Sometimes it is very difficult to be a dad. Tomorrow is one of those days.
The Codgers play their first playoff game at the Little League Field at 11:30 AM. We’re playing Amvets, the only team in the league we’ve beaten this year. We’re 2-1 against them, 0-9 against everyone else.
We’ve got a great shot to move on to the second round. We’ve got our pitching in order, and our bats have been pretty darn solid of late. I like our chances quite a bit.
Here’s the problem — I won’t be there.
A couple weeks back I booked a wedding for June 26. I had the date open, inexplicably, and could not say no to a decent pay day on short notice. It would be irresponsible of me, as a father and businessman, to not jump at the opportunity to put more food on the table. You have to take work when it is available, especially in our economy. It’s not like people are throwing $100 bills out the windows and you find them on the streets like old scratch tickets outside a convenience store.
Of course the wedding is from 10 AM to 2 PM. The game begins at 11:30 and will probably end around 1:30 or 2. I won’t see a single pitch.
Yes my heart is broken. I need the Codgers to come through for old Coach Rich so that I can be on the bench one last time (or two if we pull off a miracle).
This is worse than finding out I had to miss out on prime Red Sox tickets because of work. This is worse than missing a Pearl Jam show. This is just the worst because I’ve poured everything I’ve got into this team. I love coaching these kids, even though it can be quite exasperating at times. It’s a constant battle to remind myself that they’re only 8 and 9 years old and the mistakes are going to happen.
I remember my baseball coaches saying that physical mistakes are okay, but mental ones aren’t. When they’re so young the mental mistakes are physical mistakes. Stay with me and I’ll explain. The brain of a kid that age is not fully developed, thus it is a physical thing. They try their hardest to do the right things, but sometimes they forget where they are supposed to be on the field, and thus can’t get to balls that they should get to. They weren’t in position, because of the mental part, and that leads to physical errors. It compounds. It’s frustrating as all get-out, but you have to deal with it.
Of course then there are the plays they make that just make you say “wow,” especially when they make plays that are of the variety that you cannot teach. On Saturday our best player made one of those plays when he faked a move back to third to get the catcher to commit to throwing the ball and then did a 180-degree turn and sprint to the plate to score a run. On Tuesday Rye was headed home, and the catcher had the ball and was waiting for him. Instead of running into the out, he dispy-dooed his way around the catcher, weaving his hips to avoid the tag, and then touched home with his left foot, sliding it on the plate as he passed by.
You can’t teach that stuff. They just figure it out, and it’s mind-blowing to see it happen. When a kid covers the bag on a play that you’ve never gone over, or takes the extra base because he sees no one is covering on his own, it just makes you smile. Those are advanced plays, and sometimes they just get it, and when they do it shows that you’re getting through a little bit.
Of course there are the days when the games go too long, and they remind you how young they are. True story, but I won’t divulge names to protect the guilty and innocent.
During a recent game I came out of the third base coaching box back to the dugout after the final out to find one of my players in tears. I thought he must have taken a spill and broken his arm or something, he was nearly inconsolable.
What happened. Through the sniffles he said that one of the other guys had gone through his stuff. I didn’t understand why that would make him cry, but I told him we needed him out on the field and sent him out there.
Turns out that one of the players had gone through the kid’s stuff and pulled out his underwear, and then made fun of him for wearing tighty whities, that were stained. I’m not sure who the actual guilty party was, but it was really difficult not to crack up at the time.
These are not exactly the things that Tito Francona has to deal with on a regular basis. They’re the types of things you’d expect to have to deal with at a sleepover with kids of this age.
I mean I’ve had to tell kids that they can’t play Nintendo DS on the bench, that they can’t sit with their parents during a game, that they can’t take someone else’s gum just because they want it. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it’s coaching, sometimes it’s babysitting.
But I’d give anything for a chance to babysit/coach Saturday morning. Say a prayer for me, maybe I will get to coach on Wednesday.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.