Mike Matheny has a blog dedicated to changing the culture of youth sports

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A few years ago Cardinals manager Mike Matheny wrote a letter to the parents of the little league team he was coaching at the time, decrying the culture of youth sports and, more specifically, the overbearing parents and insane coaches that were turning what should have been character-building learning experiences into a hyper competitive hellscape.

Last summer there was a lot of reporting about all of that. Specifically, that Matheny was still adamant about changing the culture of youth sports. And now he is continuing that, starting up a blog on his personal website dedicated to that cause. From his welcome letter:

I wrote a letter a few years ago that unintentionally went viral across the country. The purpose was to explain to a group of parents, that I saw a big problem in organized sports. Little did I know the impact that the letter would have on so many people. I realized that there is a need for a better way, and the ideas in that letter had struck a cord with many people who are ready for a change. Some follow up was necessary, so…, here we are.

This website is for people who want to use youth sports to impact kids and their communities. I plan on keeping fresh information and videos coming to this site that will challenge and encourage coaches, parents and aspiring athletes to use sports as a platform to develop character, and skills that are needed for success on the field and off. Thanks for your interest and I hope that you will keep coming back.

That’s pretty cool. And a pretty cool goal too. As a parent of kids just getting into various activities, I’m constantly shocked at how seriously everyone (i.e. parents) takes them (and it’s not just for the boys and sports. You should see the ballet studio Mookie goes to). There are many times I have hoped that my son in particular doesn’t get too into sports because of that noise. Which is kind of a shame because when I grew up I was able to play — and not be particularly good at — various sports without it seeming like I was an imposition or that some more talented kids’ dad was gonna freak out if slow old me was allowed to get some PT at his son’s expense. I worry now that’s something harder and harder to find.

So kudos to Matheny. Parents of non-participating kids can wring our hands about this sort of thing a lot, but not much will come of it. It could be a totally different deal if the necessary change comes from within sports rather than from outside of them.

Evan Gattis says he is ‘done playing’ baseball

Evan Gattis
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In a recent appearance on the 755 Is Real Podcast, hosted by The Athletic’s David O’Brien and former Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty, catcher Evan Gattis confirmed he is “done playing” baseball. Gattis said back in October that he didn’t have any desire to continue playing the game, so this news comes as no surprise.

Gattis, 33, hit .226/.284/.452 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI for the Astros in 2018. The Astros did not extend him a qualifying offer, then $17.9 million. Though reporting on specific offers is scant, it is hard to imagine he received zero offers, or would have received zero offers if he were still interested in playing.

Gattis has one of the more interesting stories out there. He was a well-regarded college baseball prospect, but he battled anxiety and substance abuse. He checked into rehab and, temporarily, abandoned his baseball-related pursuits. Gattis eventually resumed playing college baseball but suffered an injury, prompting him to drop out of college. He went on to take on some not-so-glamorous jobs, including working in a pizza shop, as a parking valet, a ski-lift operator, and a janitor. Gattis battled more mental health issues, suffering from insomnia and depression, resulting in suicidal ideation. He checked into an inpatient psychiatric ward for several days. Afterwards, Gattis roamed around the west coast, going from Colorado to New Mexico to California to Wyoming.

In 2010, Gattis returned to baseball, playing for the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. He performed rather well, resulting in his being drafted by the Braves in the 23rd round that year. He worked his way through the minors quickly, debuting in the majors in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history. Gattis retires with a career .248/.300/.476 batting line along with 139 home runs, 410 RBI, and 299 runs scored over 2,662 trips to the plate.

The story of Gattis is an important one because mental health in general was not taken seriously, especially among men. It still isn’t, to a large degree, but it’s better now than it was 10 years ago. Due to social taboos and gender norms, men are much less likely to seek help for mental health issues. That Gattis — a burly avatar of testosterone — was willing to be vulnerable about his struggles with his mental health was important.