Recently, I read an article posted on Facebook: “Stay at 17 Inches.” It caught my attention because my son is an avid baseball player. While he’s played nearly all outfield positions–left field, shortstop, first base, and catcher–this year, my left-handed kid determined to take on pitching.  And whoa, the struggle is real. What’s more stressful than pitching a baseball game? Watching your kid pitch a baseball game.

He’s been practicing. One morning before school, while brushing my daughter’s hair, I was startled by loud thuds from the backyard. I opened the window blinds. There he was pitching balls into a metal bucket propped on a play set. Pitched one ball so hard he split the bottom in two.

After school, his grandpa took him for one-on-one practice and feedback. He got feedback from college-level coaches and players. He pitched and pitched until his little arm was swollen and sore. He wanted to pitch that badly.

It pained me as a mama to watch my boy practice so hard and still struggle with the size of that plate. I learned how small a 17-inch target is. The smallest pull, drag, or tilt of balance lands a pitch outside of the narrow strike zone.

On a night where he’s committed to hitting the target fifteen times before coming in for dinner, it would be much easier to find a bigger bucket–a wider zone–so the boy could hurry up, get his pitches in, eat dinner, then finish up homework. But widening the zone in practice wouldn’t help his game. It would hurt it.

He has to pitch at 17 inches. In baseball and life.

We all have to be at 17 inches. Parents, coaches, teachers, students, preachers, congregants, friends, family, employers, employees, politicians, leaders. 17 inches is the standard for all. I encourage you to read Chris Sperry’s full post at the following link. Below is an excerpt.

STAY AT 17 INCHES.

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.

“… dark days ahead.”