From David Showalter

Written by college baseball coach Chris Sperry…

A quarter century ago, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing a bit angry… “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?”

Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked.

“And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause. “Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to

practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate? ”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline.

We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.

From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”


The following are my notes.

Jesus made a statement to His disciples one day. Matthew 24:35 MEV. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

I’ve live for quite a few years now and in my time I’ve seen many changes. We didn’t have cell phones when I was a boy. Our phones had rotary dial on them and either sat on a desk or were attached to the wall.

Many of our cars didn’t have automatic transmissions, we had a clutch that had to be pushed while shifting the transmission. No automatic windows, no automatic seat adjustments, and the headlights had a switch on the floor that you pushed down to change from dim to bright or bright to dim. We didn’t have air conditioning in our cars because we didn’t even have it in our homes.

There were no interstates to drive on just mostly two lane highways with a speed limit of 55 mph.

My wife lived in many homes that had no running water and had an outhouse out back when you needed to go to the bathroom.

We didn’t travel by jet because there were no passenger jets.

Some refrigerators required a block of ice to cool everything inside.

Many homes raised their own food in a garden out back. Some folks were even lucky enough to have chickens so they would have fresh eggs to fry in the morning for breakfast.

Milk was delivered by a milkman who carried it to your front door.

We never locked our homes because our neighbors always kept an eye out for strangers who came into the neighborhood.

We didn’t have computers or any kind of electronic games. Our games were played outdoor with the kids in the neighborhood. Hide and go seek, kick the can, and red rover were a few of the games we played. Baseball, jump rope, hop scotch, and jacks are some more games we played.

Moms were mostly stay at home moms. They had meals to fix, dishes to clean, clothes to wash, the house to clean, groceries that needed picked up because meals were not fixed by opening a can or a box.

In many neighborhoods, if you got in trouble, the mom a block down would call your mom and tell what you did. Then mom would call you in the house and correct you followed by a spanking. Then when dad got home from work, you’d get another lecture and another spanking.

Teachers in school would stand misbehaving kids in a corner, and after class send them to the principals office for his choice of correction. Sometimes he would call your parents and you would get it from them when you got home.

Yep, things have changed through the years. Some for the good and some for the bad.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the books I used when I was in school, those are ancient history for kids today. They don’t use them anymore. But I have a book that has remained the same ever since it was written. It’s one book with different writers, but only one author. It was written over a time span of 1,500 – 1,600 years. That book is the Bible. Thank God it has never changed.

Don’t you hate playing a game where someone always changes the rules while you are playing? Anyone hear of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes? They played a game I call Calvin Ball where he and Hobbes change the rules in their own favor while playing.

God doesn’t change his rules. I’ve seen many churches change the rules in my life time. When I was a boy the majority of churches in those days, the pastor would preach that is was wrong to smoke, to cuss, and to drink alcohol. It was certainly wrong to live with someone you weren’t married to. Today, you hear very few church pastors preach about these things.

If we were to change the width of home plate from 17 inches from when I was a boy, and make them acceptable to people’s standards today, I wonder how wide it would be.

What the Apostles preached in the Bible that we needed to do to be saved has never changed. Remember, God’s word will never pass away. They preached that it was necessary to repent of our sins. They preached that it was necessary to be baptized in Jesus name for the removal of your sins. They preached that once you did those things, God would fill you with His spirit and He would speak through you in a language you’ve never spoken before. I’m happy to know, that God’s 17 inches has never changed.

Psalm 119:89. Forever, O Lord, Your word is established in heaven.

Anyone hear of climate change? Here’s what God has to say about that.

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease.

I read an article where scientist declare that time is becoming shorter. They say, we have lost an average of 3 milliseconds daily. Those lost seconds could severely alter computer systems we use on a daily basis, as most are set to interact with a 24-hour time period. Even a few seconds lost could be catastrophic. In contrast, the dinosaurs enjoyed slower days. Again God promised in the verse I just read that day and night will not cease. In fact, there are folks that know the exact time the sun will rise and set next year on any given day.

For your peace of mind, there are 31,557,600,000 milliseconds in a year.

We serve an unchanging God. He never changes.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

David Showalter



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Michael Theodore is married to Laureen, and both are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Michael serves the Azusa StreetRiders Motorcycle Ministry as both National Road Captain and as Ohio District Coordinator. He is passionate not only about riding, but also using motorcycles as a witnessing tool to affect souls for the Lord Jesus.

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