When I was little, I was not too fond of baseball. I think it’s because we never played with a bat and ball. We played whiffle ball, where you swung a plastic thing shaped like the number eight. The kicker is that there were no actual rules either. Hitting an 84 mph fastball would result in two runs ng scored, whether a line drive or a slow roller to third base. You could hit the ball and run in any direction you wanted to. We played in our front yard. Oh, and we never had enough players for each team. There were always way more outfielders than infielders.
Baseball wasn’t my thing as a kid, but I love watching it like most people now that I’m older.
Why the change?
It’s because now I understand what is going on behind those silly-looking gloves and helmets: Life lessons disguised as games. The fun yet hard part about having kids is that you get to go through life repeatedly but with what-if questions instead of unanswerable ones.
My son, now 11-years old, plays little league baseball and has for the last seven years (he’s on his third team). For those of you not familiar with the sport, Little League Baseball is a non-profit organization founded in 1939. This league hosted local, city, or state baseball tournaments where children as young as four can play. Every August, the championships are held at a Major League Baseball team’s (MLB) fourteen spring training stadiums across the United States.
Anyway, each year we’ve had the privilege of cheering on our son and his teammates while they do their best to win games. And it’s not just my wife and I but also both sets of grandparents who attend every game because both sides are still living. It means a lot to us, but more importantly, it means a lot to the kids.
My son’s first year playing baseball
The first year he played baseball was in 2019, when his team went undefeated until that final championship game, which came down to what you call good defense:
- The catcher dove for a ball hit up the middle between second base and centerfielder, resulting in an out at home plate.
- When the other team got runners on base, one of our outfielders snagged a line drive with his bare hand resulting in an out and the game-winning run thrown out at third base.
It was a lot of fun to watch, but it was even more enjoyable to see how our son reacted to it all. After making the last out, he ran around the bases and jumped into his dad’s arms.
I’ll never forget that look on his face when he realized what he had just accomplished. He instantly went from a kid playing a simple sport to a champion or, as they call them at little league, all-stars.
Life as a little league coach
In September 2019, my son started middle school. It’s been interesting for both of us because I’m very introverted by nature. In fact, before having kids, my wife and I planned to move into the woods somewhere and raise our kids, not telling them about Wi-Fi or what an iPhone is (we still might do this).
But like they say, life throws curveballs, and one of those curves was coaching little league baseball. Sure, it may seem like fun at the time. After all, you get to be around children again, which brings back those warm fuzzy feelings from your childhood. But don’t let those photos fool you: there’s a lot of discipline that has to be meted out as well. Most people spend more time yelling at their players than playing themselves. As a head coach, you have no control over things such as poor umpiring calls, injuries, and the fact that your star pitcher may have a bad day. But there are also things you can control, such as each player’s effort, hustle, and how they conduct themselves on and off the field.
What’s training like
A little league coach spends an average of three to four hours with their players per practice session or about one hundred practices before moving onto district tournaments in May 2020. (Teams that do well at district go on to state championships.) This means roughly 300 hours spent yelling at children, and not just yelling either. Coach is constantly correcting players’ mistakes while teaching them new skills to get better every time we step out on the field. Of course, training helps. And pitching is a crucial skill in baseball. We usually teach kids proper form and even record how fast their fastballs are with radar guns to have a benchmark for each throw. It can be discouraging for both my son and I, but we also know it’s for the best.
Coaching little league forces me to step back and completely re-evaluate my life. I have to take a good hard look at what matters most in this world because there are days when it feels like nothing matters but getting that next win.
And maybe that’s the secret of coaching little league baseball. It makes you realize how important it is to surround yourself with others who cheer you on even when you feel like quitting or can’t handle any more curveballs thrown your way. Luckily, we’ve got family and friends supporting us every step of the way, which helps make all this yelling easier to handle.