This was meant to be a Letter to the Editor, but it was so very good and offered such a keen perspective - plus it was sports related! - that I decided to expound on it in a column.
The writer, Brian Nelson of Marcus, a long-time good friend who has no problem telling it like it is, kinda sorta took issue with my Friday column ("When is too many too many?") taking to task the many softball and baseball games the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and Iowa High School Athletic Association squeeze in to each summer, currently 40-50 games in a six-week period.
I suggested both state athletic governing bodies cut back on the number of games played to encourage more athletes to participate, and to allow those who do play, a few days and nights off during the season.
Like me, a former dedicated player and devotee to the Grand Olde Pastime, Brian harkens back to his Glory Days when we all just couldn't get enough of baseball or softball. Along the way, he makes several good points and... aw heck, let him tell it: "Your article got me to thinking of my own youth back in the old days, the 70s. You see, when I was a young boy on the farm, playing baseball, or any sports for that matter, was a vacation. It beat the heck out of walking beans, baling hay, shelling corn, or pitching the hog barn out.
"Not that those jobs weren't admirable, it's just that playing ball was more fun. My parents weren't slave drivers and I know I'm a better person for the work ethic they gave me. They also let me participate in athletics which also teaches you some valuable lessons in life.
"The junior high boy (Paul wrote about) who is thinking he might not go out for baseball because it takes up too much time doesn't realize that when he's married with three kids, two jobs, a family that wants two vacations a year and a boss that only allows you one, is when he'll really be busy!
"In thinking back you see, I decided not to go out for baseball my senior year. I thought I had to get a job and join the world's workforce outside the farm. Looking back, I could have done both. I missed ball so much that I took up fast-pitch softball for the next 31 years, and when I quit that two years ago, I took up umpiring high school girls' softball to fill the void.
"Times change and kids today have more competition for their time, but I hope they see that youth is only for a short time. A lot of kids will never participate in any other organized sports again after high school. Oh, sure, there'll be bowling, golf, pool leagues, and other leisure activities, but it's not the same.
"Cutting back from 50 to 40 games is OK. It will still be plenty. To the parents who like to complain, remember the coaches and umpires aren't spending all that extra time because they're getting rich. Because they're not! They're doing it because they love the game!
"Thanks, Paul, for letting me share my opinion. Keep up the good work. I enjoy your articles.
"To the junior high boy who is still debating. I hope he chooses to go out. You don't get many second chances in life and not participating is one he may regret." Sincerely, Brian Nelson Retired softball player turned umpire (and a Yankee fan, too!) Marcus