Trees are budding. The snow has melted. The calendar has turned another page. It is now April, and that means it’s time for baseball season.
I have made the transition from player to coach, and, in my humble, unsolicited opinion, I think I’ve made a rather successful transition from student to teacher. There are a number of players who have been under my tutelage, and I would like to think they have honed their skills, developed new ones, and found a new appreciation for the game I love. Of course, none of these children who have found a new love for the game are living in the same house as me, but there are children out there who appreciate my efforts.
Slugger has found an appreciation for our National Pastime. He played a year for his school, and he likes watching baseball games on television. The family has gone to a couple of Red Sox games. He told us at the very beginning he is a New York Yankees fan, but we still love him.
Both Slugger and Slick can be found in the backyard playing catch in the spring and summer. It does my heart good to see the boys out there during the day. Of course, they’re teenage boys, and they really don’t have much regard for form or easing into things. Baseball novices and sages alike know that when you get ready for a game or practice, you loosen up like you do in all sports. My last baseball manager, Coach Donahue, called it, “Loosening up the soup bones”.
For these boys, showing their strength and superiority is more important than getting loose and avoiding an injury. Instead of easing into a friendly game of long-toss, Dizzy and Daffy would rather pump their arms, rear back, and see how hard they can throw and how fast the ball can reach the other. This usually results in a bit of “Olé” on the part of the boy who is supposed to catch the ball.
I haven’t played baseball in a while. Actually, it’s been decades since I last played organized baseball. However, I do know a few things about the game, things I knew even before I started coaching kids. These are things that are considered to be basic and fundamental, like not needing to throw a ball as hard as you can if the person is only a few feet away from you. Or keeping your glove in front of you to protect you from the oncoming throw. Things you learn in the backyard when you start playing catch, let alone play an actual game of baseball.
But, hey! What do I know? Not much, obviously. Jackie Bradley, Jr. and J.D. Martinez have everything figured out and they don’t need any advice on what they’re doing or should be doing. The boys continue to throw as hard as they can. One of the baseball brainiacs throws the ball and the other gets out of the way.
The baseball hits the fence and takes out a piece of the panel. They look at each other, then one leaves the yard and goes next door to retrieve the ball that ended up on the other side of the fence. He returns to the yard, and they continue their game of catch. I refrain from any further advice and let the boys proceed as they were.