Monday, April 28, 1997
Teens need coaching
in game of life

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Under a full moon, Roberto Alomar shook hands with the umpire whose face he once sprayed with spit.

Two hours earlier on the very same day, Mount Healthy High School's baseball team was lining up for the ritual show of sportsmanship, the post-game handshake.

Mount Healthy won the game. It beat the home team, Woodward High School, 19-10.

But it would lose the handshake.

Woodward players attacked the Mount Healthy team near home plate. To the game's victors went the spoils of a broken jaw, a concussion, a broken nose and a mouthful of chipped teeth.

By offering a clenched fist instead of an open hand, the Woodward players were the ultimate sore losers.

But, unless these kids get help and steps are taken to prevent this from happening again, everyone will lose.

Soon forgotten

The attack left blood on the base paths. Dark patches of red stained the dusty brown earth. This sickening sight left a lasting impression that society is spinning out of control.

The same thing happened last fall in Toronto after Roberto Alomar spit in the umpire's face. And, it happened here Feb. 4, 1996, when Covington coach James Pouncy and six of his teen-age basketball players attacked two referees with fists, feet and folding chairs.

Reaction to those incidents was the same. Complaints about our violent culture were followed by intense hand-wringing and loud cries that this was the end of civilization.

Then time passed and the cries grew softer. Roberto Alomar and James Pouncy became old news. And we forgot.

Until the next time.

Bill Doran Sr. can't forget. He's Mount Healthy's baseball coach. He saw the fight break out, three or four handshakes from where he stood telling Woodward players: ''Good luck'' and ''good game.''

He also saw the other team's frustration. Woodward was winless for the season. Some of its players had the same record in life.

''These kids feel no one cares,'' he said. ''They're good athletes. But no one has cared enough to teach them the fundamentals.''

That goes for baseball and everyday life. They are unschooled in how to behave in both. They don't know how to turn a double play or to lose gracefully.

''Good teams beat Woodward by scores like 15-0 and 20-2,'' he added. ''They get frustrated.''

When Woodward lost to a team it expected to beat - Mount Healthy has won only three games and lost 12 - ''that frustration came to a boil.''

Care clinics

Since their team lost that ballgame, six Woodward players have been arrested. They're facing possible expulsion from school and lawsuits. Their future does not look bright.

''These kids are teen-agers,'' Bill Doran said. ''They're looking at the end of their lives already. I hate to see that.''

Those kids need counseling. They did not learn how to be good sports at home, on the field or in school. So, they need to hear from someone who's trained in pointing out the differences between right and wrong. And making sure they don't forget.

Bill Doran wants to defuse the frustration he saw in the eyes of the Woodward players.

''It's time the baseball coaches of Greater Cincinnati got out of our comfortable living rooms in the suburbs and went down to the city to help these kids,'' he said. ''We could have clinics during the summer and teach them how to play second base and be good sports, too.''

Mark Thompson is all for that. As the president of the Southwestern Ohio Baseball Coaches Association and Elder High School's baseball coach, he's ''in favor of anything that helps the kids.''

He's thinking about mentioning Bill Doran's idea for baseball clinics at the association's May meeting. Here's hoping he does more than just mention it. He should push for it to become a reality this summer.

Beyond teaching kids how to play baseball, these clinics would have a higher calling. They could prepare them not just for a game, but for life.

That's a goal everybody can shake hands on.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.


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