Category: Baseball

17 Inches… One of My All-Time Favorite Life Lessons!

This was sent my direction by my friend John Santi, Wealth & Investment Advisor. John is always passing along some interesting items, but this one really caught my attention and I wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have…

Over twenty one years ago, in Nashville , Tennessee , during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.
One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?
“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause. “Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?”

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 just 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 for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls 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 & churches & 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, “…We have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in Nov 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now go out there and fix it… “Don’t widen the plate!”

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

“Give My Regards To The Catcher”

When baseball greats Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went on tour in baseball-crazy Japan in 1934, some fans wondered why a third-string catcher named Moe Berg was included. Although he played with five major-league teams from 1923 to 1939, at best he was a very mediocre ball. He was however often regarded as the brainiest ballplayer of all time. In fact, Casey Stengel once said: “That is the strangest man ever to play baseball”. In Barringer High School, Moe learned Latin, Greek and French. Moe read at least 10 newspapers everyday. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton where he played baseball and basketball – having added Spanish, Italian, German and Sanskrit to his linguistic quiver. During further studies at the Sorbonne, in Paris and Columbia Law School, he picked up Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian – 15 languages in all, plus some regional dialects. After college he went on to play baseball in the major league, first with the White Sox and then the Cleveland Indians, many people wondering how? Then in 1934 Herb Hunter arranged for a group of All-Stars, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earl Averill, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Gomez, to tour Japan playing exhibitions against a Japanese all-star team. Despite the fact that Berg was a mediocre, third-string catcher, he was invited at the last minute to make the trip. Among the items Berg took with him to Japan were a 16-mm Bell & Howell movie camera and a letter from MovietoneNews, a New York City newsreel production company with which Berg had contracted to film the sights of his trip. When the team arrived in Japan, he gave a welcome speech in Japanese and also addressed the legislature. On November 29, 1934, while the rest of the team was playing in Omiya, Berg went to Saint Luke’s Hospital in Tsukiji, supposedly to visit the daughter of American ambassador Joseph Grew. Instead, Berg sneaked onto the roof of the hospital, one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, and filmed the city and harbor with his movie camera, particularly filming key features: the harbor, military installations, railway yards, etc. He never did see the ambassador’s daughter. Back at home, the Indians gave him his unconditional release and Beerg continued on to the Philippines, Korea and Moscow. Eight years later, General Jimmy Doolittle studied Berg’s films in planning his spectacular raid on Tokyo. I should also not that in the summer of 1943, Berg became a paramilitary operations officer in the part of the OSS that is now called the CIA Special Activities Division. He was assigned to the Secret Intelligence branch and parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia to evaluate the various resistance groups operating against the Nazis to determine which was the strongest. He talked to both Mihailović and Marshall Tito and reviewed their forces, deciding that Tito had the stronger and better supported group. In return Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered all-out support for the Yugoslav underground fighter, rather than Mihajlovic’s Serbians, which was huge turning point. In late 1943, Berg was assigned to Project Larson, an intelligence operation set up by Chief of Special Projects John Shaheen. The stated purpose of the project was to kidnap Italian rocket and missile specialists out of Italy and bring them to the U.S. However, there was another project hidden within Larson, called Project AZUSA, with the goal of interviewing Italian physicists to see what they knew about Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. From May to mid-December 1944, Berg hopped around Europe interviewing physicists and trying to convince several to leave Europe and work in America. At the beginning of December, news about Heisenberg giving a lecture in Zürich reached the CIA. Berg was assigned to attend the lecture and determine “if anything Heisenberg said convinced him the Germans were close to a bomb.” If Berg came to the conclusion that the Germans were close, he had orders to shoot Heisenberg and then swallow the cyanide pill. The story is Moe managed to slip past the SS guards at the auditorium, posing as a Swiss graduate student. He then determined that the Germans were not as close as some thought to a nuclear bomb. During his time he was able to meet with members of the underground, and located a secret heavy-water plant which was part of the Nazis’ effort to build an atomic bomb. His information guided the Royal Air Force in a bombing raid to destroy that plant. Also during his time Berg became close friends with physicist Paul Scherrer and many other leading physicists who were also Jewish. Moe Berg’s reports were distributed to Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and key figures in the team developing the Atomic Bomb. Roosevelt once responded: “Give my regards to the catcher.” Berg returned to the United States on April 25, 1945. By October of that same year he was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Interestingly he rejected the award and continued to turn it down throughout his lifetime; it was re-awarded after his death, with his sister accepting on his behalf.

