116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DYERSVILLE — On a beautiful day filled with rampant positivity, John Smoltz chose to fire a warning shot toward youth parents and coaches Thursday afternoon. Or maybe it was just a strongly worded piece of advice.
The Hall of Fame pitcher was speaking at the 'Field of Dreams' movie site as part of an announcement by Major League Baseball that a mobile, interactive Hall would be touring six cities this summer, beginning July 3-10 in Davenport.
The discussion, which included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, turned to baseball's 'Play Ball' initiative aimed at making sure youths continue to play and appreciate the game. Smoltz warned that playing baseball, any sport, exclusively is a bad thing.
'People think you have to play year around to be able to eventually play professional baseball or basketball or football. That's simply not true,' Smoltz said. 'I love where I grew up (Lansing, Mich.). Seasonal changes meant seasonal sports. I played three of them. The opportunity to get outside and play sports is one of the greatest things kids have.'
Smoltz said he believes playing baseball, especially pitching, year around is a major cause of the preponderance of Tommy John, elbow-ligament replacement surgeries today, including the youth level. The recent book 'The Arm' took to task baseball's obsession with radar guns and velocity, calling out Perfect Game USA of Cedar Rapids specifically for its year-around youth showcases.
'I know there are a lot of distractions, a lot of technology,' Smoltz said. 'But playing year around, in places like the South and the West, is just not as advantageous as people think. The history of injuries, all the things that go on, that's why places like here and Michigan and the Midwest, getting the opportunity to play seasonal sports and be athletic is something that ... parents, you just don't understand how much time your children have.
'As a player who grew up and loves sports, who got a chance to play multiple sports, and that's the reason I was able to play baseball as long as I did (21 years). It's the reason, for the most part, that I stayed as healthy as I did. I didn't consume myself with one sport (all) year, and that was it. I think we've got to reverse the trend. We really do. There are so many great athletes, so many great baseball players today. But I want to see them play as long as they can. Year-around baseball is going to cripple the opportunity for many kids to play this game as long as they can.'
Manfred talked about how MLB wants to show kids that they don't always need play in organized leagues to enjoy the sport. Youth baseball, youth sports in general, has become a cottage industry, many believe a cesspool cottage industry.
The days of simply going outside and playing 'pick-up games' with friends is over.
'We need to show kids that you don't need 18 kids and umpires and parents in the stands to play baseball and engage with our game,' Manfred said. 'We're trying to get back to a simpler way, the way I remember playing baseball as a kid. However many guys you had, you figured out a way to play. We think that's important and the backbone of the development of the next generation of fans.'
How They're Doing
Colin Rea (Cascade): Pitcher has yet to make a start for Triple-A El Paso (Padres) since being demoted from the major leagues last week.
Scott Schebler (Cedar Rapids Prairie): Outfielder is hitting .235 in 17 games for Triple-A Louisville (Reds). Has a home run and nine RBIs.
Chad Christensen (Cedar Rapids Washington): Outfielder is hitting .218 in 36 games for high-Class A Fort Myers (Twins), with two home runs and seven RBIs.
Matt Dermody (University of Iowa): Relief pitcher has been promoted to Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays), where he has recorded 3 1/3 shutout innings in two appearances. Went 1-1 with three saves and a 1.66 earned run average in 16 games for high-A Dunedin.
Jon Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Had string of 6 2/3 scoreless innings come to an end Friday for Double-A Bowie (Orioles), allowing three runs in one-third of an inning. Has a save and 4.74 ERA in 12 appearances this season.
Mitch Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Had his roughest outing for low-A West Virginia (Pirates) on Thursday, but still went six innings, giving up four earned runs. Is 3-3 in nine starts with 1.94 ERA. Has allowed 34 hits and four walks in 51 innings, striking out 58.
Jake Yacinich (University of Iowa): Shortstop hitting .214 in 11 games for low-A Burlington (Angels), with two homers and seven RBIs.
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