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SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2007
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Making the grade means classroom, not ballfield

I spent about an hour Friday morning at Calhoun Community College's student honors day, and this is what I saw:

Three softball players and three baseball players receiving awards, both academic and athletic.

Boys and girls, you can do both. Are any of these six going to make their living in softball or baseball? They may as a coach or equipment salesman — or maybe even in a front office — but certainly not as a player. If you're going to have any chance to make it as a player, you must have these numbers coming out of high school:

Pitchers: Average three strikeouts to every walk, two strikeouts per inning, and less than one hit per inning.

Hitters: Your extra base hits must outnumber your singles. Example: 25 singles, 15 doubles, 5 triples, and 11 home runs.

Runners: For boys fewer than 14 seconds home to home, girls 11.3.

These are the benchmark numbers. If you have these numbers then, there is a place for you to play. If you don't, then you just don't.

So what do you do now? You hit the books and play ball in your spare time, that's what you do.

These six players were probably among the best on their high school teams. They were big fish in a small pond. They were thrilled when they "got the call."

They used their junior college scholarship to prepare for the future. They went to class, studied, did their homework. And they played ball in their spare time, all with 100 percent effort and dedication.

Most of you will not "get the call." There's no shame in that, because most don't.

But if the call does come, don't waste the opportunity and just play ball. Become the best student that you can become. You'll never have the chance again, so make the most of it.

The "no child left behind" law was put in place to help low-achieving children move to higher standards. Most still will be left behind.

Usually, it's us our own selves that cause us to be left behind.

Don't leave yourself behind. Get in that classroom and make the most of it.

Let's not have rose-colored glasses when it comes to our talent. Think of the best player you have ever seen on any high school team and compare yourself to them.

Boys, an 81 mile-per-hour pitch "with movement" is worlds away from 91 with snap on it and galaxies away from 107 like the Detroit Tigers' Joel Zumaya.

Girls, a ball that starts low and finishes high is not a rise ball. A rise ball is what you have when you strike out 18 a game.

Boys, hitting a line drive over the shortstop's head that rolls to the fence because the outfielders can't outrun a fat, over-the-hill 50-year-old is not exactly the same as banging line drives off of the scoreboard on a regular basis.

Girls, beating out a three-hopper to a rag-armed, slow-footed shortstop is not exactly the same as stealing 40 bases against 60 mph pitchers and a catcher who throws to second base in 1.8 seconds.

I'm not trying to burst anyone's bubble, just hoping you'll realize the true nature of sports — the most qualified person gets the job.

Some time soon your ball days will be over, but your brain will be there forever. Fill it up. Make it swell.

Larry Keenum, a former All-SoutheasternConference infielder at Alabama, coached Athens State's softball team during 1991-2005.

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