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What is Baseball Kangaroo Court?

There is a protocol to follow when reporting issues in any successful workplace, including sports organizations. However, this process is usually time-consuming, and sometimes management does not have the time to address minor problems. Enter the Kangaroo Court. But what is baseball Kangaroo Court?

A baseball Kangaroo Court is a player’s court with a mock justice system where team members hold each other accountable for mistakes made on and off the field. Punishment usually includes monetary fines, but decisions are made final by the player’s majority vote or an appointed impartial jury.

A yellow sign with an image of a kangaroo and overlaying text that reads "What is Baseball Kangaroo Court?"

Before it made its way to sports, Kangaroo Court was common in society during the 1900s. It was an informal justice system where fair trials would be conducted, and a decision agreed upon by the majority of the people.

By definition, a Kangaroo Court is a court that ignores or does not follow the laws of the justice system. It was a way for the community to self-discipline themselves, and they are slowly making their way back into the sports world, specifically baseball.

So, how does a baseball Kangaroo Court work? Read on to find out.

How Does a Kangaroo Court Work For a Baseball Team?

The team will start by appointing sheriffs.

Generally, there are two appointed sheriffs whose work is to note down offenses throughout the season. The possible offenses are usually agreed upon by the team and can include many things like missing training, a dirty locker, etc.

A Kangaroo Court session is usually held after the baseball season, but this court session can be held mid-season, depending on how many mistakes were made up to that point.

There is a judge, witnesses, a jury, and the defendant during the court session. The proceedings start with the sheriffs presenting the mistakes they recorded during the season.

It is hard for players to argue in a Kangaroo Court because the mistakes are usually undeniable. For example, if a player came to practice late, the whole team witnessed it, so it is hard to argue that it did not happen. That is why players are usually guilty until proven innocent (innocence rarely happens in a baseball Kangaroo Court).

The judge usually hands down the punishment, and the other team members can agree or disagree through a popular vote. For example, if the judge decides a player should pay a fine, the rest of the team can agree or disagree on whether the punishment is reasonable.

Monetary fines are the most popular punishment in a baseball Kangaroo Court because the funds are put towards the team. For example, money collected from the fines can be used to pay for the team dinner at the end of the season. The team can also decide to donate the total sum to a charity of their choice.

Besides fines, other punishments can include physical penance, like running laps around the track.  In addition, the Kangaroo Court ruling is generally conclusive, with no appeals allowed.

What are Some Offenses in a Baseball Kangaroo Court?

The main goal of the Kangaroo Court is to hold each team member accountable and ensure discipline for the greater good. Remember, these offenses can be on or off the field, including almost everything that happens before, during, and after the game. Fortunately, they can be grouped into four major categories.

1. Pot-Builders

Pot-builders are equivalent to parking tickets. They are minor offenses that do not result in harsh punishments but can quickly build up if one is not careful. These offenses include but are not limited to:

  • Showing up late for practice
  • Coming into the clubhouse with muddy shoes
  • Having a dirty locker
  • Looking unkempt, and so on

Every Kangaroo Court session will start with the small offenses as they build up momentum for the major ones. Pot-builders are also a great way to keep the cash flowing into the team fund.

2. Game-Related Offenses

Game-related offenses are the toughest to argue in a Kangaroo Court because you were out in the field. The thing about being out on the field is that anybody can make a mistake, and some of these offenses are embarrassing.

If you’re lucky, a Kangaroo Court judge might decide that embarrassing yourself in public is punishment enough. However, you will still have to pay a fine if your offense costs the team something during the game.

Some game-related offenses include:

  • Not running out an infield hit
  • Failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt
  • Missing a sign from the third-base coach
  • Striking out with a runner in scoring position

3. The Stretch

Remember the sheriffs? Just because they are the appointed sheriffs doesn’t mean they’re also exempt from the court.

They, too, can be fined when they make mediocre accusations (known as a “stretch”). An example could be if a sheriff accuses another player of dying their hair a particular color. While this can generate a good laugh in court, it is not a legit accusation, and the sheriff can be found guilty of a stretch.

Stretch offenses are common, especially in minor league baseball teams, because players like to make fun of each other. Little do they know they are wasting the court’s time, especially when it is not a good joke.

Stretch offenses are also an excellent way to have ongoing cash flow in the money box, similar to pot-builders.

4. Verbal Diarrhea

Verbal diarrhea is a common mistake in minor league baseball teams.

Some players are sensitive and tend to get extremely defensive for just the slightest remarks (you know the type). For example:

  • When a player is accused of an offense
  • Acts like a fool
  • Pretends not to understand what the accuser is talking about
  • Or worse, he chooses to lie

…that usually results in a significant fine.

Running his mouth to defend himself wastes the court’s time because nobody goes unpunished at the Kangaroo Court! Wasting the court’s time also results in a significant fine leading to more cash in the team fund.

Record Keeping

Finally, record-keeping is crucial in any Kangaroo Court, and this is usually the sheriff’s job.

The records can be printed or stored digitally, and everyone should have access so they can see their mistakes.

Besides the player’s offenses, there should also be a record of the monetary fines so everyone knows how much is in the cash box and how much they owe the team.

An Example of a Kangaroo Court Session

Kangaroo Court is more common in professional baseball than it is in any other type of league, but I have been on a non-professional team where we had a mini-kangaroo court session.

Unlike traditional Kangaroo Court, where the court session is held at the end of the season, this court session was held the day after a game.

The in-game scenario that caused an impromptu kangaroo court session was when one of the players on our team hit a double, but he thought it was a home run so he was walking to first base after the hit.

The ball hit the top of the fence and stayed inside the ballpark. Luckily, he safely made it to second base, but that player was charged in Kangaroo Court with “Pimping a Double”.

Because this was a non-professional team where money was not plentiful, there was no monetary fine. Instead, the fine for this player was to text his ex-girlfriend and say that he misses her and he wants her back.

I’m not sure if he actually followed through with that punishment, as no one on the team really cared enough about Kangaroo Court to follow up, but this is one small example of how a Kanagroo Court session can be played out in baseball.

Recap: Baseball Kangaroo Court 101

Baseball is a gentleman’s game, filled with unwritten rules to protect the integrity of the game. And the Kangaroo Court is one way for teams to self-police these unwritten rules.

But baseball is also supposed to be fun, so the unofficial Kangaroo Court keeps it entertaining while holding players accountable. It is a way to encourage team members to take their game seriously and respect each other.

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Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball in an adult baseball team in the surrounding area. Read more about Steve Nelson.