Monday, March 12, 2007

Batter Up

My greatest regret of the last month is that I didn't see "The Departed" before this season's first Little League practice. Oh, the fun that P (my co-coach) and I could have had quoting lines from it to a bunch of 9-year-olds and their parents. I particularly treasure the idea of staring down a third-grader and saying, "Whoa, let's say you have no idea and leave it there. No idea. Zip, none. If you had an idea about what we do we would not be good at what we do. We would be cunts. Are you calling us cunts?"

Alas, it was not to be. It was, instead, an uneventful day, a chance to see who can pitch (most of them), who can hit (most of them), who might have an attitude (none of them, so far). An improvement from last year, when one player alternated between doing bird calls and asking for cigarettes. Another could crush the ball but refused to run. I asked him before a game, "Hey, you going to hustle today?" He answered, "I don't know. I'm pretty slow. I'm probably the slowest kid in my grade." Then he spit a sunflower seed at my shoe.

There was another kid too, a quiet, shy boy, couldn't get a hit if his life depended on it. He'd joined us after playing on another team. His mom told P (we've coached together for a couple of years) that he hadn't been on base all season.

After our second game, P asked Mom whether the boy could hang around a little after the other players left and work on his hitting a little. I think she was surprised, because the coach of his previous team hadn't done much in the way of holding practices. She was happy to let him stay, though, and even offered to play third base.

So that's what we did. P threw batting practice, I caught, Mom played third, P's son played second, and my son played first. For the first 10 or 15 minutes we just worked on getting him to position himself properly, watch the pitch, stop chopping at the ball. When he was finally getting a nice level swing, P just kept pitching. For 30 minutes, an hour, two hours.

At the beginning, he didn't make much contact. That's okay. It's important to just get the rhythm and it's a lot easier to do that when there's no crowd, no runners on base, and no pressure. If you miss, you're not out, you just try again.

After a while, he started hitting the ball. Not very hard or very straight, but he'd get the bat on it. "Come on," Mom would yell from third base. "I know you can hit it over my head."

Eventually he did. Not a screaming line drive or anything, but he hit it over her head. I don't know who was happier, Mom or the kid. P pitched for a while more, just to make sure that batting had started to work itself into the boy's muscle memory, and then we called it a day.

The kid got on base every game after that. He still wasn't the best player on the team, but he was contributing and it made him proud. He'd stop at first base after getting a hit and he'd be smiling so much that you'd thought he'd won the World Series. I suppose for him, he had.

I'd see them around town after the season ended. The boy's still quiet, but he'd always say, "Hey, coach" and Mom and I would chat. The last time we ran into each other, I asked Mom if he was playing again this year and she said he was.

A friend of P's was at Little League sign-up this year when Mom and the kid came in. I guess Mom was talking about how much her son was looking forward to baseball this year and how much it meant to him that he'd learned to hit.

P and I heard that story later. It's why we coach.


Anonymous said...

Another blogger with the need to use "cunt." Must we? And don't give AG the -- I was quoting a movie routine.

Snag said...

You know, AG, I actually did go back and forth on this. It's not a word I like or that I use very often, but I eventually decided that because I was deliberately picking an inflammatory quote, it would be silly to use ellipses. Besides, I'm hoping for an Oscar.

Anonymous said...

The boy was lucky to have such nice coaches. I'll even excuse the use of the c-word... besides, the moose post still has me smiling.

Anonymous said...

I just have no use for the hatred that goes into the countless words we have for vagina that we use to hurt others.

Just call 'em a cobag and move on.