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Chris Gay: Baseball season brings pain, potential

Posted: May 17, 2017 - 2:34am

I came home Monday night, my shirt soaked with sweat.

My left hip hurt. My right elbow hurt. My left foot hurt. Why am I doing this to myself?

Four years ago, I decided to coach baseball. I played 10 years as a youth and thought I'd rejoin the sport I loved. When my son started playing Tee-ball, I began as an assistant to the head coach. The next season, I decided to become a head coach myself.

So here I am now - in pain - practice after practice. My baseball team consists mainly of 11-year-olds. We're in this funky 9-12 age group at the Family Y. We started out there and decided to remain, despite several issues along the way. (Note: A ton of great people work at the Y.)

When most of my kids were 9, we were supposed to be in the second and final year of coach pitch. Then, the folks at the Y pulled a fast one on us and put us in our first year of the 9-12 league. Not only did my kids have to move up in class, several had to learn how to pitch. My son pitched to some kids who looked like they were in high school, boys and girls bigger than me. Still, we survived the season, missing the playoffs by a game.

Last year, we made the semifinals for the first time and lost by three runs. Now, we're looking to make the playoffs again. I have 12 kids on the team, 10 of whom played in 2016. That guarantees nothing, but it's better than having 10 newcomers.

On Monday, I was the lone coach at practice. Fortunately, only seven players showed up - four had other obligations (unsure about the other one). It was like herding a bunch of wild cats hopped up on caffeinated beverages. Now I remember why I don't want to be a teacher.

God bless all the teachers in our lives, and God bless all our coaches. Teachers and coaches have to deal with all different sorts of children with all different sorts of issues. A few years ago before practice, one of my players informed he didn't take his ADHD medicine - and he proceeded to go to the shortstop position and throw dirt in the air like it was confetti.

These days, I mainly have to deal with attitudes - mainly from my children. After all these years, my son still argues that a ball on the outer half of the plate is not a strike. I explained the strike zone like this to my players: a strike is whatever an umpire calls it, and you don't argue with the umpire. (Side note: For years, I've called my son Carnac the Magnificent based on the old Johnny Carson character who knew the answer to everything before ever seeing the question. That's my son, Carnac.).

My other child, my daughter, goes up to the plate thinking she's going to strike out every time. I've got to get little Eeyore to check her negativity at the door and start thinking positively.

My team - the Angels - has one more practice this week. Then we play our first game Saturday. In the meantime, I'm worrying about so many things we need to work on.

Baseball is the hardest sport for a child to play, and nothing really compares. Every child goes to the plate trying to hit a moving object.

Boys and girls have to hold the bat a certain way. They have to get their footwork correct. Then, in a split second, they have to decide whether to swing, not swing or get out of the way. That's what makes this a unique challenge, one I find compelling.

So another season has begun. I'll soon find out how good or bad my team is and what adjustments we'll need to make. And I'll keep pitching and throwing and batting to them in an effort to help them improve.

I might stagger home after practice every time - and I'm sure I'm not the only coach who gets sore. But the more we work, the better we'll get. And if I can trade an ice pack for a winning season, bring on the pain.

 

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