022: Strike One, You’re Out!

Stella Case No. 022, Originally Published: 4 December 2002

Jason Abbitt, 15, signed up with the Vallejo (Calif.) Babe Ruth Baseball League. But Jason didn’t get to play as much as he thought he should. “It got tiring,” he said. “I just sat there. During the season, you had to dig a hole to find my self-esteem, it was so low.” He says last year “I played less than 10 percent of the games. At the end of the year, [the coach] promised I’d be a starting player.”

Hoping for improvement, he signed up again. But, he says, he only played “maybe 20 percent of the total innings.” Then again, when he did get to play, he didn’t like the position he was assigned. “I would like to have played second base, but when I did play, [the coach] stuck me out in right field because nothing gets hit out there.” Double the play time wasn’t good enough for Jason, who batted just .083 this year, versus the best hitter’s .368 — he figures he sat on the bench during 80 percent of the games. “That’s why I’m suing for 80 percent of the sign-up fee.”

Nah, this isn’t Abbitt: it’s kids just having fun in an organized youth baseball league.

That’s right: since Jason paid $85 to sign up, and figures he didn’t play 80 percent of the time, he sued the league in small claims court for about 80 percent of the sign-up fee he paid: $65 plus court costs.

League president Dennis Clemente says he long ago told Jason’s father, David Abbitt, 47, that there is “no guarantee of your son playing a single minute.” He also told the Abbitts that it was possible to get sign-up fees reimbursed by appealing to the league’s board, which considers such requests on a case-by-case basis. But, he said, neither Jason nor his father ever even asked the board for a refund.

“The big picture is he’s a kid and he has feelings,” Jason’s father, David, said. “He’s not paying to sit the bench.” He complains the coaches are too focused on winning. “At this age it’s not about winning or losing; it’s about having fun. About heading into adulthood. [But] the coaches tend to think it’s always the seventh game of the World Series.”

Clemente says that’s not true — it’s the kids that are definitely playing to win. “There’s not many that just want to come out and play. Most want to win and they get upset when they don’t win.” And the parents also get upset when their kid’s team doesn’t win, he says. When they don’t, “they want their son traded to a better team.” David did try to get Jason traded, but the request was turned down.

David says youth baseball is “about heading into adulthood.” But instead of even attempting to go through the regular channels to get a refund, Jason sued the Babe Ruth league. One wonders: if David’s father had spent as much time helping him be a better ball player as he did on complaining and supporting his lawsuit, maybe he would have been good enough that he got to play more. But that’s not how things are done in the Victim Culture that’s growing in America.

Alas, Solano County Small Claims Court sent David to the showers — it dismissed his suit — showing him that sportsman-like conduct means being able to accept losing. Welcome to adulthood, kid.

Sources

  • “Father, Son File Suit Against Babe Ruth League,” Vallejo Times-Herald, 19 October 2002
  • “Lawsuit Wasn’t Worth the Hassle,” Vallejo Times-Herald, 17 November 2002

Case Status

Dismissed by the judge.

Letters

I knew I’d hear from someone about my crack on the letter where I concluded, “And it just so happens I love most animals, particularly grilled tri-tip beefsteak with sauteed mushrooms.”

Shane in Switzerland: “You be going to hell for that one, boy.”

No way, man — take a look at one of my other sites: Get Out of Hell Free. So there!

I mean really, who could resist?

The special rant published Thursday responded to a fairly ridiculous attack by “D.F.” The mail after its original publication in support of my “rant” was crushing. I’ll spare you most of it, but some of it was quite interesting.

“M.E” in Oregon: “I read D.F.’s argument and it got me to thinking about why I read all of your newsletters. It’s not because they are entertaining, though they are that. It’s not because I can laugh about the people who aren’t in my gene pool, for which I thank God. I read your newsletters because they make me think more deeply about situations and provoke strong responses from within me.”

Mary in Texas: “You are sooo patient. I would have a hard time giving time, especially in print, to someone spouting ignorance such as D.F. I know that is more than patience; the only way to educate people is to address issues, however ignorant. Still, I find it such a chore to educate people who are unwilling or unable to think logically.”

Lydia in Florida: “I am increasingly impressed by your eloquence — from funny comments to serious, thought-provoking arguments. Your replies to D.F.’s e-mail were inspiring, to say the least; thank you for taking the time (and the space) to share these with your readers.”

Cris in Ohio: “God bless you Randy. Stand your ground and more of us WILL gather and shout and eventually WE WILL BE HEARD. That’s what America is all about, right?”

We’ll see, Cris — there are plenty of voices trying to convince us “victimhood” is what America is about.

David in Texas: “I want to know how you are forcing D.F. to read each issue? With power like that you can control the world!”

Shhhh! Don’t let on about my evil plans, Dave!

Terry in Illinois: “If I were you, I’d at least have given D.F. this free advice: If this issue is so damned important to you, create your OWN web site to promote it. Duh!!”

Actually, in my response directly to him, I did! He didn’t seem to be too interested in that idea, preferring to try to bend me to his will, and then complaining that I will “obviously” be a tool of special interest groups because I can’t be compromised. (?!)

Kevin in Massachusetts: “Bravo! One of your best (and most intelligent) ‘rants’ to date, and that’s saying something. I sent it to about 20 people in my contacts list. I’d expect quite a few subscriptions out of that. Thanks for what you do.”

Indeed many of you did alert friends, as I asked at the end. I saw that many of those recently signing up for subscriptions said they were signing on at the suggestion of a friend.

