Student Well-Being

When Youth Sports Rules Fly in the Face of Sportsmanship

By Bryan Toporek — April 08, 2011 1 min read
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What does it take for a district to change its “mercy rule” for youth baseball teams? Two high school baseball teams in Texas found out the answer the hard way.

Lake Highlands High School blew out Dallas Samuell High School by more than 50 runs back on March 8, bringing back memories of the 100-0 girls’ basketball game between two Texas schools in 2009.

Except, according to accounts from people at the game, Lake Highlands coach Jay Higgins quickly called off his horses after jumping out to an early lead. He pulled his starters, let his reserves play, and told his hitters not to move more than one base on a given play.

But, as Higgins told the Dallas Morning News after the game, his hands were tied by the rulebooks.

“We did everything possible,” Higgins said. “The national federation, which is the rule book we go by, says you have to play five innings before the game is considered official. That’s what I was worried about—if you stop after three innings and somebody comes back and says, ‘Well, you guys didn’t play an official game.’ ”

Texas baseball coaches have a mercy rule in place that ends any game when a team is up by 10 or more runs after five innings; however, Lake Highlands’ blowout began long before the fifth inning. Since the game, the Richardson Independent School District modified its mercy rule to say that games can now be ended if there’s a 15-run margin after three innings, according to the Associated Press.

Mark Cousins, interim athletic director for the University Interscholastic League (which oversees public high school sports in Texas), told the AP there’s a provision in the National Federation of Baseball Rule Book that allows for a game to be called early if both coaches and the umpire agree. However, Cousins said that the rule had “not ever been used to [his] knowledge.”

Be sure to read the AP’s entire story about this, if for no other reason than to see how the parents and players of both teams handled the situation with grace and dignity. (Lake Highlands parents began cheering for the Samuell players once it became obvious that the rout was on.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.