Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed President of Let Grow and founder of Free Range Kids Lenore Skenazy to the newsmakers line to talk about her two new initiatives.
Leahy: On our newsmaker line, our new friend, Lenore Skenazy, the President of Letgrow.org. And really the founder of the Free Range Kids Movement. So, Lenore, I have a question for you. Are you open to it?
Skenazy: I thought you had a great idea for me.
Leahy: I do. I have a question for you. So first, before we get to our idea, why don’t you describe some of the K8 projects that Let Grow has currently?
Skenazy: Oh, thank you so much. Sure. So we just have two school initiatives. They’re both free. So it’s not like I’m selling something. One is like I was telling you before the Let Grow Play Club. We encourage schools to open before after school for kid-led, no adult. There’s an adult in the corner with an EpiPen. But otherwise, it’s just kids playing. And throw a lot of junk out there balls and jump ropes and cardboard boxes.
And if you need some help organizing that or dealing with it, how do you explain it to parents and make them see that it’s not just a waste of time. You can get what we call our instruction kit or something at Letgrow.org. And the other thing is the Let Grow Project. And this is a homework assignment that teachers give kids anywhere from K through eighth grade that says, go home and do something new on your own without an adult.
Without your parents. And of course, you talk about it with your parents. But it’s just to renormalize the idea of kids running an errand. Kids walking to school. Kids go over to a friend’s house. Kids making dinner because parents have been so frightened by this whole culture that is telling them that any time that they’re not helping their kid or watching their kids, their kids in danger, that they don’t even know how to let go anymore.
So I don’t blame them because they’re living in a culture where Parents Magazine says, don’t let your kids ever have a play date without you listening to make sure that they don’t have an argument because if they do, you want to jump in. I mean, Parents Magazine theme has been telling parents that kids can’t do anything safely on their own and that they will live to regret it.
And so the Let Grow Project, because it comes from a teacher just gives parents permission to say, you know what? You can let your eight-year-old walk outside, your nine-year-old go run an errand, and your five-year-old play on the lawn. It’s up to you, but it renormalizes it because everybody at the school is doing it. You’re not the crazy mom. You’re not Lenore. (Chuckles)
You’re just doing something for homework. So those are our two school initiatives. And then the other thing that Let Grow is working on is we are trying to encourage states to change their neglect laws to make sure that like playing outside or walking to school or staying home briefly by yourself, that’s not considered neglect. We want neglect to be actual neglect, not trusting kids with a little bit of independence when the parents feel their children are ready.
Leahy: All very good stuff. So you’re ready for my big idea and like to throw it out there?
Skenazy: I can’t wait. I need a new idea.
Leahy: Well, I’d like to see if you might have an interest. There are some people here in Tennessee that might be interested in starting perhaps a statewide pilot program. Here’s the idea. Let Grow Baseball.
Skenazy: I bet I know what it is. I’m guessing it’s just sort of getting initiative like it’s Saturday morning kids go play baseball.
Leahy: Yeah, well, the idea would be maybe to work with little leagues and maybe even some professional baseball teams to set up everywhere and every county. There are 95 counties in Tennessee, fields where kids can go, perhaps have one adult there, just so that in case somebody falls and needs to go to the hospital, they could take them.
But basically, this is a field that’s open all the time in the summer, in the spring, in the fall, where our kids can go and play baseball and self organize and play baseball the way their dads and their grandfather’s and their great grandfather’s did in America for years and years and years before. That’s the big idea. What do you think?
Skenazy: I absolutely love it. It’s actually an idea that we’ve kicked around something like this. One of our co-founders of Let Grow is a guy named Peter Gray.
Leahy: Dr. Peter Gray, Boston College.
Skenazy: Yes, exactly. Oh, my God. Yes. And so Peter Gray said, why can’t we get sand block baseball going again? Which it sounds like what you’re talking about.
Leahy: That’s exactly right.
Skenazy: The fields are there, but nobody thinks to go, because unless you’re in an organized activity, we sort of think that baseball is just for three-hour practices a week. And we just have to renormalize the idea of kids getting up and going out. And so, yes, figure out how to make it happen. I mean, really, you need two things to happen.
One is for kids to recognize that there are going to be other kids outside. So there will be somebody for them to play with. And then two weeks for parents. Well, I guess you need a couple of things. Two weeks for parents to let them go and not think that the parents have to be in the bleachers all day. No parent wants to be outside as long as a kid wants to be outside. Kids want to be out longer because they just want to play.
