Tao of T Ball
Baseball is the best of everything to me. It’s a sport that most anyone can play and understand (if you don’t try to figure out the ERA equation or why it is RBI and not RBI’s). When you go to a baseball game it is relaxing enough where you can enjoy conversations while enjoying a game. It’s a team sport and not an individual sport. In the big leagues the small market team can win the World Series just as quickly as the large market teams, that’s one of the reasons I am a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Baseball is peaceful, cerebral, and still very athletic. In my opinion, it is the best sport to introduce to a small child.
This year I started my daughter in T-Ball. I volunteered to coach. I have six years coaching under my belt. When I was in my twenties I was a police officer in Virginia Beach. Someone told me they were having trouble getting coaches for City League Junior Boys Baseball because they were having troubles keeping some of the kids out of trouble. The league had issues with fights and generally difficult attitudes. I was asked if I was interested in coaching and I jumped all over it. The kids were good and just needed someone to listen to them. Most of them were good enough to make their school teams but grades held them back. I coached them to the playoffs each year and the kids had fun and returned each season for me to coach them. I was going through a tough marriage at the time and it was a great place to get away and forget about things that smoked my mind. It was my first time coaching and it was a blast.
Many years passed and I was in a better place in life with my second, present, and last wife. I was given an opportunity to coach first year kid pitch for another league in the city. My wife and a neighbor helped me coach. I love drills and practice and the kids were fantastic and willing learners. I feel best teaching defense. I taught several kids to pitch. I had a girl on the team and she wanted to learn to pitch. After making sure it was okay with her parents I taught her to pitch and she was untouchable. While coaching in this league my wife and I were trying to have a child. We had tried for a while with no success. All the years I had coached I never had a my kid on the team, I did not have a kid at all. I coached because I love baseball and I wanted the chance to give to the kids an appreciation for the game and teamwork. During the last season of coaching this league we had a miscarriage. I still remember going to the practice field to meet the parents and cancel practice. One of the mothers spent a half hour trying to console me and share her similar story. We finished out the season and spent the next four to five years going through fertility treatments in a push to become parents and it was a rough road but one that paid off, with the birth of my daughter. I wrote and published an E-Book on that amazingly challenging time called “The Longest Love Letter” . I also keep a separate blog for infertility support. I will forever remember that battle.
This year my daughter was old enough to play ball. We looked around to make sure we found the best league to start in. All fingers pointed to Green Run Little League. I was very excited because in my first two coaching experiences I was dealing with divorce or the painful battle to have a child unsuccessfully. This time I had a kid on the team and fantastic marriage so it would be no holds barred fun. I called together our first practice and tried to figure out the best way to teach 4 and 6 year olds alike. I am a very drill driven and organized coach in practice and from the beginning I learned that as organized as you may be, in T-Ball, it is far better to be flexible. I discovered that practice was a success if you were able to get the kids to form a line. I think I came close to getting a line around the fifth or sixth practice. I fell in love with the kids. They all wanted to play and learn. I let them know from the beginning that I have three sacred rule
- Have fun
- Learn basic skills safely
- Want to return next year for more (whether they want to play for me or another coach)
The parents were fantastic and all willing to help. I had two men step up to help coach. They let the kids be kids and have fun. No one took things too serious. I was concerned with the rules because I was not sure how T-Ball worked. The league gave me a hundred page rule book. When I showed up at the first game I walked up to the opposing coach and he gave me a quick snapshot on the rules of play. the first game was an exercise in hilarity. No matter where the ball was hit the entire team would rush there and wrestle for the ball for twenty minutes. Even after a long battle for possession they would still get the ball to first around the same time the hitter got there. The baseline was a great place to make dirt angels, offensive players were just as likely to field a hit as the defensive players were, and you better watch your hitters bat real close when you placed the ball on the tee. Every player was a great personality. I had three big time sluggers, twin girls that were tougher than any of the boys, a newly minted four-year old that throws like a senior pitcher but was only a foot tall, a kid that walks around like a daydreamer but had the heart of a lion, a boy who started the season throwing the ball into the ground but ended it throwing across the field, a younger player that got better every second he walked the field, a little guy who started out clinging to my arm at the opening parade but eventually gained confidence hitting and fielding, a younger brother who got hit twice by the ball his older brother hit, and then my little red-headed menace. My daughter was the second youngest and one of the biggest kids. She had fun and learned a lot. The kids got better as the season went on. I learned a good number of things I will do differently the next time I coach if the league will have me and my daughter still has interest. The kids reminded me to be patient and they also reminded me to have fun. The truth is that I got more from the season than they did possibly. The season had its personal issues. My job was lost to downsizing during the season and I had to find a new one while working out my last days at the place I have worked for fifteen years. This team reminded me of what was important …family, friends, and happiness. Baseball and coaching again came to my rescue. If you want to remember how simple life is you only need to spend some time with a child. They deserve your time and if you pay enough attention they will teach you tons. I am very proud of my teams kids and families because they all get it. They all sacrifice time and money to let their child have fun and learn a sport. They put trust in me and one of the hardest things a parent can do is place trust in a stranger with their child. This trust was not lost on me. There were no winners or losers but the season was a smashing success to me.
In a few short weeks my daughter and I will be going to DC to see our second game of the year. I hope that baseball is a fixture in my life with her for all my years. When we are at the games I don’t care what the score is I just want to hear her talk, eat a hot dog, and enjoy the sun while grown men play a game that nearly every kid plays at one time in their life.
If you live in Virginia Beach and are looking for a league there is no better place to go than Green Run Little League. They are a volunteer organization. You do not volunteer if you do not love what you are volunteering for and it shows with this league