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Flat-billed hats are awful, but youth baseball will survive

I’ve always been of the belief that flat-billed hats will be the end of baseball. You might say, well, that’s dramatic. To that I’d say, have you seen how stupid those things look?

I’m guessing the sports culture-change shock I’m experiencing is something like what folks went through when basketball players stopped wearing thigh-huggers and started wearing baggy shorts. Short-shorts weren’t always bad; their end was John Stockton’s fault, really. He broke the high school dress code and showed too much skin one too many times with those Jazz shorts and someone had to call their local congressman.

We can find a happy middle-ground here between fishing wader basketball shorts and those inappropriate things volleyball players wear. Seriously.

But, back to baseball. Baseball is not dying. Program numbers in every sport fluctuate from year to year. I get the feeling these days that every dad enters summer with the dread of waking up in June and not having a baseball team for his kid to play on, that he can force his kid out from in front of the television to play on. It’s a socially acceptable place where dads can yell at their kids in public for messing up. Even more, they can berate them simply for being socially awkward teenagers.

And that is excellent.

“Did you just run to first on a dropped third strike that was a quite audibly called ball? You’re such an IDIOT. YOU’VE SHAMED THE FAMILY.”

Some kids need public shaming. Some kids are idiots. We were all idiots at one point in our youth. We need baseball to keep an acceptable social balance between the long boarders and the baseball players.

I think that’s where folks get scared that there’s a clique blending. Uh oh, flat-billed hat, is that a baseball player or a skateboarder? Scary stuff.

Kids do what they want. They make incomprehensible decisions like putting on a goofy mis-shapen flat-billed hat before stepping onto the beautifully classic American cathedral of summer that is a baseball field. You might as well take a skateboard into a church and start riding around. Do not do that.

Even though every time I see a flat bill I get this insatiable urge to walk up and bend it for the poor fella who so haphazardly plopped it onto his head, maybe it’s something that will eventually be a norm.

Michael Jordan only wore long shorts because he wanted to wear his North Carolina short-shorts underneath and needed his Bulls ones to be long enough to hide them. Because no one wants to see North Carolina shorts. Gross. Or, I guess, factually, he thought they were lucky.

He was the first to wear the long shorts, and start the trend, not the Fab Five, no matter how loud Jalen Rose wants to yell about how important he thinks he is. TIMEOUT!? Wait, no, we don’t have any left.

I guess if you play well then whatever you’re wearing on the field doesn’t really matter. Unless it’s a duck-winged, metallic Oregon jersey, then you’re always going to look like a dummy and finish second to Stanford.

In the end, no matter what youth players are wearing, I have faith in baseball.

Sure, there’s been a marked decline in youth participation in the sport and a predictable subsequent overreaction to media oversaying words about that, but there will always be kids who want to play. Studies that cite declines draw few sources to the problem. They say kids are bored (a politically correct word for un-American), they say kids are playing hockey and soccer instead. I say play them all. There’s no ice in July, and soccer happens in the spring.  In fixing the problem, some suggest making practice more fun and reducing the down time in the game — both dumb things. Practice is not supposed to be fun. Removing parts of the game, even the slow parts is, again, un-American.

There will always be baseball purists who keep the sport alive by coaching and coaxing their kids on the field, and God Bless them for it. So, if you have to wear your cap without altering the bill maybe just learn to throw as hard as Tulo, and to hit like Cabrera, and no one will notice.

About

Brad Estes

Sheridan Press sports editor

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