May 8, 2020 - This is an open letter addressed to every parent, grandparent, boy or girl who lives in Shelby County. If you are a parent or grandparent with a child or grandchild who loves to play baseball or softball, the following will affect you personally. Please do not turn away.
My name is Brad Taylor, and after visiting Center on many occasions in the past eighteen years, I am now a permanent resident in this fair city. Many of you do not know me, and I do not know you, so that's a fair place to begin--I hope you will agree.
Why Center? Simple, really. Center has been on my "bucket list" for several years, and I feel my time is now or never.
My one true love? Baseball and softball. I teach---hitting, infield, outfield, catching--everything except pitching, but most of all--hitting. Twenty-five years playing the game, but not one inning on the mound and, sad to say, not even one out in the major leagues.
When I say "teach," I mean I dwell deeply into the bowels of the game. During the past fifteen years I have had more than 400 individual hitting students, and I have personally studied in excess of 5000 men, women, boys and girls standing in the batter's box.
Bragging? No--nothing to boast about, just some facts about my personal and professional walk through God's world.
At this time last year, I was working with the boy's and girl's teams at three 6A high schools in the Houston area. Good coaches and many fine young players. I will miss them.
But—a huge meaning for such a small word.
In my remaining years, what I hope to become a very small part of in Shelby County is not possible in large communities, such as those around Houston, Dallas, or San Antonio. Larger municipal centers too often lack a sense of civic pride.
More rural areas, exactly like Shelby County, are blessed to have a more "homey" type of lifestyle, with less rush and confusion than in our big cities. And, therein lies the difference, our families and our lifestyles.
All of God's children should be fortunate enough to grow up in Center, or Shelbyville, or Joaquin, or Timpson, or in Tenaha, but too many are not so lucky.
In all my times visiting in Center, I have come to fully understand this city's love for sports, and that is a very healthy thing. You enjoy watching your kids playing baseball, softball, basketball, football, soccer and tennis.
However, Shelby County is no different from the rest of our nation in one huge respect.
Everywhere, from Maine to California, too many boys and girls begin playing baseball and softball at a very young age, then lose interest around age twelve or thirteen, and decide to give it up. The word that best describes this common condition? BURNOUT. They no longer want to play the games.
I have personally had conversations with six mothers in Center, and they all agreed that their four sons and two daughters were exactly that—burned out. They lost interest in playing the games.
Why are kids dropping out just when baseball and softball should be getting more fun for them?
The answer is simple, but not immediately obvious to almost any adult who may wonder why.
Far too often, kids in Shelby County, Harris County, Dallas County, and every other county across our nation, are playing baseball and softball, but they are not learning the games.
Their skillsets often do not improve from one year to the next, and there is one reason for their giving up.
What I want to offer next is certainly not a slam to any adult who may take personal offense, so begin with the following:
Who are often the coaches for our kids when they first begin playing baseball and softball?
Parents---volunteers who freely give of their time and efforts to help steer their young in the right directions.
In all honesty, without their devotion and commitment to the kids, there would be no baseball or softball of any kind ever, youth, high school, college, or professional baseball. Those mothers and fathers should be applauded daily, and we others will be forever in their debt.
But, the other shoe, or the other side of the coin.
Those parents will forever be coaches, not teachers. The difference? "Coaches tell players what to do. Teachers show them how to do it." We must train more coaches to become teachers, and that is not a difficult task. They must merely be willing to learn.
Is every child in Shelby County meant to become a baseball or softball player? Of course not. Many will stride for success in other, more important fields of study, but every one of our kids deserves an opportunity to follow a dream.
I have hosted a number of baseball-softball clinics, from Tennessee to Arizona, but my favorite seminar was close to home, in Clear Lake, Texas, home of NASA, about twelve years ago. That clinic was held on a football field, with 200-250 boys and girls, accompanied by their parents.
I introduced myself, and my son Jeff, and immediately began asking questions.
