17 Inches – A Powerful Message for all : “Don’t ever widen the plate”

A retired baseball coach was asked to speak to over 4,000 baseball coaches. If you are a Parent, career professional, business owner, government official or corporate supervisor you find this story of interest and learn something from this powerful message.

The name of the Coach who gave the speech was John Scolinos. He was 78 years old at the time and was in the hall of fame for College Baseball Coaches. Scolinos helped coach the 1984 Olympic Baseball team to victory. Since I did not personally hear the speech some of the details may be off but I think U will accurately convey his message.

When old coach Scolinos walked out on stage he had an “Official Basesball White Home Plate” hanging around his neck. The audience began to roar with laughter as they thought this old man was some kind of comedy act their meeting planner has scheduled.

However, the Coach immediately asked “Do we have any Little League coaches out there”? Several hands went up. “Do any of you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” Someone yelled out “Seventeen inches?” “That’s right”, the old coach said.
“Now, are there any High School baseball coaches in the room today?” Over a hundred hands shot up. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?” “Seventeen inches,” someone said. “You’re right!” the coach said.
“How about College baseball coaches are you out there”? Half the room raised their hands. “Well how wide is home plate in college baseball?” “Seventeen inches!” everyone yelled out in unison.” You are right” the coach responded.
Here’s a hard question the coach asked – “Back in Babe Ruth’s day how wide was home plate”? Silence hit the room, then someone sheepishly yelled out “Seventeen inches?” “That’s right,” said the coach.

Now the coach changed his focus and asked “What do you suppose a Major League’s team’s management would do if a Big League pitcher couldn’t throw a ball over a seventeen inch plate?” He paused; the room fell silent again. Finally the said “They send him down to the minors or fire him!”
“But let me tell you what they would never ever do. They would never say, ‘Ah, that’s alright buddy, if you can’t throw a baseball over a seventeen-inch target we’ll make bigger for you – maybe we will widen it to nineteen or twenty inches so it will be easier for you; and if that’s not enough we will make it twenty-five inches wide.’”

Scolinos then asked the audience … “He is a question for each of you. What would you do if your best player consistently showed up late for practice? Or if your team rules forbid facial hair and some of your players starting showing up on game days unshaven? What about if one of your players got caught drinking after hours the night before a game? Would you hold those players accountable or would you widen home plate for them to fit their special needs?” The 4000 coaches now sat quiet as the old coach’s message began to mesmerize them.

Coach Scolinos then turned the plate on his chest towards himself and took out a black magic marker to draw something on it. When he finished he turned the plate around for the crowd to see. He had drawn a simple house complete with a front door and two windows.

He then said “The problems with most homes today – and with many organizations and associations – is there are no standards for people to follow or people willing to enforce them. We no longer teach our children, our players or our employees our members accountability. It’s so much easier for parents, managers and executive directors to just simply widen the plate!” The result is there are no consequences when people today fail to meet standards.

“Let’s face it; we have lowered standards in education. Has widening the plate helped out our schools? We’ve changed the standards in some religions – has widening the plate helped our Churches? We have lowered the standards all across government – has widened home plate made our governments better?”

Then he turned the home plate on his chest around to reveal the backside of it again and said “When we fail to hold ourselves, our children, our players or our employees accountable to any standards our future gets dark – as the backside was completely black.

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 – age of 91. His message however was clear: If you’re a parent, business owner, lead an organization, hold a public office, manage a department or supervise a unit of people “Don’t ever widen the plate” … maintain and enforce the standards you have set.”

I am fortunate to work with many business organizations, local units of government and professional associations to help them solve their problems. I know from first-hand experience most of their current problems have occurred because at some point in the past someone widened the plate to make it easier on their employees, their staff their children or their members.

The hardest part about being a parent, a business manager or a government leader is maintaining the standards you have set for your home or your organization.
Its so much easier to cave in and relax your standards – and the minute you do …
you have no standards!