What I Learned While Coaching Baseball

We played nine games and ended up with a 4-5 record. Almost 500. We didn’t make the playoffs, the end-of-the-year tournament. That was for the top 8 teams. We were 9th. It was a really fun season, though.

Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then…

Take that chance

Kids want to have fun. Winning is fun. Do you play the kids where they CAN play in order to win or where they WANT to play in order to have the maximum amount of fun? Try to find that middle ground. I think I managed. We had fun. Okay, we didn’t win more than we lost. But this is “just house league” baseball. Everyone plays. No one doesn’t make a team. So let them play. One kid asked to pitch but I didn’t think the kid was capable. I found out later they were more than capable. I didn’t know what that player was really capable of doing because I didn’t take that chance.

Don’t lose your ducks

Get your ducks in a line before they all start telling you where to put them on the field. They all want to pitch and play 1st base. When you have a dozen players you can’t have 6 pitchers and 6 first basemen. Someone has to play the outfield. In house league baseball only one in a thousand hits makes it to the outfield. It’s as boring as watching the outfield grass grow. So get organized before it all falls apart and you’re scrambling not get your ducks in line, but scambling just to find your ducks.

There’s always the next inning

Patience. Baseball is already a game of patience, but if you’re not patient with the kids, you’ve already destroyed the first rule – to have fun. So your team is having an off day at the plate or your pitchers are having an off day on the mound. Off days happen. Mama said there’d be days like this. Take a deep breath, shout a few words of encouragement, and move on to the next inning. Turn your hat around, kick some dust, do the hokey pokey. That’s what it’s all about.

One inning at a time

Sometimes things work out – you tie the game at a crucial point. Sometimes they don’t – you give up the winning run in the last inning. Sometimes there will be surprises (when the new kid hits a double). But no matter what, you gotta roll with it. Take the ups, the downs, the four run innings. In the game of baseball, as in the game of life, there will be good times, rough times, and times that take you completely by surprise. Enjoy every minute of it. Except the bad times. You can laugh at those later. You just have to take it one inning at a time.

Make it happen

You have more power, strength, and lucky than you think. You can make a strike out feel like a home run because at least the kid was swinging and not running from the ball. Or you can make a single feel like slap in the face because an experienced player swung at a wild pitch. You can make a team work together. Or you can let them fight over positions. You can make an out seem like a miracle. But you will never make outfield the place everyone wants to play. With a little ingenuity and the right words you can make anything happen. Make someone’s day or ruin it. Make your own day and not let anyone ruin it.

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He Told Me Not To

A coach once told me that if a doctor ever tells you that you have only 3 hours left to live you should go to a mosquito (little league) baseball game. It’ll be the longest three hours of your life.

We were losing the whole game. We were always close, but always losing. After the 5th inning we were down 16-15. The 6th inning would be our last chance. The sun was on the horizon and once it dipped below it would get dark fast. I knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to finish. You can imagine my dismay when I saw their pitcher warming up. He was throwing with heat. Gordon Ramsey in Hell’s Kitchen kind of heat. Fastballs that I feared my mosquitoes wouldn’t be able to hit and we would be 3 up, 3 down and game over.

You can imagine my surprise when he loaded the bases with walks.

You can imagine my surprise again when we had suddenly scored 5 runs and found ourselves up by 4. I was watching the darkness creep up on us and knew we had to get the 6th inning over if were to win. You see, if a game is called on account of darkness the score reverts back to last inning that was finished. We were losing in that inning. We had 1 out against us and I quietly told my next batter to strike out so we could get this inning over. Unfortunately, she was hit. A bean ball that scored us a 6th run and put us up by 5. I told my next batter the same thing. He struck out, though not on purpose. 

2 outs and the sun was below the horizon now. We were playing on borrowed time. Twilight time. We had to end the inning pronto. I quietly approached my next batter and explained it to him.

Me: This is going to make no sense right now, but in order for us to win this game I need you to strike out.
Batter: So you want me to swing at everything?
Me: Yes

And he did too. One pitch sailed over his head. He swung, not even attempting to hit the ball. Our coach down at 1st base hollered to him to not swing at pitches over his head. I laughed because coach wasn’t in on our plan. He swung and missed the second pitch, too. He swung at the 3 pitch and connected solid with it. The ball sails like a runaway kite in hurricane out into right field. The batter stands on home plate simply watching it as if he were watching a ball game instead of participating in it.

The first base coach is yelling, “RUN! YOU HIT THE BALL! RUN!”

The batter is standing on homeplate pointing toward me at third and hollering back, “HE TOLD ME NOT TO!”

The right fielder throws the ball to first and the batter is called out. 3 outs. Change sides.

Bottom of the 6th now, we’re up by 5. I’ve got a pitcher throwing who usually throws zero run innings. It’s nearing 8:30 and it would be hard for me to argue to keep playing should the other team decide it’s too dark. I’m no lawyer. I probably couldn’t argue my way out of a wet paper bag. The other team does score one run. But we also make three outs to end the game with a win.

We won because of an almost strike out, because a hitter slugged the ball but stood still,  and because a team made it happen when it counted most.

Now swing on over to FacebookTwitter and Instagram and follow me round the bases…

strike out

Lucy At Home

Put Me In, Coach!

I’ve been playing baseball since I could stand and swing a bat. Back then I wouldn’t throw. I wouldn’t give mom a turn at hitting. As I got older I learned to enjoy fielding. Making the plays. Diving catches, pitching from the mound, and throws out at first base.

I was an infielder back then.

Later, in University, my brother and I joined a men’s modified pitch (fast pitch, but underhand) softball team. I became an outfielder. Chasing down fly balls, throws out at home plate, and robbing homeruns.

That was 20 years ago. I haven’t played since.

This year, I’m finding myself in a slightly different role. Coach. I got a taste of it last summer and it tasted good. One game last year Crash’s coaches couldn’t make the game so another Dad and I stepped up and said we’d do it. We lost, but we and the team had fun losing. So when they were looking for coaches for this season, we stepped up again.

Now I find myself torn.

With this league being what’s called a “house league” there are no tryouts, no one gets cut, everyone makes a team. Since it’s an all-play there is a wide variety of skill levels. There are 1st season kids who haven’t played before. There are 2nd seasoners who are okay, but still have some needed improvement. There are also kids who have been playing much longer who understand the game and can make the plays.

What I’m torn between is giving kid the experience they want playing the position they want and playing kids in the position I know they can play and giving us the best possiblities for a win.

Winning is fun. Playing outfield sucks.

If I play to win, the game could end sooner. If I play for the kids’ experience, the game could drag on and on worse than watching Star Wars episodes I, II, and III.

If I play to win then the kids who are at an advanced level get to play a bit more than everyone else. That’s one thing I’ve been trying my hardest not to do. I give everyone the same amount of playing time no matter good they are.

We all want to win, but we all also want to pitch and play first base. Can’t have all 9 of them on first base. So I battle to get the kids to play where they want and still keep the game moving quickly and end up with a win.

As of right now we’ve won one, tied one, and lost two.

What would you do? Play the kids so you win or play the kids so they get to play where they want even if they struggle to play that position?

Now swing on over and follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram! Homerun!

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