It is almost certain that you have seen the phrase, “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” The phrase means, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Julius Caesar meant it when he sent this message back to the patrician Senate in 47 BC. He was basically saying exactly what it sounds like and saying it with more than a wee bit of arrogance.
Caesar was brief and to the point and still managed to emphasize his rudeness/arrogance to the Senate. It was also meant to say, “Not only did I do it, but I did it quick.”
Whether it is in battle or on a field in front of thousands of screaming fans, we often are inspired by the words of military leaders, coaches and athletes. Folks collect these quotes and spit them out at opportune times before, during and after battles, personal trials, sporting events and fraternity parties that have gotten out of hand.
I’m not that coach.
After coaching youth baseball teams for over 30 years, I have come to the realization that as much as I love the game of baseball, I’m not going to be the kind of coach to quote Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi or even Bear Bryant.
I might quote Larry Bird, the famous Boston Celtic. He once noted that to be great, “First master the fundamentals.” However, I would write it out so my baseball team could see it this way, “First master the FUNdamentals.”
Admittedly, over the years I have changed. I make more strategic errors, poor decisions and outright stupid coaching mistakes than I did when I coached my first team at 17 years-old. I’ve become more of a spectator with a better seat inside the fence.
One of the teams I coach is a more competitive team traveling on weekends within and sometimes outside the state to play other similar teams. The chemistry of this particular team seems to lend well to my underlying goal of fun and comradery.
On a recent Sunday, we were playing our third game in the blistering heat. One umpire passed out, a couple of players were suffering from minor wounds and all of the guys were worn out. We generally carry ten players and bat the entire lineup, taking turns with one fellow sitting on the bench.
With my back to the bench, I heard the little brother of one of players talking. He is around 11 years-old and quite a baseball player himself. He enjoys sitting in the dugout with us; I enjoy having him there.
Eavesdropping, not wanting to get caught, I couldn’t tell exactly who the boy was addressing. The little boy noted to one of the guys on the bench or to his parents, “We are losing, they act like they are winning, they sure are having a good time to be losing.”
Sure enough, the team was laughing, poking fun at each other and having a good time. They had played well for the most part and seemed to have “mastered the FUNdamentals.”
I’m sure I had a grin on my face, because it hurt; my lips had burnt from being in the sun all day.
There are many schools of thought on kids playing travel baseball, soccer, lacrosse and every other sport folks can make a dollar off of parents’ dreams of college scholarships and posh summer homes to retire to after their kids make the big leagues.
Loving sports and mathematics, I have looked at the numbers and probabilities for years, in terms of a boy getting to play big league baseball. After looking at the numbers, I realize there will always be a lot of folks who will still spend thousands on the dream of their son or daughter being a professional athlete.
Dreaming is a good thing, but let’s take a look at it from a numbers perspective. I’m relatively confident in my calculations.
We first have to start with 1000 high school seniors playing baseball. So this is not the general public, you have to have played at least at the high school level. Of those 1000 high school seniors, roughly 5.6% will go on to play college baseball. Fair enough, that means we have 56 boys playing college baseball.
Before you get your hopes up for a “full ride” baseball scholarship, understand that a typical college baseball team has about 11 scholarships to divide among 35 or more baseball players. A typical baseball scholarship is around 30%.
Back to the 56 fellows who make it to a college roster; roughly 10.5% of those will be drafted to play in the minor league system of a professional baseball team. To make it easy, let’s round it up to 6 guys who get paid to play baseball out of the original 1000.
A 10% chance of making it from the minor leagues to a big league ball club is very generous. 10% of 6 fellows is of course six-tenths of one player. Not meaning he is short, just that his chances are quite small. You could add in those high school players who get drafted to play minor league baseball right of high school and maybe get up to almost a “full person” out of the original 1000 boys playing high school baseball.
Fewer than half of the rookies in professional baseball make it to five years. The big money (free agency) starts at 6 years. Note here that this is the same way the warranty on your car or washing machine works.
However, if you do play 43 games of professional baseball, you are eligible for a pension of around $35,000 per year. This is not enough to help your parents buy their posh summer home, or live comfortably on for that matter.
I’m not saying that you should invest your money in preparing for college entrance tests, but you should kind of see my point. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in preparing your child for college entrance exams either.)
In my opinion, I have come to the conclusion that baseball is NOT a numbers game, it is a FUN game. Let it be that. You can be competitive and have a good time.
Therefore Caesar, I say, “Veni, Vidi, Amuzis,” or “I came, I saw, I had fun.” More than likely, I butchered the Latin, but it is brief, from the heart and said with more than a wee bit of arrogance.
I’m sorry Coach Bryant and Coach Lombardi. Coach Rockne, I think I’ll just listen to the little boy on the bench and smile, even though it hurts my mouth.
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