West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... on the Innocence of Youth

I don't know if smallfry wrestling, Little League baseball or other youth sports build or reveal character, but I do believe in the innocence of children. And my belief was reaffirmed during a summer baseball game. (I know what your thinking; here he goes again with another story. Well, read it anyway because it's a good one with a happy ending.)

I was the home-plate umpire during a tournament game when an 11-year old boy hit a ball to right-center field. The field umpire was in position when the center fielder and right fielder collided as the ball came down. Both the field umpire and I thought the right fielder caught the ball, but when we looked at the center fielder, he stood up with the ball in his right hand. Did he catch it or not?

The field umpire called time and called me out to the infield to discuss the problem. Meanwhile, the batter was on first base and his coach began screaming to me to make a decision. Very calmly, I told the coach to relax, that everything would be straightened out in a fair manner. He continued to loudly voice his opinion.

Finally, as the chief umpire, I made my decision. I told the field umpire to ask the center fielder if he caught the ball. At this point the coach went ballistic, screaming--"YOU CAN'T DO THAT!"

From there it was all down hill for him. He lost perspective and composure (Something we have all done at one time or another.). And of course, I had to ask him to leave the premises.

Seconds later, the field umpire returned with the verdict. The young center fielder told him, "I dropped the ball." If only the coach would have waited five seconds before vehemently protesting. Instead, his boy was safe at first and he was "thrown out" of the game.

Some of you may think I took a big chance with the decision I made. Well, I don't. As adults (who have witnessed more of the darker side of human nature), we often forget about the innocence of youth, especially kids who are 11 or 12.

Fortunately, I have worked with children for nearly 30 years, having often observed their purity and intrinsic honesty. Isn't it a joy to know that real innocence is still alive and well--and found in our youth!

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