ol' boy club is not about the kids, and needs to be challenged.
Name withheld upon request
Editor's Note: This letter is in reference to a Question and Answer interview Spencer conducted two weeks ago with Tom Brashler, Vice President and Director of Baseball for the OPYB/S, not a column or editorial.