TSA was also written up [in 2002] by Der Spiegel magazine in Germany. All told, that brought more than 1,200 new subscribers. Word of mouth works. Oh, and links help a lot too! If you have a web site, even just a “little” personal site, please help by putting in a link to the StellaAwards.com site. There was even a letter about that:

Ken in New Mexico: “AMEN! But we must do more. I will be printing this issue out and showing it to my father, who is a state legislator here in New Mexico. Others should contact their state and federal representatives and DEMAND that action be taken to prevent this sort of theft be stopped. And it is theft. As you rightly pointed out, you and I must pay for this lawerly extortion; ‘evil corporations’ don’t really pay a cent for this abuse of the system. When ‘We the People’ get angry enough about this to contact our representatives en masse, then we WILL change things!”

Ken in Michigan: “Methinks D.F. complains too much. His comments, full of ‘legalese’, make me strongly suspicious that he makes his living via or near to the legal professions. If so, what does that say about his unbiased opinion, and his ability to criticize objectively?”

Many others suggested D.F. sounded like a sore-losing lawyer. I don’t know if he is or not; he didn’t say.

William in Indiana is a lawyer. He writes: “I look forward to your email with both anticipation and a certain level of disgust. Far too many people truly believe that they are victims of SOMETHING, and far too many attorneys are willing to help them coax settlements out of big corporations who will never miss several million dollars. I worry for my profession, and I sincerely hope that publications such as yours will help to shed light on the rampant abuses of our legal system. As an officer of the court, attorneys are the first line of defense, and more of us need to have the cajones to tell a potential client, ‘You have got to be kidding me, you are an idiot. Please get out of my office.’ This is clearly the most effective way to combat these cases until more permanent legislative action can be taken.”

Brian in California: “I’m a law student, [and] I love this publication. D.F. is actually correct about dismissal and appellate oversight of frivolous suits. But even dismissing a frivolous suit right away still takes time away from people with legitimate claims. Court oversight is not enough. We need personal responsibility back.”

Yes, that was just a small sample of the 2002 mail on the subject!

My 2020 Thoughts on the Case

There are many paths to get from A to Z, but doing an end run isn’t the way to play in a meritocratic system. You put in the work first, then try for promotion. Did the work and didn’t get the promotion? Then ask the coach what needs to be done to do better next time. Suing is definitely not the the first step.

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4 Comments on “022: Strike One, You’re Out!

  1. There was (about 3.5 years ago) a famous politician who got sued. The plaintiffs presented their case, and when it came time for the Defense the judge told ’em to go home. Case dismissed.

    I was present at a pair of Union disciplinary hearings. Same thing: when it was time for the defense to present the board member said, “Even if we accept all the charges and specifications, the defendant stands accused of doing his job.” (I might add he was not guilty. His assistant did the job.) Gotta love it when the defense is sent home victorious.

    Reply
  2. I am so sick of the ‘everyone is a winner, everyone gets a trophy’ mentality. Sports, like life, is competition. Win and do better, lose and learn to do better. Follow the rules of the game or don’t play. How would it be if the NFL Super Bowl was just played ‘for fun’? He never asked for a refund, (did not follow the rules already put in place for the losers). His FATHER needs to learn the rules. Wonder if his father ‘sued’ because he did not like the way HIS job was working out? What has the world come to?

    Reply
  3. This case was 18 years ago, most likely the kid (Jason Abbit) grew up to be a wimp.

    Well, my hope is that it helped him grow up to be a better person. -rc

    Reply
  4. You know, I was in my second season of Little League in 2002 as well. And I also played very little of the games I was (allegedly) part of. Our league regulations specified that any child who was signed up had to play at least two innings, including one at-bat. It took me WAY too long to realize that my coach would sub me into right field in the inning immediately preceding whoever I was taking over for going up to bat, so that I would field one inning, bat in the next (or the second half of the inning), field the other half of an inning, and immediately be subbed out. (Yes, really. I didn’t even get to finish the games out.)

    Suing the league would never have occurred to me. Even if I had known at the time that the reason I wasn’t getting to play was because my coach’s daughter, who was also on the team, was upset because I was a better player than she was despite being overweight and the coach had decided the way to make her daughter feel better, rather than help her to become a better player (which…I would have thought was the POINT of being a coach, but I digress), was to break down my already low self-esteem and make me quit. (I can’t imagine what she thought when I came back for a second year.) And anyway, it would have been thrown out as well, since, of course, my coach was following the letter of the regulations. We were required to play a certain number of innings. Well, I played them! The league wasn’t responsible for players thinking they “deserved” to play more.

    And to Michael in Dallas, above — here’s a secret: Most of us kids hated those “participation trophies” too. We knew they didn’t mean anything. We’re not stupid. My coach did this thing where she would give the MVP (or MVPs) the “game ball” after the game — actually a new softball she bought specifically for the purpose, rather than one actually used in the game itself, which she would have everyone on the team sign. We all figured out that nobody ever got more than one, and that the earlier in the season you got it, the more likely it was to actually mean something. I was literally the last one to get one; there were three of us who hadn’t received one by the last game of the season, so we all got one, but my coach made sure I was the last one to be presented with it. I still have it…somewhere…I think…but only because it has my teammates’ names on it.

    Joke’s on her, though. I’m sitting here in my bedroom and looking directly at the only softball trophy I still have in my possession — from the 2003 season, when I played for my school team rather than the Little League. Our school didn’t do participation trophies. It’s the MVP Award.

    I’m glad I read the whole comment: the last paragraph is sweet! -rc

    Reply

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