Psycho Coach

Holy crap – you won’t believe this.

Sunday Jack had a baseball game and then a soccer game immediately following. We were in a neighboring town and the opposing coach was an asshole. I don’t think that’s subjective. He was yelling at his players, the umpire, Jack’s coach.

In the 2nd inning Jack was on 3rd base. The bases were loaded and the batter whacked a long shot into the outfield. Jack came around the score. The next kid came in as the ball was coming home. The catcher missed it and the ball rolled around. The catcher scrambled to get the ball and Jack was still in the area.

“He’s obstructing the catcher!” the coach yelled at the umpire, pointing in Jack’s face. “He should be out!”

The umpire (who was not the greatest) shrugged it off as the coach continued to yell. Eventually Jack jogged back to the dugout. He was close to crying and muttering that we was not in the way (which is debatable).

As the game went on, Jack’s team dominated. They were winning 17-7 as he went into the bottom of the 5th and final inning. This was the other team’s last chance.

Well wouldn’t you know it, that other team went on an incredible tear. Hitter after hitter blasted the ball into the outfield. In a remarkable comeback they scored 11 runs to walk off with a win. Jack’s team was beaten.

At this point, Jack is at risk for being late to soccer. I grabbed his stuff and rushed him off. I got him in the car and my boy just fell apart. He’d just gone through a heart-breaker of a loss; it was too much for him.

“That umpire was so awful. And we just kept dropping the ball. And that coach!”

“He was pretty bad,” I responded.

“I wasn’t in the way on that play where he yelled at me. Then he mouthed something to me as I was walking away. I think he mouthed the f-word.”

“He wouldn’t do that, Jack. He was over the top, but he wouldn’t do that.”

Jack was upset, but he was ranting about everyone and everything. I calmed him down, told him it was part of the game, got him ready for his soccer game.

So…fast forward to the 5th grade BBQ that evening. The mom of Jack’s friend came up to me.

“Mike, I heard about the craziness at your game. We were at the field right afterwards and saw the whole argument going on.”

“I didn’t see anything,” I told her. “I rushed Jack out of there as soon as the game was over. What happened?”

“One of your players said that they other coach used the f-word at him. A bunch of the other players heard it. Your coach was right in there and there was apparently a big argument.”

Woosh. Suddenly Jack’s story got a hell of a lot more credible.

Turns out there was all kinds of mayhem that we missed. I’m not sure what’s true and what’s part of a rapidly inflated rumor, but it appears:

  • This coach went through the handshake line after the game and instead of “good game” said something to our players involving the f word. This is apparently confirmed by 3-4 kids.
  • This coach had instructed his players to try and hit our catcher with the backswing of their bat in the last inning. That way the catcher would be called for interference and the batter is sent to first base. Twice in a row in the final inning our catcher was struck by a bat. One of the opposing batters apologized to our first baseman after getting on base and claimed he’d done it on his coach’s orders.
  • This coach was barking at players on our team. This I know for a fact and he only stopped it when our coach went and got in his face.
  • This coach tried to get our coach to fight him in the parking lot.

Unbelievable, right?

The entire league is involved at this point (as it should be). Incident reports have been filed. Hopefully this ass-monkey is removed from coaching. It’s Fall Ball, so this guy is not in our league. His league is in another town, so there’s only so much our league can do – but hopefully he gets the boot.

Fall Ball and the Quest for a Hit

Fall ball can go two ways. Sometimes fall ball is sitting there at 8:40 on a windy Friday night with a blanket wrapped around you and your wife. The kids walk every batter because their hands are too cold to pitch. It can be pure misery.

But fall ball can also be a sunny afternoon that’s so beautiful you’re happy to just breathe in the air. This Saturday was like that.

Fall ball has a totally different vibe. In the spring the whole town plays. The stands are filled with parents and all of Jack’s classmates are on his team or the team they’re playing. Spring ball had ended without a hit for Jack.

But fall ball is way more mellow; it’s more like a skills workshop for the kids who are really serious about baseball. I sat in the near-empty stands and spread out to watch some ball. Here are Jack’s highlights at the plate:

Bottom of the 2nd:

Jack stepped into the batter’s box like he was stepping out onto ice he’s afraid will crack under him at any moment. He sprang backwards from the first two pitches (called for strikes). The third pitch he sprang backwards, but he actually took a beautiful swing in the process. He struck out on 3 pitches.

Bottom of the 5th:

Jack got up to lead off the inning. This time he was severely over-matched. Fall ball has 5th and 6th graders, so these kids are just on that puberty line. Jack is a tiny boy. The opposing team put in a new pitcher who was literally taller than the umpire. WHOP went the ball into the catcher’s mitt with each warm-up pitch.

Another strike out – this time I couldn’t blame Jack for being timid.

But while Jack did not have a great day at the plate, check out his highlights in the field:

Top of the 4th:

Jack was playing left field. Two out. Two men on base. A foul ball went up over the stands and down a hill. I went to get it, but kept my ear out to make sure I didn’t miss a big play. And thank God I did.

PING went the aluminum bat and I hustled up the small hill. I got my head up just to see the ball sailing for left field. This was a huge play — it would either end the inning or lead to 2 runs. Jack was on a full tilt run. Jack stretched out…

He got it. Just barely. He got it with the webbing of his glove and he was going so fast he nearly fell down and dropped it. He held the ball up to the umpire. Out.

Jack’s entire team went nuts. They mobbed him as he got to the dugout and cheered “Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols!” One of the dad’s hugged me as I got back to the stands. My boy was beaming.

So a terrific day in the field and a moment of heroism. Not to mention…Jack had another game on Sunday. Stay tuned to see if a hit is forthcoming.

Fall Ball and Air Fiddling

Fall ball:

Hard to believe – but the fall season of baseball has begun. Jack has joined up and this year will be playing with 5th graders (his age) and 6th graders. The quest to get a hit begins again – but this time the competition is tougher. Older, faster pitchers.

Jack was assigned a coach we didn’t know at all. Two guys with 6th grade kids who have coached as a team for years. They emailed me to ask about Jack. I told them:

  • He’s a good fielder
  • He’s fast on the bases
  • He has a good arm (except when he decides to “pitch”)
  • He rarely swings and didn’t get a single hit this spring
  • He loves to play baseball

So first practice I went to pick Jack up. I was a little early and Jack was actually coming up to bat. First pitch comes in…BOOM! He corks it into the outfield. The coach came running over to me soon thereafter:

“I worked with him in the cages – he’s WAY better than I thought he was going to be. He WILL hit this season. I can tell. I know it.”

“Sweet,” I said, a little taken aback.

The coach then went through the entire draft with me and he was glowing about some “steals” he got in the late innings. I think he included Jack as one of his late-round steals.

So I’m optimistic.

Air Fiddling:

In other news…the boys have discovered the song: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. It has immediately become their top request. Today they played it 6 times in a row. Alex sat on the bed and listened to the words. Jack was in the hall air-fiddling like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.

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The appeal of this song is universal and undeniable. And air-fiddling is mandatory. I like it way more that than unbearably catchy “Psy”, dreaded Korean hip hop artist.

Sidenote: My brother Chris was once in a crowded bar when Devil Went Down to Georgia came on. Chris kicked into such a frantic fit of air-fiddling that someone actually threw a glass pitcher at his head. The pitcher hit his friend Mike Ondik, who was sent to the ER.

OK…baseball news to share soon.