I have been coaching Little League baseball since I was in high school.
If you are wondering how I am going to tie Little League baseball to stories about yarn, knitting and Your Daily Fiber, well, I’m not. I guess I could mention that Elaine knits yarn from Your Daily Fiber at Little League games. There, I tied it all together and I can get on to what is really what I want to talk about.
I have coached kids baseball in four of the last five decades. I have coached baseball to three different generations. That’s a bunch of baseball.
As a senior in high school, a friend and I decided it would be fun to coach a kids baseball team. Our baseball careers had come to an end and we were looking for a way to be around baseball. My youngest brother’s team was looking for a coach. My friend and I gladly volunteered. (1st generation)
Our son (the twin’s dad) loved baseball. I coached most of the teams he played on. (2nd generation)
Now, as I have mentioned I am coaching the twins’ team. (3rd generation)
When the twins asked me to coach my first thoughts were, “Wow, it has been a long time (more than a decade) since I have done that. Oh well, how different can it be?”
I can answer my own question. “It is BIG TIME different!”
Coaching my brother’s team, I admittedly was not very nice to my brother and his teammates. I think my friend and I spent more time making the kids run laps around the baseball field than actually teaching the baseball fundamentals. By the time the season was over, my brother was through with baseball. I mean completely. I don’t think he would even watch a game of professionals, today. I should feel bad, however, I feel like I drove him towards car racing. He is better at that, anyway. See, everyone wins! I wonder why he hasn’t thanked me.
Coaching my son’s team I actually taught them baseball technique and fundamentals as they were taught to me. My son’s teammates absorbed baseball like sponges. That group of kids saw themselves playing as professionals.
My brother practiced and played games in T-shirts and jeans, my son played games in full uniforms and practiced in athletic attire. My brother carried his bat and baseball glove in the basket mounted on his bicycle. My son carried his glove and bat and SHOES in his team authorized, specially made bat bag.
My brother and son’s teams (for the most part) were focused and wanting to play baseball.
Now let’s talk about the twins’ team. (Incidentally, the name of their team is the Twins. I asked the director of youth baseball, if that was done by design. She said she didn’t realize what she had done, but I’m not sure.)
The twins wear full uniforms to their games. Two of their teammates wear full Major League baseball replica uniforms to practice. Hey, whatever makes the kid feel good about themselves, right?
The twins’ team is more likely to be practicing cartwheels and somersaults than catching or throwing a baseball at BASEBALL practice. Why? That’s easy. Some of them are ready to play professionally tomorrow. They already have the uniforms!
I have the greatest conversations with this latest group of kids. Like the one I had with one of the Mr. Pro Uniform.
Me: Hey, I think you would have better results catching a ball hit on the ground if you would put your glove on the ground.
The Kid: Why can’t I do it the way I have been doing?
Me: Well, you might want to try it another way because you are not catching the ball.
The little guy went into the stands and told his dad, “I was trying to change him.” Hmmm, I guess he was right. I never even considered he might like the way he was NOT catching the ball.
These kids cry. They cry if they bat last. They cry if they make a bad throw. They cry if someone criticizes their cartwheel. They cry if they get hit by the ball. OK, I can understand that one. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
The kids with the least talent, ability, or desire have the biggest egos. One of the kids was playing “catch” with another kid and lost control of a ball he was throwing. The ball missed its intended target by an INCREDIBLE distance where the ball hit a fence post and careened off, striking another boy in the head.
Curious, I asked the thrower how that could possibly happen?
Thrower: I was wondering that, also. Why was he standing there?
Me: Oh, I don’t know. I guess he thought he was safe.
Thrower: Yeah, I thought he was safe there, too.
I had one little boy who told me he doesn’t like to win.
Me: You don’t like to win?
Me: Help me understand that, what do you like to do?
Boy: I like to have fun. I play baseball to have fun.
Me: Now I think I understand. Baseball should be fun. Winning is the reward for playing hard and doing things right. Like studying for a test in science and getting an “A”.
Boy: Yes, but it is not fun to make people lose.
I’m guessing professional sports are not in this little guy’s future. The truth is, I love this little guy. I just love talking to him.
Much to the dismay of one of the kid’s parents, I don’t really care if the team wins. In an extremely close game with another team where we were losing 15-0, I decided to let a kid pitch that had never pitched before. Obviously, my throwing in the towel, irritated the parent of another kid. It looks like they quit the team, They haven’t been back. Oh well, that kid has never made me laugh anyway.
My job is to try to help them improve their skills and learn to have fun. The kids can take care of the winning if they want.
Girl Twin was having a little trouble not bringing her rural roots to the ball field. She told me, “I can run the bases better if I can wear my cowgirl BOOTS.”
Girl Twin is pitching and Boy Twin is catching. Both twins are hitting the baseball. The entire team enjoys after game snacks. The cartwheels are getting better every practice. I’m having a great year. I’m thinking this 3rd generation is the most fun. The twins and I are planning for next year. Heck, I might try a cartwheel myself.
Our crazy lives!