My baseball “career” began as a manager, League Commissioner, Treasurer and umpire in youth baseball. I coached/managed my boys as they advanced up the in-house baseball ladder. I also managed a few travel teams.
The politics of a baseball league, parents who think their child is going to get a college scholarship at the very least and who think the travel team should be the reincarnation of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, the back-stabbing and the general stress caused burn-out.
Once my youngest reached High School it was time for me to step away; he needed another manager’s voice in his head. The fact that he no longer had the time to play recreation/travel baseball and that he was aging out allowed me to step away.
I eventually turned to writing and blogging about baseball, especially the MiLB system of the Baltimore Orioles. The research and writing filled the void.
My oldest son reached out to me and asked if I would come out of coaching “retirement” to help coach my grandson’s team, the Hickory Fountain Green 7/8 Cardinals, in a game against the Twins. My help was needed due to the fact that it was First Communion Day for several of the players which meant the coaches would not be present. I agreed and I am glad I did.
I will admit that my experiences in youth baseball, especially in the later years, have jaded me. My personality, demeanor and teach-first philosophy really didn’t mesh in a league where the Commissioner was all about successful travel teams.
Yesterday I rediscovered the fun and joy of working with children who just wanted to play. I coached first base and worked in the outfield with the players.
It didn’t take long for the memories to come back to me. It was a chilly and windy day and after the first inning I heard the questions, “when is the game over, it’s cold?”, “what’s the score?” and “when are we going to bat?”. I quickly remembered how hard it was to keep this age group’s attention and to try to get them to stay on the bench.
I saw the players who were drawing designs in the infield dirt with their cleats, I had one tell me since he was in the outfield he was going to just step on dandelions and I even had a debate with the right-fielder at the time as to if balls were ever hit out there. I told him it was an important position and that the ball did indeed get hit there. The blank look I got when I told him to ask his dad about Nick Markakis and Roberto Clemente and their play in RF.
One boy thought it weird that his team was playing the Twins because he and his brother were twins.
The teacher in me came out as I watched both hitting and pitching mechanics (the league is a combo of kid pitch and coach pitch) and how to address them. Good plays were made, solid hits were had and I saw a few good arms on both sides. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and showed me what is good about baseball. I saw the pure joy when the first baseman caught a throw and the pride that comes with sticking with an at-bat and finally getting that hit.
The love of baseball is passed down in families and mine has gone for me to my sons and now to my grandson; hopefully I hav done something right.
The stress and rigors of my actual career as a Laboratory Scientist in a hospital lab during the Covid-19 pandemic were forgotten for a few hours and I have those boys to thank for that.
Reality struck when we had a play at first base where the first baseman fielded a ground ball and ran to tag the bag. Both players seemed to get to the base simultaneously and the runner was called safe. Instantly, one of the players on the field looked at me and said, “I want to see the replay”. I laughed and thought that was so modern day baseball.
THE JOY OF BASEBALL WAS BACK!!!!
These are extraordinary times in our country. The pandemic that is the coronavirus is minute-by-minute altering how we all go about our daily lives. Social distancing and self-quarantine are becoming the norm.
All major professional and collegiate sports are on postponement and many of us are looking to fill the void. As a blogger who writes about Minor League Baseball, my writing is on a bit of a hiatus; I have to search for topics away from the baseball diamond to write about.
The point of this is not to solicit sympathy for me but rather to start a discussion of what baseball fans are doing to fill the void. I posted this question on another site’s message board and quickly realized I am a dinosaur. The responses I got centered on computer games and binge watching TV.
I started by stating that I was planning on reading Billy Ripken’s book, State Of Play in the hopes of see what others may be reading. I also plan to search the web in order to find more baseball cards and such of my favorite Baltimore Orioles Minor League prospects.
What are you doing? Are you reading a baseball book and if so, what book? Are you watching past games on You Tube or MLB TV?
It is my hope that by sharing and discussing we can help each other, as baseball fans, get through this together.