Sunday, April 08, 2007

Put Me In Coach!

I fancy myself as something of a leader. I’m comfortable giving direction. I don’t mind taking the heat for my decisions. Plus, I have a good smile. My leadership skills are about to be put to the ultimate test.

I am a T-Ball Manager.

Not just a coach. No, no. I couldn’t just sit back and take direction from another parent. No, I wanted the limelight. I craved the power. Now, the spotlight is on. Now, I have the power (insert ironic He-Man joke here).

The season officially starts this Saturday. Tonight, two days prior, is the first and only organizational meeting where, apparently, we will be given hats and shirts bearing the name of each team’s official sponsor. What’s the name of my team?

The Pizza Lady.

But we aren’t just going to be The Pizza Lady. Nosiree. My competitive spirit won’t sit down and take that. We’re going to be The Pizza Lady Punishers. And as soon as those kids learn how to catch a ball, watch out baby.

The league’s T-Ball teams each consist of one foolhardy manager, 2-3 completely masochistic coaches, and a dozen or so 5-6 year old kids.

Everything you just read was the post I started earlier this week.

It’s now Sunday (Easter) afternoon, and Leah is upstairs with the boys in a fruitless attempt to get them to nap after gobbling down three pounds of chocolate. Yes, we gave them chocolate. Lots of it. Enough to ensure that Daddy gets his share. Oh yeah.

But what I really want to talk about is how if I do nothing else in this life, being a baseball coach is the best thing I’ve ever done. For those of you who don’t know the story, twelve years ago, in a complete drunken stupor brought on by the sheer terror of meeting her brother for the first time, I told Leah how much I loved her. I told her I wanted her to coach a little league team with me.

Then I threw up and passed out. But the sentiment stuck.

Yesterday, I walked out onto the baseball field for the first time in over twenty years, and looked at a dozen kids who wanted so badly to have fun in the shivering morning temperatures. I handed out new hats and jerseys to kids who had never worn one before. I raked the dirt around home plate and remembered watching my coaches do the very same thing.

And then I watched their faces light up as I started to talk, train, and teach. Everything anyone ever taught me about how to play baseball was instantly at the tip of my tongue. A few adjustments and someone was throwing a baseball like the big kids do. Another alteration and someone else was fielding ground balls ready to move up to the major leagues.

And then Sam called out, “DADDY! LOOK! I’M PLAYING CATCH!”

And then he wouldn’t put his new bat down the rest of the morning, including the car ride home. And then he wore his uniform to a birthday party that afternoon. And then he wanted to wear it to bed.

And now I know why I remember Bill Robinson, Jim Sisk, Rob Palmer, Red Gibson, Ken Donovan, John Campbell, and Dave Anderson.

They were my coaches.