What’s the big deal about forfeits?
In the NTABL, there should never be a forfeit. By league rule, teams are allowed to borrow players from other teams to get nine or ten players to the field. You can even play with eight men. Really, look it up. The rule is printed right in the front of your score book. Players owe it to their teammates and their opponents to show up to the games. If a player can’t make a game, his manager should know days or weeks ahead of time, not find out on game day.
A forfeit costs a team more than just a loss and a forfeit fine. It wipes a game off the schedule, and one game is equal to 5% of the season. You wouldn’t just throw 5% of your money away, would you? When your team no-shows, the umpires, your opponent, the field prep guys…all of their effort and time have just been wasted. We’re talking about 30-40 guys affected here. 30-40 guys who rearranged their schedules – traded work shifts, took static from the wife or powered through all the yard work so their day would be clear – and a couple of guys just wrecked it for everyone involved. Everyone in the league signed up to play in twenty games, not just see numbers for wins in the standings.
It’s rarely the manager’s fault. Most teams have 20 players on their roster. There is no way 13 of them had last minute emergencies. I’ve been there myself and the situation is usually caused by one or two guys who bail at the last minute. The manager’s team team is decimated by injuries…or vacations…or business trips. It’s an adult league, it happens.
Anyway, despite all that, the poor ol’ manager thinks he has nine guys solid. But lo and behold, Sunday morning comes and some guy decides he’s too hung over and another suddenly remembers some major life event he’s known about for weeks yet failed to inform his manager. (“Dude, my daughter has a dance recital.”) Not to get off on a Personal Responsibility tangent here, but really?
Typically the league gets a call from the manager on Sunday (or a text, my favorite [sic]), saying “I’m sorry, but we’re not going to have enough guys today.” This communication will always happen at 11:30 when said team has a 1:00 game. So now, for some reason, the league president is supposed to drop everything and call the other team, delivering to them the fantastic news that they have already “won” and won’t even have to leave home to do it. That call always goes over like a turd in a punch bowl. “What do you mean? We were supposed to play at a really nice field! Why don’t we have a player pool? We signed up to play! Why don’t you find us a team that actually wants to play! This is bullsh!” He’s right, you know. The final little twist of the knife is that, on any given game day, there are idle teams because we don’t have enough fields, and we just wasted one with a forfeit.
Back to 11:30 on Sunday morning: At this point, it is realistically too late to get extra players out of the blue and the manager is too depressed to even deal with it. They usually just say “I don’t care. I’ll pay the fine.” Here’s a little secret: The league doesn’t want you to pay a fine. We want you to play a game. We’ve moved Heaven and Earth to get that game set up. We want you to play it, even if it means you play with eight. Maybe those knuckleheads who bailed for dubious reasons will reconsider if they know their teammates are going to play without them.
Managers, you can be prepared for this inevitability by knowing your players. You’re 13 games into a 20 game season. That stud player someone played with in college who hasn’t been to a single game? Or the guy that came to the first game and mysteriously pulled a hammie, never to be seen again? A frank discussion is in order for those guys and if they aren’t coming out, get someone that will show up. We have the latest roster deadline of any league and an available player pool where you can actually come out and watch the players in a game. It’s called Rookie League. Knowing other managers is also helpful, especially in other divisions. You probably had a good idea you were going to be short on Friday or Saturday, so why wait until Sunday when its too late, costs you money and wastes everyone’s time?
And sometimes it rains…
Recently, we achieved a milestone in the NTABL: One full week without a league game due to rain outs. That is really saying something because six of the fifteen games we lost were to be on artificial turf.
Some of you may wonder what the rain out procedure for our league is. The official policy is we update the Rain Out line at 4:00PM on weekdays and 11:00AM on Sundays and you get an email from the league when your game is rained out. But what happens before that? Well, the routine is something like this: Our crack staff, consisting of Sam Kayea and me, is constantly monitoring the weather. Like most of you, we watch the weather the night before. During the day we monitor radar on Weather Underground, trying to figure out which way the storms are moving.
Many of you have probably had the experience of driving through a monsoon on the way to your game and not see a drop of rain on the field the entire evening. Or perhaps, you’ve experienced the opposite, dry roads and sunshine all the way to the field and you pull into a wet parking lot, an inch of water standing at home plate compliments of of North Texas’ famous three mile wide microburst showers. The latter will always happen at the field the farthest drive for you. It never happens when the game is just down the street.
Summer showers here always seem to pop up in the late afternoons and tend to be very isolated. It could be raining buckets in Bedford where I work and dry as a bone at Reverchon or vice versa. We have to rely on the facility or city staff to make the decision whether we play or not and we must abide by it.
None of the fields we use have infield tarps (although Jesuit and John Paul cover their pitcher’s mounds) and, contrary to the wishes of a few of us, the NTABL does not have a grounds crew on standby at every field. Privately owned facilities like Jesuit or Craig Ranch are generally staffed and those places will call us (Sam) once a field is determined to be unplayable. City fields – McInnish, Reverchon, Allen, etc all have rain out numbers that get updated at 4:00PM every day. High school fields such as WT White require someone from the league to drive to the field and check things out.
The city fields update their rainout line at 4:00 for a couple of reasons. Chiefly, the parks crews have many fields to make ready and it is generally more efficient to check in and do field updates once rather than twelve times a day. It’s also late enough in the day to have given the playing fields a chance to dry, yet soon enough that you can surprise your wife with last minute dinner plans if you are rained out.
But, sometimes in North Texas, the weather will stay just clear enough to play, and we’ll say “go” at 4:00. Naturally, we give the go ahead and the sky lets loose at 6:30. We make every attempt to keep folks out of the storms, but sometimes there is nothing anyone can do except get back in your car and go home. We value your time as if it were or own. Nobody wants to waste a trip; not you, your opponents, the umpires and certainly nobody in the league office wants anyone to drive to a ballfield, in the rain, for nothing.