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Holten: Don’t shout it out

Holten Cartoon

When my son was 12 years old we were living in Southern California and he played on a “club” baseball team, the South Bay Sharks that twice made it to the finals of a national tournament that is staged each year in Omaha, Neb., around the same time as the College World Series.

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Kevin Holten

Now my son’s team had played in the championship game the year before against another team from Riverside, Calif. But the next year, when they once again made it to the finals with victories over teams from Illinois, Colorado and I forget where else, their roadblock to the championship was a team made up of oversized behemoths from St. Louis.

Most of those St. Louis kids shaved twice a day, carried AARP cards and probably had children of their own in the stands.

Before the game, the parents of that team could be heard discussing at what restaurant they’d be celebrating their championship at that night over these undersized, blonde-haired softies who’d ventured there from the sunny beaches of Southern California.

You’d have thought they were the New York Yankees playing the Bad News Bears, such was their level of their arrogance.

Then the game began and the Shark’s leadoff hitter launched the second pitch well beyond the centerfield wall, which was followed by a totally one-sized onslaught and the cocky cackling coming from bleachers on the St. Louis side quickly turned to grumbling and insults aimed at their own kids.

What did I learn from that experience? Out-of-control parents sure can ruin a nice day.

Fast forward to my son’s senior year in high school and they were once again playing in an early season tournament in Redondo Beach, Calif., against a team from Camarillo, which is located just west of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles proper.

That team too was somewhat arrogant, probably because there were seven or eight scouts in the stands with radar guns, there to see the Camarillo pitcher, who casually threw in the 90s, would be drafted out of high school and is still playing in the major leagues.

Meanwhile my son’s team, the Mira Costa Mustangs, had no slouch on the mound, featuring a pitcher ranked by ranked by the Los Angeles Times as the No. 1 high school pitcher in the Los Angeles basin. (He’d eventually, later that season, while participating in a party, jump off the back of a pickup truck and onto a garbage dumpster. It destroyed his shoulder he never pitched again).

My son, a switch hitter who batted second in the order, watched two fastballs sail by him and then sent a curveball over the right-field fence just inside the foul pole. It was “game on” and arrogance gone.

I tell you this Camarillo story to let you know that when it eventually came to the playoffs that year, the Santa Barbara team who’d be playing the Mira Costa Mustangs in Santa Barbara was definitely in for a battle.

That was also the site of the worst example of parental involvement and sportsmanship I’ve ever seen in my life.

The parents and alumni of that Santa Barbara team shouted vulgar insults, not only at our team but at our team’s mothers. To top it off, the umpire was calling strikes so far off the plate that the Mustang players couldn’t have reached it with a light pole and, as a result, the Mustangs’ season ended that day.

What did I learn from that experience? Out-of-control parents sure can ruin a nice day. But there is another way that parents can ruin a nice day: by coaching their kids from the stands.

A man who spent 11 years as a public relations person for college athletics teams said this, which is taken from the website “I know a lot of children of (overzealous sports) parents like that from my years working with athletes. Now my son may not play professional sports. He may not get a college scholarship. Heck, he may not even play high school sports. But I’ve got a lot better odds that when he grows up, my son won’t hate me. So what do you say to parents like that? Believe me I’d love to find a way to save the kids from what lies ahead.”

Perhaps Frank A. Clark, a syndicated columnist, was referring to an overzealous sports father when he once said, “A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be.”

Holten is the manager of The Drill and the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. He writes a weekly column for The Dickinson Press. Email him at