29 June 2011

Starting Over: A Small Reflection on My Second Year as a Baseball Coach

Last night the mighty Pelicans (the team I am honored to coach) finished the regular season with a two game winning streak and a 5-9 record. It was a great regular season; now we enter the playoffs; we are in the single elimination bracket. We face a good team, but if the boys played like they played tonight...you never know.

Baseball in New Orleans is like baseball nowhere else. You tell me what other baseball/softball field in America that sells cheap American beer and cheap Argentinean wine at the concession stand? Where else do parents, coaches, and officials shrug off a sky filled with lighting and dark ominous clouds? It is an interesting experience to say the least.

In retrospect it has been a great season. I was reluctant to coach my son's team for all kinds of reasons. But I am glad I did it. Every boy on the team is a great kid; I like being around everyone of them. There has been lots of laughs and lots of high fives and lots of ways to go. It is a thrill to watch the surprise on a kids face when they hit the ball for the first time, when they stick their glove out and make a catch, when they score a run. I am amazed at the athletic talent of the kids at this age (7-8). I can't get over their capacity to learn how to play baseball. I also cannot get over their capacity for laughter and enjoyment during the game. Last night while I was pitching batting practice one of the 8 year olds hit a line drive right up back at me, I could not get out of the way in time (I knew I should not have eaten dinner before the game) and the ball smacked me in the side. Instead of asking if I was okay, he said "finally." The kid was jumping up and down like, he was so excited he hit the coach. These kids...

After each game the team gathers to go over the game, congratulate the boys on their achievements, and pass out team balls. What happens next is beyond scientific explanation. The boys could have played to near exhaustion or played with the body language of near exhaustion but once we gather hands on top of one another for our last cheer and I dismiss them for "team drinks" they run like the wind. Boys that five minutes earlier could barely make it first base run so fast to the concession stand that their feet barely touch the ground - it is truly amazing.

As the season shifts to the playoffs I am struck by how fascinating it is to have the chance to start over. Tomorrow evening everyone restarts the season at 0-0. How many times in life I have wanted to start over with a fresh beginning. But human relationships are too complex for that kind of instantaneous reappropriation of relationships. It can and does happen over time but not like it does in baseball; in baseball it happens. I hope the kids soak this up somehow either consciously or unconsciously. I wonder if my rather hopeful outlook on life stems from all the years I played (mediocre) baseball? I think there is something there.

We will begin again tomorrow...and I can't wait.

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