Change of Pace

January 30, 2015

Michael Schwimer is little known to us in Michigan. He was a 6-8, 240-pound relief pitcher out of the University of Virginia who was drafted in the 10th round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
In his minor league career, Schwimer earned 20 wins against 10 losses with a respectable 2.51 ERA. He struck out an eye-popping 12 batters per nine innings.
When Schwimer made his Major League Baseball debut for the Phillies in August of 2011, he served up a game-tying home run to the first batter he faced. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in February of 2013, and was released by the Blue Jays the following August. You might say Schwimer majored in the minors. That’s where he peaked as a professional baseball player.
As a player, Schwimer made few waves. He wasn’t a “game changer.” And yet, he may still be known as one who helped to change the game itself.
Schwimer is widely reported to be the first MLB player to use a glove that was made of synthetics, not leather (which weighs twice as much), and was made using a plaster cast of his hand. It was a custom-made, form-fitting glove.
The result looks almost like a toy glove, fit for T-ball; but MLB gave it a “thumbs up” in December of 2011. MLB players have been warming to the glove, although very slowly.
To which Schwimer responds: “It takes forever for any change to occur. But when change happens, it happens really fast.”
That almost sounds like something Yogi Berra would have said – like, “it takes forever for change to occur, and then it doesn’t.” But experience very often teaches us the truth of this sentiment.
As the MHSAA reprocesses two of its toughest topics ever – out-of-season coaching rules and 6th-graders’ roles in school sports and the MHSAA – it seems like there is no progress toward change. And no change is the possible outcome of both long journeys.
But it’s also possible that, for one or both topics, the time will come when wisdom and will combine to create constructive change, which then seems to be occurring almost overnight.
My hope is that we find that formula before a rash of problems causes a tipping point that results in a rush toward solutions that are poorly conceived and/or politically imposed by outside entities.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.