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.



“The one constant through all the years, Ray has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.”

– James Earl Jones, Field of Dreams

The 2017 MLB season will officially kick-off this Sunday with three games. Another 24 teams start their regular season play on Monday. I have highlighted below the threeSunday match-ups and a few other items worth noting as we begin anther season of baseball… Eager for it all to begin!

Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals – The Chicago Cubs will begin defending their World Series crown against their bitter division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs are trying to become the first to win 100 games in back-to-back seasons since the 2004-05 Cardinals and the first repeat champions since the 1998-2000 Yankees. The game is scheduled forSunday night in St. Louis and will be featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball at 7:30 p.m. CST. Chicago Cubs ace left-hander Jon Lester will start against the Cardinals. He will be opposed by Cardinals’ dynamic right-handed pitcher Carlos Martinez. Both Lester and Martinez are capable of shutting down even the most powerful lineups on any given night, so it should be an interesting contest. Chicago appears to have the upper-hand in regards to offensive talent but the Cardinals are capable of putting up big numbers. I expect both of these teams to be heavy contenders in the National League Central.

San Francisco Giants vs. Arizona Diamondbacks – This looks like a great pitchers matchup, with San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, a three-time World Series champion, visiting the Arizona Diamondbacks and facing former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. This game is scheduled for a4:10pm start. As has been the case the past several years we need to keep our on San Francisco. Their starting rotation is extremely tough consisting of Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, Samardzija, Cain and Blach, Tough group!

New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays – The New York Yankees will be starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka when they visit the Tampa Bay Rays who are starting Chris Archer. The game is scheduled for a 1:10pm start. For the first time since trading away Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson in 1989, the New York Yankees became sellers last summer. They traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova in separate deadline deals that netted them 12 total prospects. The selling continued in the offseason as Brian McCann was traded for two more prospects. As a result, New York has one of the game’s best and deepest farm systems. Trading productive veterans for prospects and giving prospects playing time in the second half are the actions of a rebuilding team, though the Yankees refuse to admit they’re rebuilding. They prefer to be called a team in transition. I suspect it won’t take them very long to again become extremely competitive. They have a ton of young talent.

Opening Day No-Hitter – April of 1940, Bob Feller threw his first no-hitter, against the Chicago White Sox on opening day at Comiskey Park. The Indians won the game, 1-0. Feller’s no-hitter remains the only one to occur on any opening day in baseball history.

Party At Wrigley Continues – The Cubs are scheduled to get their World Championship rings on April 12th, two days after the home opener.

Braves Moving To New Home – The Braves leave the old historical Turner Field for their shiny new digs of SunTrust Park with their home opener against the Padres on April 14th.

Jackie Robinson Day – This season marks 70 years since Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers debut and it will be celebrated on April 15th.

Cardinals vs. Yankees – Believe it or not the two teams with the most World Series titles have played just nine interleague games against each other. On April 16th the two giants will face off against one another on ESPN

Cubs vs. Red Sox – There’s a lot of talk that this could be a preview of the upcoming 2017 World Series, I know a lot of folks will argue otherwise, but it’s early in the season and a lot of baseball junkies have the three game series in late-April already marked on there calendar.

Brewers Bobblehead – If you are a collector of bobbleheads here is must have… The Brewers will be releasing one this season of Robin Yount riding a motorcycle. I’m just hoping he’s on a Harley. Another big one will be Mets ace Noah Syndergaard pitching in a Thor costume.