"How many of you kids would someday like to become a lawyer?" Eight or nine hands went up, and to one boy I said, "and what does your father do?" "He's a lawyer," the boy replied proudly. My next question---"and how many of you would like to become a doctor?" Another dozen hands, and to one boy I repeated, "and what does your father do?" "He's a doctor." And so on, with a few more professions.
Then a nine year-old girl held up her hand, and I asked her what she wanted to become. "An Astronaut," she said with a big smile.
Now, we were at NASA, home of Astronauts, and I asked her, "your father isn't an Astronaut, is he?" "No, sir, but my mother is." That was truly a treasured moment in my life.
When I had recovered enough to continue, I said, "and how many of you would like to someday become a professional baseball player, or a college softball player?"
That stadium almost erupted. After their parents calmed them down, I continued. "Every one of you, I mean all of you can reach your goals if you study hard enough, and work hard enough—lawyers, if you finish college, then law school—doctors, with college and med school, and you others in your chosen fields. As for you, young lady, an Astronaut? I wouldn't begin to know what to tell you, but your mother does. Stay close to her, and listen to her very carefully.
"Now, a very strong message to all of you who yelled when I asked about a baseball or softball career. That can happen for you, too, but there are some very serious snags that can stop you far from your goal.
"First, a career altering injury, one that could keep you from ever reaching that goal. That has happened to hundreds of others, even those whose talents may have been greater than yours. Unfortunately, that happened to me. Secondly, you may never become good enough. That has been the end result for ninety percent of the hopefuls. And, you have to have luck, lots of luck, good luck.
"Am I trying to discourage you? Not at all. I want you to try even harder, and don't just give up.
"But, I will tell you something far more important. You must have an even more valuable backup plan, your education—as much education as your mind and body can absorb. Physical setbacks can never take that away from you. Education comes first."
I then asked my son, Jeff to take the kids to the far end of the field. I wanted to concentrate on their parents.
When the kids were out of the sound of my voice, I very seriously told the adults, "never steal a child's dream. It is highly unlikely that many, if any, of your children will ever reach the professional ranks, but he or she can hold on to that dream while they are still kids. If he doesn't pick up his dirty clothes, if she doesn't do the dishes on time, don't hurt them by threatening to take away their dreams. Find other means of punishment. You'll know what to do."
Now, to you parents of Shelby County. Is there even one mother or father among you who doesn't want their child to have every opportunity to succeed in life? Of course not. We all want the best for our own, but what are our priorities. How about the following in this order: 1. God 2. Family 3. Education 4. Sports.
The top three are obvious to most of us, but why is Sports rated so highly? Good question, and a good answer.
For possible high school dropouts, the most binding forces we can offer is to help them through athletics. I know you understand the importance of sports in their lives. Their interest in sports can help keep them in school.
If you are still reading this letter, it is obvious that you do care. OK, to every parent, an honest question, in search of an honest answer.
"Is your child a hitter, or is he/she a batter?"
The difference between a hitter and a batter? A hitter has achieved success---a batter is still searching for success.
1. A hitter will walk more than he/she strikes out. With batters, the opposite is true.
2. A hitter will make solid contact, whereas a batter too often does not make solid contact.
3. A hitter "drives" the ball. A batter "pushes" the ball.
4. A hitter "completes" his/her swing. A batter seldom "completes" his/her swing. (As a parent/coach, do you know the difference?)
5. A hitter is far more confident than a batter. (As a parent, do you know how to instill true confidence in your child?)
Those five points are but a few of the many complexities in working with youths, boys and girls. For continual improvement, every child in Shelby County deserves nothing but the finest in their hopes of someday becoming complete hitters.
Am I in search of financial gain from my involvement in the growth of success for your children? My firm unshakable reply--NO. My only desire is to help Shelby County's kids to become the best hitters in the country.
I will follow this letter with a shorter letter in a few days, but I want to leave you with a huge question to run through your mind. Will you know the answer? Of course not---but, neither will the nine hundred-or-so major league players and coaches in the game today. A one-word answer that disappeared from baseball about ninety years ago, and such a shame.
"Why do batters fail to become hitters?" Remember--a one-word answer.
Talk to you soon.