Baseball season just came to a close for my coach pitch team. What a trip that was.
I spent the past six years coaching baseball at the high school level before embarking on this little adventure with 7-and-8 year olds.
I got paid to coach older kids. But I had so much more fun with the little guys. Something about being around baseball without the pressure of winning and catching hell from a know-it-all parent makes it invigorating again.
At the beginning of the season I wasn’t so sure. I watched these kids show up at practice on the first day and struggle to get gloves on the right hand and throw and catch like, well, 7-year-olds, and I wanted to turn into a mirror of Billy Bob Thornton in the remake of “Bad News Bears.” I found myself glaring at parents with an overwhelming sense of pessimism. “Which one of these jokers would be the know-it-all type that would know how to do everything just a little better than me,” I thought.
Fortunately, the answer was none of them.
By the end of the season – way before then actually – I settled in and hated to see it come to an end. I’m not sure how much baseball progress we made. But gloves are firmly secure on the correct hand and we didn’t bat out of order all season. It’s hard to ask for much else, isn’t it?
It’s hard to determine what is right and what is wrong at that level. But some things seem like common sense. How much do you practice? How much do you push them? Practice three times a week and 20 pushups for a missed ground ball? Not my style. Screaming like a lunatic at a kid for making an error. I think that falls in the common sense stuff I was talking about. Emphasizing win, win, win. It’s not the major leagues. (Granted I don’t emphasize losing, either. I think it was former Coffee County baseball coach Phil King who once said, “show me someone who doesn’t mind losing and I’ll show you a loser.” I couldn’t agree more. But how do you tell a 7 year old that? There is nothing wrong with healthy competition. But let’s not get carried away for the glory of receiving a cheap plaque at closing ceremonies. Kids tend to remember specific moments of glory that they contributed to, not team championships.)
I think the idea is to pass on a few fundamentals. If at the end of the year kids know the basics of base running, where force outs and tag outs are and how to at least somewhat throw and catch with some consistency, I say it is a successful year.
I don’t know if we even accomplished all of that. But I thought to myself as the year went along: “I just hope these guys enjoy it and want to come back for another year.”
Baseball is a great sport. It’s something pretty much everyone tried at least once. Some kids I’ve seen try to play would be better off trying to dunk a hockey puck in a football goal. But at that age, everyone should play. I tried my best to get everyone time on the infield and move positions around as much as possible. Maybe I didn’t do it enough, but I tried.
“This is the most fun my kid has had playing ball,” were the actual words out of some parents during our end-of-the-year pizza party last week. I’ll remember that long after the memories of winning a ball game fade into inflated folklore.
Thanks goes out to those 12 kids for helping me remember what the game I love most is all about. It’s a kid’s game.
I’ll try my best in the coming years to help them be as successful as they can. I’ll help them reach the high school level and hopefully beyond. But no matter what I do, I can never repay them for what they did for me this year.
– Josh Peterson is the editor of the Manchester Times. He has won TPA awards for his writing and photography. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 931-728-7577 ext. 105. Follow him on Twitter @joshpeterson29