My buddy Steph, who covers the Baltimore Orioles and Stanford baseball for Aerys Sports, agreed to contribute to HHOTF a few weeks ago and I'm happy to bring that to you now.
On Monday (5/9/11), I was in Binghamton watching my B-Mets take on the New Britain Rock Cats. A personal favorite player of mine, New Britain's Chris Cates, was having a great day, with two walks and a hit in there. I was thrilled, even though the team I actually wanted to win was, well, not winning.
That's when I heard it. "Stick to the horses!" someone yelled as Cates took his place at shortstop. At first my friends and I were a little perplexed, but I picked up on it pretty quickly - they were heckling Cates because of his height.
"You're up past your bedtime!" yelled another fan from the other side of NYSEG Stadium. "Goodbye, Shorty!" shouted a ten-year-old girl after the one at-bat Cates did not reach base in. I shrunk down in my seat and kept quiet, although I was seething on the inside.
Cates and I are both 5'2". As a kid, I was made fun of for a bunch of things, my height being one of many (I had a miserable time with my peers growing up, but that's another story entirely). Hearing a bunch of fans' prejudices towards Cates just because he was shorter than them broke my heart. Clearly he was doing something right if he made it to AA ball. And hey, it wasn't like those fans had made it to AA ball. They weren't even playing.
It made me think of the larger issue at hand here. Fans and commentators alike are absolutely astounded at the contributions players like Dustin Pedroia, Sam Fuld and David Eckstein can make. They're all tiny by baseball player standards. The fact that people are still skeptical of players who are smaller than average is kind of depressing, given that I thought we'd moved past silly prejudices like height. Obviously these players are in the Majors. They can handle themselves. They're good. Pedroia was even league MVP. And yet these questions remain, with countless coaches rejecting kids because they're "too short to play baseball."
Can we just make it stop already? A baseball player is a baseball player. He - or she, because girls play baseball too - doesn't have to look like anyone in particular. He or she can be tall, short, thin, or have some extra pounds, have any skin tone and heritage, and be whoever he or she wants to be on and off the field. There's no reason why anyone shouldn't be able to play baseball.
And hey, Cates is a pretty darn good shortstop. Even if he does look like me when he stands next to other players.
Steph Diorio is a writer for Aerys Sports, where she covers the Orioles, Stanford baseball, and the MLB Draft. She hates heightism and is very much an advocate of short baseball players.
Aerys Sports Orioles Correspondent and Chief Stanford Baseball Writer