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Baseball's Challenge: Teaching What Not to Hit
By Rob Okun
I'm rooting for the day when enough men in this world so strongly condemn domestic violence that what happened in the shadow of Fenway Park on June 23rd never happens again. The time has long passed for us as men to remain silent when a man abuses a woman. That the accused is an alleged role model to children, Brett Myers, Philadelphia Phillies star pitcher, and the victim Kim, is his wife, doesn't make the issue any more urgent, but it does give the cause more visibility.
The police report and eyewitness accounts sketch out what happened: Myers and his wife were arguing on the street near their hotel in Boston's Back Bay after midnight when, Kim Myers said, her husband hit her twice in the face with his fist. Witnesses told police the Phillies' pitcher slapped his wife and pulled her to the ground by her hair. She was seen down on the sidewalk with a swollen face, crying. Read enough?
What was going in the minds of Philadelphia's management--not to mention Major League Baseball--that 36 hours after being accused of throwing his wife around Myers was allowed to throw against the Red Sox in a nationally televised game? Apparently not much.
The club's empty-headed duck and cover statement read in part, "Out of respect for the privacy of both Kim and Brett Myers, the Phillies will not comment until the matter is resolved by the court." Translation: By our silence, we're saying we consider our economic investment in our prized pitcher more important than the health and well being of the mother of the three-year-old child he fathered.
Wake up, Major League Baseball! It's 2006. In the wake of the steroid abuse investigation, how about creating a full-scale education campaign against domestic abuse? Don't get me wrong. Violence against women is an epidemic in society as a whole; no one is suggesting baseball or professional sports should be singled out.
But domestic abuse is a social crisis that ballplayers, as role models, have a special responsibility to speak out about. I propose baseball put the same attention on domestic violence that it so powerfully directed toward prostate cancer awareness just a few weeks ago. Why? Because both are men's issues.
The truth is the vast majority of ballplayers--just as most men in general--are good guys who want to do the right thing. What can baseball do to connect the dots from this teachable moment? Talk to Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler and his wife, Lisa. They set up a foundation to support the victims of partner abuse after Lisa went public two years ago that she had been physically and emotionally abused by her high school boyfriend. [Web editor's note: click here to read more about Gabe and Lisa.] Talk to New York Yankees manager, Joe Torre, who established a foundation after acknowledging that he had grown up witnessing his father abuse his mother. If you think Joe Torre would have sent Brett Myers to the mound, think again.
Thankfully, progress is being made. The Red Sox have been working with a program out of Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society called Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP). They educate Sox minor league players about domestic violence at spring training. That's a start. (The New England Patriots also works with the program). But there's more to do. It is high time that baseball--and all professional sports--recognize their critical responsibility to teach early about abuse--and respect--in relationships.
The office of Northwestern Massachusetts District Attorney Elizabeth A. Scheibel and my organization teamed up before Father's Day to broadcast a series of television and radio PSAs, Coaching Boys into Men. The brainchild of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the ads features a father and son playing sports together. "You've taught him how to hit the strike zone, a nine iron, the open man," the narrator says. "But have you taught him what not to hit?"
Too short a deadline? Progressive delivery will help you out.
Apparently nobody taught Brett Myers that lesson. Perhaps it's not too late for him. For the rest of us, rajaji national park we trust baseball's next play isn't to issue an intentional walk.
Archive of Past Web EditorialsCelebrating More Than Dad This Father's Day
by Rob Okun
Men's Stories: From Stubbornness to Tenderness
Uncovering Men's Lives in the Shadow of Brokeback Mountain
Race and Gender: A Moment to Reflect
Fathers and Feelings
Compassionate Confrontation: A National Model
The Revolutionary Act of Sitting in a Support Group
A Call to Men: From Bystanders to Activists
If A Son Could Return from the Dead
A Missed Opportunity: The Globe Strikes Out
Thoughts on Moving On
New Name, New Initiatives
Gay/Straight Dialogue: Remarkably Unremarkable
Dialogue vs. Diatribe: Can We Find Common Ground?
Good News in Difficult Times
Custody Rights Ballot Questions
Do You Feel a Draft?
Are You Willing to Take a Stand?
Why I Walk
White Men Can Jump (Bush's) Ship
Yes to Men, No to War
Wanted: Young White Guy to Change the World
Gay Marriage: Historic Moments, Flawed Arguments