Don't Widen the Plate.
one of the most storied high school and college baseball coaches, John
Scolinos, spoke to a convention of more than 4,000 baseball coaches in
Nashville, Tennessee. Scolinos, who had retired from coaching in 1991, shuffled
to the stage and received a standing ovation. He wore a string around his neck,
from which hung a full-size home plate.
Scolinos spoke for 25 minutes
before referring to his home plate necklace. He was mindful of the snickering
among some of the coaches and then reproachfully said, "You're probably
all wondering why I'm wearing home plate on my neck." He continued,
"I may be old, but I'm not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is
to share with you baseball people ... what I've learned about home plate in my 78
years." Then he asked: "Do you know how wide home plate is in Little
After a pause, someone said,
"17 inches." Scolinos then asked, "How about in Babe Ruth's
day?" There was a long pause, and another reluctant coach said, "17
said Scolinos. "Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the
room?" Hundreds of hands went up. "How wide is home plate in high
"Seventeen inches," they
exclaimed in unison.
"And you college coaches, how
wide is home plate in college?"
"Any minor league coaches
here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?"
"Right!" Scolinos said.
And then he asked about the major leagues, confirming that it's 17 inches
there, too. "And what do they do with a big-league pitcher who can't throw
the ball over 17 inches?" After a pause, he answered himself: "They
send him to Pocatello!" The coaches laughed. "What they don't do is
... say, 'Ah, that's OK, Jimmy. You can't hit a 17-inch target? ... We'll make
it 20 inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can't hit that,
let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches."
He continued: "Coaches, what
do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules
forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? ... Do we hold him accountable?
Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?"
The laughter faded as Scolinos'
message became clear.
Scolinos made a drawing of a house
on the home plate around his neck with a marker. "This is the problem in
our homes today, with our marriages, with the way we parent our kids, with our
discipline. We don't teach accountability to our kids, and there is no
consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate."
Then he drew an American flag on
top of the house. "This is the problem in our schools today. The quality
of our education is going downhill fast, and teachers have been stripped of the
tools they need to be successful. ... We are allowing others to widen home
concluded: "If I am lucky, you will remember one thing from this old coach
today. It is this: If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a
standard of what we know to be right, if we fail to hold our spouses and our
children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a
consequence when they do not meet the standard and if our schools and churches
and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve,
there is but one thing to look forward to." He held home plate in front of
his chest and presented its black backside. "Dark days ahead."
This is what our country has
become, and it's wrong. Go out there and fix it. Don't widen the plate.
John Scolinos passed away in 2009
at the age of 91.