Wife: “Coaches meeting for baseball is this week.”
Husband: “Oh, I didn’t realize it was here already.”
Wife: “Yup, I signed you up to coach again.”
Thanks goodness that coach’s wife remembered to do that. In a small town, there’s plenty of ways to spend your time. I’m fortunate that I get to spend my summer coaching my son’s baseball team.
This was my third year coaching my son, Aaron’s team. His teammates haven’t changed all that much, which is great. They look forward to seeing each other on the field every year. When the first practice rolls around, if someone isn’t there, they all need to be assured that D. is out of town and K is at a birthday party, but yes, they will be playing.
To the boys, baseball wouldn’t be the same without all of their friends involved… and I agree. In fact, this year I called two sets of parents whose kids missed the sign-up. The boys had been talking at school and a couple of them didn’t know about this year’s schedule. Of course, I know all the parents of the kids my son goes to school with so they were just a phone call away.
Officially, I have one other coach, but I really have more. The same group of Dad’s helps each year. I organize the practice schedules, make sure to send text reminders out about games and answer parent’s questions. But after that, we all make it happen, in fact, our third base coach changes almost every game.
Here are a few things I’ve come to expect from coaching at this level:
1) At any given time, someone is going to be digging in the dirt, watching and airplane or waving to someone in the stands. So, a hit by the other team, will be a surprise to one of our players. I guess that adds to the excitement of the game…
2) D. will ask me before every game, “Can I pitch today coach?” I respond the same way very game, “Not today.” Then I turn I smile. I would miss it if he didn’t ask. D., by the way, is an excellent third baseman. He rarely misses the ball and he tags the base every time… I mean every time… even if there isn’t a base runner. By the way, D. has never practiced pitching.
3) H. will, while pitching, have a conversation with himself. We are not sure what he is saying or who he is saying it to. He will nod and shake his head in the direction of the catcher as appearing as if he is selecting his pitches. Never mind that the catcher has no idea this selection process is occurring and has no intention of retrieving H.'s pitch if it doesn’t some directly to him.
4) A lot of boys will be on the ground as a part of catching or stopping the ball. And they most likely will not be in a hurry to get up.
5) The dugout, while we are batting, is like a Jr. High track meet. Unless they are up to bat or ‘on deck,” they are busy filling their water cups, going to the concession stand, running to talk to their parents or discussing the newest Transformers movie. We try, but they have their own agendas.
6) Aaron will field the ball and occasionally make a smart play. It won’t always turn out like he envisioned it, but it’s great to see him play. His understanding of the game, in this case, is ahead of his physical ability. He tries hard and though he makes mistakes, I’m always proud of him.
This past year, in the middle of the inning, an opposing team’s player walked off the field announcing that he needed to use the bathroom. Typically a pitcher is relieved, but in this case, the shortstop was relieved, literally.
Coaching has been a blessing. We don’t seem to win often, but the boys tend to forget that by the next game. We hold practices, try to instill fundamentals, encourage them often and watch them grow. I can see the potential in each of the boys, so I know next year will be even better.
Being in a small town may mean that we don’t have an ex-college player or ex-semi pro coaching our teams. It does, however, mean that there is someone like me coaching. Someone who is doing it for his son. Someone who respects each boy on that team like they are his son. Someone who cares less about winning, and more about playing with character. Someone who will be there for them, beyond baseball. Now that’s a small town, and that’s what’s great ‘out here.”