Kershaw To Strikeout 2,000 – Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw’s could throw his 2,000th career strikeout by the end of May. Only eight pitchers have reached the mark before the age-30, interestingly this includes two former Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

Pujols Hits Number 600 – Many baseball guru’s are forecasting this season that Albert Pujols will become just the ninth player in all of baseball history to hit 600 home runs. If he can stay healthy it should happen by mid-May to late-June. Ahead of him on the list: Sammy Sosa (609) and Jim Thome (612).

Cleveland Indians – While many suspect they have a chance to win it all, me being one. They are also unveiling a highly anticipated Frank Robinson statue. Let’s just hope the statue is properly draped in a mid-1970s all-red Indians uniform.

All-Star Game – This years game will be held on July 11th in Miami. World Series will begin on October 24th

Mike Trout Watch – Keep in mind Trout turns just 26 years of age this season. Trout had more hits before turning 25 than Pete Rose (the all-time hits leader), more home runs before turning 25 than Barry Bonds (the all-time home runs leader) and more runs before turning 25 than Rickey Henderson (the all-time runs leader). I’ve heard he’s pretty good at this game…ha ha!

When Did Baseball Players Start Getting “PAID”

 It was on this day back in 1972 that homer legend Hank Aaron signed a three-year deal with the Atlanta Braves that paid him aa staggering $200,000 per year, making him the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball at the time. Two years later, Aaron became baseball’s home run king when he broke Babe Ruth’s long-standing record. Keep in ​m​ind Aaron was an awesome player, winning the National League batting title in 1956. The following season, he took home the league’s MVP award and helped the Braves beat Mickey Mantle and the heavily favored New York Yankees in the World Series. In 1959, Aaron won his second league batting title. Season after season, Aaron turned in strong batting performances, hitting .300 or higher in 14 seasons and slugging at least 40 homers in eight separate seasons. He is also one of only two players to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. In May 1970, he became the first player in baseball to record 500 homers and 3,000 hits. Aaron also holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (RBI) (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), and total bases (6,856). Aaron is also in the top five for career hits (3,771) and runs (2,174). He is one of only four players to have at least seventeen seasons with 150 or more hits. The achievement Aaron is best known for however is breaking Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs, which he did on April 8, 1974, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when he hit his 715th home run in the fourth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years, until it was broken by Barry Bonds. The interesting part of this story is not how good Hank Aaron was, but the difference we’ve seen in money being paid to the players in baseball. Aaron was arguably one of the all-time best and the Braves signed him to the highest paid contract in 1972. But in todays dollars, the $200,00 Aaron was paid in 1972 would be worth just over $1.1 million. For what it’s worth, Alex Rodrigues has hauled in excess of $353 million in MLB career salary earnings. The next closest is Derek Jeter at just over $250 million in career MLB earnings. For reference sake Hank Aaron banked just over $2 million in total MLB earnings during his 22 year career. I thought it would be fun to consider a few interesting facts and take a look back at how it all unfolded:
  • 1927 Babe Ruth an annual salary of $70,000 from the New York Yankees.
  • 1979 Nolan Ryan $1 million annual paycheck from the Houston Astros making him the highest paid.
  • 1981 Dave Winfield $2.5 million per year with the Yankees.
  • 1989 Kirby Puckett $3.0 million per year with the Minnesota Twins..
  • 1990 Jose Conseco $4.7 million annually from the A’s.
  • 1991 Roger Clemens $5.3 million per year signed with the Red Sox’s.
  • 1992 Ryan Sandberg $7.1 million per year with the Cubs.
  • 1996 Ken Griffey Jr. $8.5 million per year with the Seattle Mariners.
  • 1996 Albert Belle $11 million with the Chicago White Sox.
  • 1998 Mike Piazza $13 million with the New York Mets.
  • 2000 Roger Clemens $15.5 million per year with the Yankees.
  • 2000 Alex Rodriquez $25 million in late 2000 with the Texas Rangers.
  • 2017 Clayton Kershaw $35 million pitching for the Los Angles Dodgers.
  • 2017 MLB League Minimum this year was just raised to $535,000.

* If you want to see an entire list of this years salaries Click HERE

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

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