I recently had a conversation with two basketball officials, one who refs college games and the other junior high and high school games. I was amazed at how similar their experiences are to the baseball world. They find some coaches teach their student athletes the game, trying to impact their lives by doing the right thing. But they also have nightmare stories of coaches desperately missing the mark.
One team started the second half with a fifty-point lead but still had all five starters in and were running a full court press. During a timeout the ref asked the head coach if he was really going to keep this up for the rest of the game. The coach said his team needed to stay sharp, and he believed in never holding back. The ref told the coach he was "basketball ignorant, hurting kids on both teams."
I’ve seen similar things on the baseball field, overzealous coaches so caught up in the competition that they lose sight of the bigger picture. I have confronted youth league coaches who are still stealing base after base, though they have a twelve-run lead in the third inning. They respond, "Youth league baseball is different than the pros."
Garbage! Baseball is baseball, and sportsmanship is sportsmanship.
Sure, a youth league game can quickly turn around and the other team could put up a dozen runs in a blink of an eye. Good! A close game at the youth level is better for all the kids on the field anyhow.
When you have a substantial lead, how about taking out your best pitcher and letting someone pitch who has been wanting to learn how, or letting your full-time right fielder take a shot at shortstop?
How about trying to protect the dignity of the opposing players by not continuing to exploit their weaknesses, just so you can brag to the rest of the world that you "short-gamed" the other team?
How about respecting the competition and the game by not worrying about your run differential and how it may affect your tournament seed?
It all comes down to motive. If your motive is to dominate, to embarrass your opponent just to make yourself look better, then you have moved past "sports ignorance." You’re just plain ignorant.