14 April 2013

Coaching Baseball

As you may have observed I have been writing less recently. Or perhaps you all don't check my blog as frequently as I think you do, and you didn't even notice I'd been scarce. I've seen at least one of you pacing outside my house with a sign that says "WHY?" so I'm positive there's one person out there who still reads my blog. I'm 100% sure it has nothing to do with the fact that OJ Simpson lives to my left, and Amanda Knox lives to my right. But anyway, I have been sluggish in my blogging due to a loss of keyboarding skills. I lost nine fingers and seven toes in a horrific, freak Easter Egg Hunt accident. I reached down to grab a buried egg at just the wrong moment, and sparing you the details, let's just say I have to hunt and peck with one finger as I type nowadays. Nah, I'm just messing. I had a great Easter.
I started coaching baseball. It takes up a lot of time. Really. A lot of time. And I decided to train for a half-marathon. Running takes up a lot of time. Really.
My JV baseball coaching job is a peculiar one. It's strange because I really only got the opportunity because I know the varsity coach. I don't actually know anything about baseball. I thought I did because I enjoy watching it more than reruns of Cheers, but it turns out there's actually a lot more to it than just enjoying watching professionals play. I thought playing one season of coed slow-pitch softball was enough experience, but it turns out the other JV coaches whom I call my peers played and coached at the college level. I guess that's what they were expecting from me, too. Everyday I'm shocked at how little slow pitch adult softball and high school boys baseball have in common.
Easily being the least knowledgeable member on the field at any given time certainly puts me in some interesting positions since my title is 'Coach.' After my Mr. Johnson prank, an acquaintance asked me if I felt this was my next big prank- getting a job in something I am completely unqualified for, then making them think I know what I'm doing for an entire season. This was never my intention, but the cracks are starting to show. By the way, the other coaches know I have minimal baseball knowledge and are very good at mentoring me while maintaining my integrity with the players. In addition I am doing this as a volunteer (no paychecks) so it's not like they're losing anything by having me around. As for the players... well they're definitely on to me. I can honestly say I think I've given more pieces of bad advice than good advice. I can say that truthfully because I've probably only given four pieces of advice, and three of them got corrected by the head coach or a player at a later time. So I'm 1 for 4 in the advice column.
There was one practice where the head coach asked me to go help the catchers with their blocking. Basically I got to chuck balls at the catchers as if they were wild pitches in order to see if the catchers could block the balls or if they would roll to the backstop. It sounded easy enough. After about 10 minutes of this the more veteran catcher made a very diplomatic comment, which was "Coach Bennett, I think this might work better if we did such and such." He was basically telling me I was doing it totally wrong, but in such a way that he didn't question my authority. I was very impressed with his diplomacy. I pulled him aside and said "Greg, I just want you to know it's every coach's dream to have his players coach themselves and each other. If you have any more suggestions for Tim please don't be shy. I'd rather it come from you than me." It was my diplomatic way of saying, "I have no idea what I'm doing. Can you offer more suggestions please?"
However, lest you think I'm a total tub of dirty bathwater, let me inform you of my positive contributions. I feel quite confident that I've given more High Fives than any other coach or player on JV or Varsity. I'm like a machine when it comes to High Fives. I give so many I usually have to ice my hand at the end of the night. I even give them to the umpires. One time the ump wasn't quite prepared for my gesture so I ended up hitting him in the face which he did not take lightly, and consequently ejected me.
Another positive attribute I offer is counting the pitches. I am so good at counting it's not even funny. It's about time I put my math degree to use. Every game I get to count how many pitches were thrown. I'm still not sure if it's busy work that the head coach assigned me so I'd stay out of his hair, or if it's actually something he wants to keep track of. The fact that I've seen him Thank Me for counting, then throw the piece of paper away before we've even left the dugout suggests maybe it's just busy work.
Coaching is a lot of fun. I'm certainly learning a lot and growing to really like the head coach and the other players. I look forward to all the games, and especially the bagels the mothers-of-players provide.