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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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