Messenger: Summer is a time for weddings and breakups

Messenger: Summer is a time for weddings and breakups — in youth baseball | Tony Messenger | stltoday Tonight Cloudy skies this evening will become partly cloudy after midnight. Low 43F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph. Updated: November 5, 2017 @ 7:53 pm Baseball in simpler times, at a ballpark in Ellisville. Photo by Tony Messenger Baseball in simpler times, at a ballpark in Ellisville. Photo by Tony Messenger It's summer wedding season in St. Louis.It's also breakup season.Not for boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives. But for baseball coaches and parents.All over the city, via texts and phone calls, on ballfields and in batting cages, parents and coaches are channeling the George Costanza speech from the TV sitcom "Seinfeld":"It's not you, it's me."Sometimes it is you. Frankly, it is all of us.In the city that brought us the Matheny Manifesto — an inspirational call to action on keeping parents from messing with their children's sporting activities — dozens of "elite" and "select" baseball teams are holding tryouts this week. They are cutting players and recruiting others. Parents are positioning themselves to get their child on the best team, whispering sweet nothings to any coach who will listen. Coaches conspire behind each other's backs to build super teams, while children secretly Snapchat to each other: "What is wrong with our parents?"Let's get this out of the way before we go any further:I am part of the problem. I am that which I disdain.About once a year I write a column about Bob Bigelow's book "Just Let the Kids Play." Usually, it's because I have violated one of its tenets. Bigelow is a former NBA basketball player who adroitly identifies the problem with youth sports.It's the parents. It's the systems. It's the elite teams that cut children as young as 8 or 9 and start young baseball players and parents on the road to thinking that some day they will be sitting in front of that table in their high school gym, with several college baseball hats before them and the ESPN cameras rolling as they place one on their head and announce: "I'm taking my talents to State U!"It starts innocently enough our garage on several hooks hang baseball hats that tell the story of my 11-year-old's journey. It started with the Cowboys. We moved to Wildwood in March 2011 and the T-ball teams were already full. I pleaded for a coach to make room for my son, and Robbie Hutchinson stepped up. Kyler was a Cowboy. There, he learned how to play the game. Made lifelong friends. Hit his first home run. He laughed and he cried. And he consumed a lot of post-game cheeseburgers and slushies. All summer long, his mouth was blue from those darn slushies. At least it matched his uniform.Then came the Athletics. It would be a tournament team, the coaches said, as they picked the best players from each of the Ellisville teams. Soon, it would be more. It was time to compete. The red Athletics became the green Athletics, which became the Xtreme. Gone were the T-shirts and gray baseball pants. There would be two uniforms, maybe three. We would travel, to other states, even, because that is what select teams do.Players came and went. Parents left on their own or were sent away. The hats lined up in the garage tell only part of the story.Through it all, Hutchinson's Cowboys survived.The Weekly MessengerDon't miss a single column: Sign up for Tony's weekly e-newsletter. Until last month. Some of the boys are ready to follow their old Cowboys teammates to the "select" circuit. Hutchinson's wife told the story this way on Facebook:"The Cowboys have been part of our life for almost 7 years," Tiffany wrote. "We have made amazing friends, like ‘you'll be in my life forever friends,' … and yet this sport has tested friendships as well … Looking back, I can't say I have been proud of every decision … but I know we learned from our mistakes and prayed that people have forgiven us if we hurt them."She invited old Cowboys to come by and see the team's last game.Kyler went, for old time's sake.Of all the baseball memories he has from the summer of 2017, the wins and the losses, the trophies and the disappointments, the broken-up team, and tryouts for whatever's next Santonio Holmes Jersey, I hope it's that night he always remembers.Sometime soon, we'll add a new hat to the garage display.We'll make new friends. We'll make good decisions and bad. We will reread Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's words: "I have found the biggest problem with youth sports has been the parents."It's not us, it's them, we'll think.We will pull into the garage after a weekend tournament, put the baseball bag away and glance at the hats on the wall.We will always have the Cowboys. Sign up to receive award-winning coverage every day. Your subscription includes exclusive offers, everything on STLtoday without the surveys. Tony Messenger Tony Messenger is the metro columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Whenever Tony Messenger posts new content, you'll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link. Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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