Don’t Widen The Plate

Written by Posted On Friday, 30 September 2022 00:00

You may have heard the story about Coach John Scolinos before, but as we move into the MLB playoffs, I’m reminded of it as rule changes are contemplated.

Some 4,000 baseball coaches were in attendance at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee for their annual convention when one name, John Scolinos, kept resurfacing.

“Oh man,” said one, “I look forward to hearing him.” Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and had been retired from college after coaching for more than 40 years. As he shuffled onto the stage, he wore a string from which a full-sized, stark-white home plate hung around his neck. After speaking for about 20 minutes, the crowd began snickering about that home plate and thought Scolinos had perhaps forgotten he had it still hanging there.

Finally, he said, “You’re probably wondering why I’m wearing this home plate?” He didn’t wait for their answer, but continued, “I stand before you about what I’ve learned in my 78 years about home plate.”

Scolinos then asked, “How many Little League coaches are in the room?” Many hands went up.

“And how wide is the home plate in Little League?” Someone shouted, “17 inches.”

“That’s right!” And then he said, “How many Babe Ruth coaches are here? How wide is that home plate?”

“17 inches” was shouted.

“How many high school coaches and how wide is that home plate?”

“17 inches,” came the answer.

“And those of you who coach in college?”

A prominent college coach said, “17.”

“And in our major leagues, it is 17 inches,” coach Scolinos shouted back.

“And what do they do with a big-league pitcher who can’t throw the ball over 17 inches? They send him to Pocatello! What they don’t say is ‘Ah, that’s OK, Jimmy. If you can’t hit 17 inches we’ll just widen the plate to 18 or 19 or 20 inches. Just let us know what you need.

“What do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? Or he gets caught drinking?  Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen the plate?”

The coaches were astounded to have come to a convention, perhaps to learn about curveballs and bunting and how to hold better practices, but learned something far more valuable – from an old man with a home plate strung around his neck. They were all learning something about themselves, and about their responsibilities as a leader.

Will you hold yourself accountable to those 17 inches in all that you do?

To see a video of coach John Scolinos’ presentation visit YouTube.

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Dr. Jim Tunney

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career in sports. A former high school coach, teacher, principal and district superintendent, he had a 40-year career in officiating football and basketball.

Thirty-one of those years he was an NFL Referee working a record twenty-nine post-season games including four Super Bowls, ten NFC/AFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and twenty-five Monday Night Games.

He officiated some of the most memorable games in NFL history. His book Impartial Judgment: “The Dean of NFL Referees” Calls Pro Football As He Sees It, chronicles his NFL career.

As a Professional Speaker, he is Past President of The National Speakers Association and a Charter Member of its most prestigious group – The CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame. Jim holds every professional designation of the NSA, including the Oscar of Professional Speaking – The Cavett. NSA named him Philanthropist of the Year in 2007.

Dr. Tunney (a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California) continues to serve his community as  Trustee Emeritus of both Monterey Peninsula College and York School; where he once served as Headmaster. In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation to support local community programs that develop leadership, work skills, wellness and self-esteem in youth. He and his wife Linda live in Pebble Beach, California. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

As an author he has written and/or co-authored thirteen books: Impartial Judgment, Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, Speaking Secrets of the Masters, You Can Do It!, Super Bowl Sunday, Insights into Excellence, Lessons in Leadership, Build a Better You and his most recent book, It’s the Will, Not the Skill.

If you are looking for a keynote speaker who educates, motivates and entertains with a lifetime of stories about leadership, team building and sports 831-595-3258.

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