And no parent wants to stay there from eight in the morning till seven at night on a Sunday like you used to spend. And then I think it behooves your state to consider what we call a reasonable childhood independence law, which used to be called the Free Range Kids Law when it was passed in Utah, which is just what we were talking about before. Making sure that it’s not mistaken for neglect by letting your kids go outside and play baseball for three hours while you’re at home doing whatever else you prefer to do.
Leahy: That makes an awful lot of sense. I see from his biography that Dr. Peter Gray was the co-founder of Let Grow at letgrow.org. I see from his biography that he grew up in small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin. He’s a little older than I am. I’m betting every summer he’d go out and play baseball in a sandlot.
Skenazy: Believe me, he did that. And even in winter in Minnesota, he was outside. In the winter he was ice skating, and in the summer he was fishing. And actually, he took a test recently to see, is your child an addict? Because he also believes that his kids like playing video games. That’s not the end of the world either. You don’t want them only doing that, but kids are allowed to have some fun.
And when he took the test are like, do you always think about this activity? Did you wake up and think about this activity? Have you skipped school to think about this activity? And he realized as a child he had been a fishing addict because all he would do was he would just be so interested in getting that pole and going off to wherever the fishing hole was. And look, he ended up a Professor at Boston College. I don’t think all that time spent playing baseball, fishing, hanging out outside, and sometimes even skipping school, just because he had the drive to do something else and some fascination with something.
I mean, what I worry about is the kids growing up being driven from one activity to the other they like them and its fine and I did that with my kids. But when you have some free unstructured time without an adult telling you what to do and why it’s good for you, you develop something else and that’s this internal sense of I can handle things. Life is interesting. I’m pretty intrepid. And without that internal locus of control, you’re very depressed. It’s like going to a job every day where you’re micromanaged. The assumption is that kids today are having higher levels of depression and anxiety because everything is done with them and for them and they dont’ get to do anything on their own.
Leahy: They have no agency, no control.
Skenazy: Yes, absolutely.
Leahy: So Here’s what I’d like you to consider.
If you and Dr. Peter Gray, let’s set up a phone call, and let’s plan this thing out and introduce Let Grow Sandlot Baseball or whatever you want to call it. We’ll introduce Let Grow Sandlot Baseball to every County in Tennessee. The fields are there. We just need to get some private money into it. And I can tell you right now in Tennessee, I’ve been talking to a number of Little League people and some professional major league sports teams that I think would be very interested in helping this happen. And Tennessee of course is the best state in the country to start this…
Leahy: Because we want to do it because, of course, we have no state income tax, and we have a tradition of freedom and liberty. And it’s, of course, the volunteer state.
Skenazy: Oh, that’s right. I’m thinking about the license plate. Yeah, well, the ideas of freedom and liberty are pretty much dead if you think that people need constant supervision. And that’s what we’re raising kids with. The idea that they’re never safe, and they shouldn’t even feel safe unless somebody else is always watching them, either in person or electronically. And I want to contract this idea that no, actually, you yourself are okay. You can handle things. The world is your oyster. It’s not a threat. So I think it has to start pretty young, and that’s what Let Grow is about.
So we’ll have our first phone call with the Let Grow Sandlot Baseball-Tennessee Star idea. And then we’ll invite you down here to Nashville. You and Dr. Peter Gray to talk to some baseball people. Look at some fields, and let’s get this thing rolling.
Skenazy: Let’s aim for the stand. Now you know how little I know about baseball. That wall at the back. How about a home run.
Leahy: If you build it, they will come.
Skenazy: Especially if you don’t go there with them.
Listen to the second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky of Maury County to the studio to discuss his past life in the world of football and professional baseball.
Leahy: In studio state representative Scott Cepicky. I’m learning all these great things about you. I had no idea. Representing Maury County. So there you are at the University of Wisconsin on a football scholarship. Four years as the starting punter. Now did you ever make it to the Rose Bowl or any bowl?
Cepicky: No. There’s going to be something happening in the General Assembly in April. I’m not going to announce that right now. We’re working on something very big with literacy.
Leahy: Okay, good.
Cepicky: But I’m going to tie that literacy thing that’s going to happen on the house floor to something that happened to me back in 1984 in a Hall of Fame bowl.
Leahy: Okay. Oh, you made the Hall of Fame Ball.
Cepicky: We did.
Leahy: That it’s fun to play in a Hall of Fame Ball.
Cepicky: Birmingham, Alabama against Kentucky.
Leahy: So you also played baseball? You are a first baseman?
Leahy: And you graduated from the University of Wisconsin and you get drafted by the White Sox. How’s that work?
Cepicky: The year before I was picked up, I was signed as a free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Leahy: Oh, for football.
Cepicky: And I played there for four weeks into pre-season campus as a punter.
