Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Baseball Test

A funny thing just happened.  I was working on a draft for a future post and, wishing only to work on the text, I just used the temporary title, 'baseball test.'

Of course what came to mind as I looked at it was, "Oh, man, I'd fail one of those."

"Say, isn't he a Little League Baseball coach?"  I can hear you thinking.

Here's the truth; I am, but I am not a very good one.


Just the other day we were working on bunting.  Hell, I thought you just stuck your bat sorta sideways and bopped the ball a little ways.  Turns out there is more to it.  Turns out there is a whole technique to it with much written and videotaped about it.  Who knew?

At another practice we were working on sliding.  Same deal, I thought you just stuck a leg out, went flying and slid.  Again tomes are written on it and everyone has a different technique.

Don't get me started on batting position and stance, or, God help me, how to pitch.

I am often not positive where the play is when runners are on the corners, or whether there is a force out at home.

Teaching catching alludes me, fortunately most of the boys are good at it.

Here's another truth; that's not what I am here for.

I am here to look them in their eyes as I kneel down in front of them to show them how to hold the bat as I imagine they are supposed to, twisting their small, dirty hands into the right place and telling them to do the best they can and to watch their fingers.

I am here to tell them to slide into the dirt and tell them to get dirty and have fun.  I am here to joke with them when they start their slide five feet too early and grind to a dusty stop a leg's-length away from the base, a puzzled, amused look on their face.

I am here to throw them good pitches in coach-pitch, encouraging them after every swing, telling them to wait for their pitch, wait for their opportunity.  I am here too dive dramatically to the ground as a line drive heads right for me, coming up laughing and wondering how that particular boy got the heat on that pitch.

I am here to give every kid, not just the kid with the natural talent, every kid, who has the notion he can pitch the chance to try it out, from the mound, with me calling anything close a strike.

I am here to show them that everyone can fail, anyone can not know where the play is, to teach them that any action is better than nothing, and, on my team, you try, you win.

I am here to be positive and affirming, and expect the same of them.  I stopped practice just last night when one of my quietest boys, screamed out a spontaneous cheer when one of the biggest guys popped one into the outfield, to thank him and tell the team that's what we are here for.  I shook my head with pride the other day when one of the better boys (and he knows it) switched squads mid-scrimmage to even up the sides, even though it meant he'd get one less at bat.  "That's okay, coach.  I don't mind."  He wouldn't have done that at our first few practices.

I guess I could spend my late hours researching the skills I am not so familiar with, watching the endless You-Tube videos on pitching and sliding techniques and reading books on strategies and affective rosters.

Or, I could spend my time considering the exact words that will encourage and inspire each individual kid, not necessarily to be a better batter or first baseman, pitcher or shortstop, but to be a better boy.

I will happily keep myself up at night thinking of ways to respect these boys, these too-soon-to-be-men, in the way they deserve to be respected; with love.  Through our hearts and then outward to our gloves and cleats, we'll learn baseball together, from the inside out.

I am not a good baseball coach but, I know what boys need.  That's what I am here for, them.

Go ahead gimme the test...

(In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I am only the Assistant Coach, the Head Coach knows stuff.  Honest.)

One more picture just for variety:

The first baseball picture I could find with both of them in it.

From Marci's '...things you don't expect to hear from the backseat...'

"There are no more giants in the world because God threw them in the trash... that's why He is really good."

Well, it makes my top ten list of why God is good, trashed giants...

For more of my thoughts on baseball and such check out one of ihopiwinatoaster's more popular posts   "...about baseball and boys, poetry and dreams..." from late last year.

1 comment: