As the baseball season winds down with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros playing in the World Series, I’m reminded of my career as a coach.
It was brief.
It was nerve-wracking.
It was the most difficult assignment of my life.
My coaching career began when the two eldest of our three sons turned out for a team of third and fourth graders during a summer league. It soon became apparent that kids that young became quickly bored, especially those who played in the outfield and whiled away the time by picking daisies rather than watching for flies.
I also found it nearly impossible to keep track of how many innings each boy played and whether each boy had an opportunity to bat, which required the help of an accountant to ensure that we met league rules.
I retired early but eventually resumed coaching when our youngest son turned out for summer ball and announced that he planned to be a catcher.
“But you’re too small to be a catcher,” I reminded him.
“Don’t care,” he responded. “I’m goin’ to catch, or I’m not goin’ to play.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that is the only player who is in on most every play,” he responded. “Don’t you know how boring baseball really is?”
I thought about that statement a lot during the season, especially when one of the substitute players always called time out when he came to bat and looked toward me on the third base side for a signal to hit, bunt, etc.
The kid would give me a wide grin, pull a card from his back pocket and check to see what all of my gesturing meant.
My son caught that season, but the team was winless until the final game. I suspected that the players wanted to end the game quickly so they would be first in line at the local ice cream shop where parents took turns treating team members.
In any event, I remember a story a parent told me during my brief coaching career that may explain the reason baseball inspires so many people to play and to watch the game.
As the story goes, a spectator drops by a playing field and learns that the Pee-Wee team up to bat leads by a score of 14 to zero.
“Aren’t you discouraged because your team is so far behind?” the spectator asks a boy sitting along in the losing team’s dugout.
“Oh, no,” the boy replies. “We haven’t been up to bat yet.”