Leahy: So you were in the NFL?
Cepicky: For Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings?
Leahy: Really? What was like that?
Cepicky: Pretty intimidating.
Leahy: I can imagine. (Laughs)
Cepicky: But it turned into a business. It’s a business decision to make up there. And as a punter, there’s only one.
Leahy: There’s only one. You either make it or you don’t.
Cepicky: It was very difficult.
Leahy: So what was it like? What is it when they tell you goodbye and good luck? What’s that like?
Cepicky: Real quick story. I’m sitting in our dorm room.
Leahy: Bangels or Vikings?
Cepicky: Bengals. The first time I’ve ever been cut from anything. And we’re sitting there. It’s about four o’clock in the morning and there’s a proverbial knock on the door.
Leahy: Knock on the door.
Cepicky: Well, so I’m sitting there and I wake up. We both wake up, Derek and myself. He was a nose guard from Ohio State. Derek hadn’t played a game had not gotten in one time. And I played every game, and I’m sitting here going, Okay, relax. Help this guy out the first time.
Leahy: It’s probably Derek.
Cepicky: Right. He goes to the door, opens the door, and the coach says, hey, Cepicky, the coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook.
Leahy: When they say bring your playbook…
Cepicky: It means you’re gone.
Leahy: It means you’re gone. So how do you feel at that moment?
Cepicky: You don’t know how to react. It’s something that’s never happened to you in your life. And so Coach Sam White cuts me. That day I put everything together, and I’m going back home from Cincinnati from St. Louis…
Leahy: And so you’re feeling kind of bad.
Cepicky: And so do you remember the old brick phones? My brick phone rang somewhere in Indiana. And it’s my agent saying, hey, by the way, you just got picked up by the Vikings. You’ve got to get to the airport in four hours and get on a plane to Minnesota.
Leahy: That’s weird.
Cepicky: Well, I was about five hours away. (Leahy laughs) I can tell you this. I made it.
Leahy: You made it.
Cepicky: I fly in and I get to Minnesota. I spend another week there, the last week of a preseason camp. And I knew it wasn’t a good situation when they brought four punters in at the same time.
Leahy: The odds are not really looking good.
Cepicky: So I’m getting on a plane after I got cut from Minnesota, waiting to go back to St. Louis.
Leahy: So when they cut you in Minnesota, you’re not really all that upset.
Cepicky: I’m not really attached. I’m sitting at the airport. My brick phone rings and it’s my baseball coach, Steve, from Wisconsin.
Leahy: Are you kidding me?
Cepicky: He said, What are you doing? And I said, Well, I just got cut. I’m going home. He said, well, we’re a week away from school starting and you have another year of school left and we’ll be happy to scholarship you, because I was an all Big 10 baseball player the year before. Come back and finish your last year and finish your degree. So I called my mom and I said, hey, can you and dad come up next week to Wisconsin and bring my stuff? I changed my flight from St. Louis to Madison, went back to school, and then I got drafted by the White Sox.
Leahy: Okay, so how do you hear you are drafted by the White Sox?
Cepicky: So we were playing a baseball game late in the year, and I knew that I was being recruited. Now I’m a 50 or senior. So you’re not going to get the big money. And I get a phone call that the White Sox are going to pick me in the 23rd round.
Leahy: Because they have, like, 30 rounds in baseball, right?
Cepicky: They had 115 back then.
Leahy: They did? Wow. I didn’t even make it to 116.
Cepicky: So I’m 21 years old, 22 years old and I get picked on 23rd round. I’m in rookie ball. And I’m the oldest guy by two years.
Leahy: Isn’t that something? The rookie balls are all so young.
Cepicky: They’re babies.
Leahy: And there are very few college people in rookie ball.
Cepicky: Very few. I ended up going and I played rookie ball very well.
Leahy: So where did you play rookie ball? In Florida or Arizona?
Cepicky: At the time I was in Sarasota, Florida. I did very well and came back next year. Then I went to South Bend, Indiana in low A.
Leahy: We know this from tracking Tim Tebow’s adventures. So you are low A.
Cepicky: Low A in South Bend and went to batting title in there. Next year, I go to the high Florida State League and back to C in Sarasota. Was named MVP of the league there.
Leahy: Okay, so it’s looking good.
Cepicky: I’m on the right trajectory. Next year, go to lead the league in RBI’s in AA.
Leahy: Where? Was it the Birmingham Barons?
Cepicky: Birmingham Barons. That’s when I had my first stent down in Venezuela.
Leahy: Okay, so you played winter ball in Venezuela.
Cepicky: In Venezuela.
