Monday, September 17, 2007

Two hard to believe baseball stories

From the September 16 edition of Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird comes this gem under the headline "Can't possibly be true":
In July, the Houston School District, citing student privacy laws, declined to release last season's Bellaire High School baseball statistics (such as batting averages), even though requested by a player's parent.
Mr. Shepherd cites to an article in the July 19 Houston Chronicle as his source.

I did find, however, a follow-up article in the Chronicle from July 24 (registration required). Ericka Mellon's article reported that the Houston Independent School District did ultimately relent "after a federal official confirmed the information can be made public."

And what was behind all this? The district thought it couldn't release the information under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This "federal law," Mellon reported, "protects student records such as grades and discipline history." Besides, Rocky Manuel, the Bellaire High School coach who has lead his team to two state championships, didn't want the stats published so as to obtain a competitive advantage: Mellon wrote that Bellaire "withholds statistics from the Houston Chronicle, which publishes information about the top players weekly, until mid-season." By that time, Mellon quoted Coach Manuel as saying, "we feel like everybody has already seen us play, so there's no secrets."

According to Mellon's story, Manuel also "opposed releasing the numbers because he didn't want to embarrass players with weak statistics."

According to the Chronicle story, Coach Manuel dismissed the entire controversy this way: "This is all about a disgruntled parent complaining about the statistics of his son."

And I thought they took football seriously in Texas.


The other gem from News of the Weird concerns a volunteer Little League umpire in Alexandria, Virginia who wanted to study up a little on the rules of the games he was calling. But Army officer Bryan Hilferty was turned down when he requested a copy of the rules. Shepherd writes:
Hilferty, who has access to classified information in his job at the Pentagon, was told that the Little League restricts its rulebooks, on a "need to know" basis, so as not to invite litigation, and that Hilferty did not qualify.
Shepherd cites Ted Gup's July 29 story in the Washington Post (registration required) which confirms the substance of his tale.

At the end of the Post article we learn Mr. Gup is the author of author of "Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life" and the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism at Case Western Reserve University. One quote from his article provides assurance that the issue of Little League secrecy is bigger than Lt. Col. Hilferty's quest to obtain a rulebook:
In Corpus Christi, Tex., the Laguna Little League rules related to selection for the All-Star Team note: "All personnel involved in the selection process shall be sworn to secrecy of all All-star announcements until given dates authorized by the board." The East Tonka Little League, in Minnetonka, Minn., provides that "at the start of the selection meeting, coaches will receive a copy of player evaluations for their use that evening. These evaluations will be collected and destroyed at the end of the meeting." (There was no reference to burn bags.) Arizona's Tempe South Little League in its 2007 playoff calendar notes that the location of the "Major Division Draft" and "Minor Division Draft" were to be considered "Top Secret." The Pacific Little League, in Lynnwood, Wash., has a section titled "Secrecy," which states that "players and parents are never told of the round in which candidates were drafted. All coaches' and managers' scoring sheets and draft notes are collected and destroyed at the end of the draft by the Player Agent."
Just two observations about this: It does make sense to keep the draft order confidential. No kid will be motivated by knowing that the coaches fought, at the draft meeting, over who would be stuck with him. And it would be unconscionably cruel. The kids who are drafted early know they were drafted early anyway. And it makes no difference in the long run: Even at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old, pre-season expectations don't always turn into actual in-season performance.

Secondly, I don't think it's just the Little League that keeps its rules under lock and key. I have a more than passing interest in baseball (even if I didn't go to the Sox game yesterday) and this past Summer I went on line looking for the Illinois High School Association official rules.

I couldn't find those either.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

well what about that curmy?? my word, they sure do take their sports thingys seriously. the south really takes football seriously. all the banks around here have big signs up that say get your season tickets here for football. huh? we now have to pay to see kids play sports? when did this start?

smiles, bee

ps: did you notice that was an on topic post about sports? (smile)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I could do with knowing the rules of the game.

landgirl said...

Congrats Cur for writing a post nominally about sports that Empress Bee read and related to. (Congrats also to you, Ms. Empress). That is madness--the rules about rules, I mean, not your post or that Empress Bee read a sports one. I thought things here in UK were getting weirder by the minute, but seems US is, alas, keeping pace.

katherine. said...

so who DOES have a need to know to get a copy of the rule book? coaches? players? (although it would make it really easy to argue with an umpire or ref who you knew didn't read the rule

Shelby said...

"These evaluations will be collected and destroyed at the end of the meeting."

... reminds me of the old Mission Impossible starting directives.

Things that make me shake my head in disbelief knowing 'tis true.

Anonymous said...

This sounds more complicated than our football rules. And I agree that youngsters will not want to know about coaches fighting, they should be setting an exemplary example.