Leahy: And as I told you during the break, I’ve been in that stadium in Caracas, Venezuela, or one of the main stadiums when I was a high school kid. I was down there and watched Vick Davalio a Venezuelan play ball.
Cepicky: So I went down to Venezuela and had an incredible year. My nickname down there was El Toro.
Leahy: El Toro the bull!
Cepicky: I worked very hard learning Spanish down there. And by the end of the year, I was giving my interviews in Spanish. Led the league in home runs, led the league in RBI’s, finished third and batting title. And won the league in MVPs.
Leahy: Okay, so let me just say right now, you’re thinking I’m going to the big League.
Cepicky: I’m going to the big leagues. So we get back from Venezuela. I sign a split contract, which means I’m going to be on the big league roster, but I have a contract just in case I go back and forth.
Leahy: Okay, this is good.
Cepicky: We are a week away from reporting the spring training and big league camp. Right now, I’m a projected left field starter for the White Sox.
Leahy: Oh, sure. Your leftfield now.
Cepicky: Leftfield starter.
Leahy: Okay. Not first base, left field.
Cepicky: They got me way far away from the action as they could because I could hit.
Leahy: Okay, so you were a good hit.
Leahy: How’s that?
Cepicky: I could field my position.
Leahy: There you go.
Cepicky: And it’s Monday morning. I’m sitting at the breakfast table with my dad getting ready to go to work out. And we’re watching Sports Center, and they announce a blockbuster trade between the Chicago White Sox and the Montreal Expos. Tim Raines is coming to the Chicago White Sox.
Leahy: And who’s going to the Expos?
Cepicky: Well, I’m sitting here to myself and I look at my dad, and I’m like, well, Tim Raines, plays leftfield. (Leahy laughs) Am I gonna go to Montreal? Which to me is even better.
Leahy: More chances to play.
Cepicky: If you go to Montreal, somebody’s gonna pick you up. The phone rings literally, like, a minute after that and it’s the general manager, Jerry Ryan calls me on the phone.
Leahy: The owner calls you? That was nice the owner called you.
Cepicky: And he said, by the way, have you been watching TV today? I said you mean Sports Center? He said, yes. I said, yes sir I have been watching Sports Center. He said, well, I’m sorry you heard had to hear it over Sports Center. So I’m thinking he’s going to say that I’ve been traded to Montreal. He said, well, Montreal wanted you in a straight-up trade for Tim Raines, and we said no. So we sent them six minor leaguers, but we’re going to send you back to AAA. You’re the insurance policy for Tim Raines.
Leahy: So right at that moment, you’re thinking, how did something so potentially good.
Cepicky: One week away…
Leahy: Go so bad?
Cepicky: So I ended up playing that year for the Sounds.
Leahy: So you played for the Nashville Sounds that year.
Cepicky: So I ended up playing or the Sounds that year.
Leahy: That your first time in Nashville. What was it like coming to Nashville? You’ve been all over the country first time in Nashville. You are playing AAA at the old Greer Stadium.
Cepicky: I got plugged into it. I’ll tell you why Nashville so endearing to me. When I was playing for the Nashville Sounds, there was a thing called Jerry House and the House Foundation. I knew Devon O’Day very well.
Leahy: Jerry House right here on iHeart.
Cepicky: I had spent time with Tracy Byrd. I knew him. I knew them all here on Music Row. Spent a lot of time here.
Leahy: You’ve been to Music Row before. This is not your first rodeo on Music Row.
Cepicky: Well, when you’re 24 years old, 25 years old…
Leahy: You’re gonna hang out on Music Row if you are playing for the Nashville Sounds.
Cepicky: And so I did that for a year. Had an okay year. Very discouraged, very tough.
Leahy: But I think a little bit of this is the timing because sometimes people if you’re expecting to go to the bigs and they send you to AAA as much as you love Nashville, you sort of kind of like thinking, what’s going on here?
Cepicky: They optioned me down to AA because that team had a chance to win the championship and they needed to hitter down there. Spent the end of that year in Birmingham, we won the southern championship next year, go back to the White Sox and that’s when a guy named Michael Jordan decides to play baseball. So I’m back in AAA. They have in the locker room it’s me, Michael Jordan, and Brad Commons because they sandwich dust on either side of Michael, because to me, he was just Michael Jordan. Just another baseball player.
Leahy: So you’re playing where at this time?
Cepicky: AAA with the White Sox in spring training.
Leahy: Oh, in spring training. So you’re playing with Michael Jordan?
Leahy: Interesting. More with Scott Cepicky when we get back we’ll continue. This is turning into your professional baseball career more than it is your legislative agenda. But we’ll get to the legislative agenda, I promise.
Listen to the full second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.