Shoelace tying and other T-ball coaching lessons
We were only halfway through our first game when I had to tell the 4- and 5-year-old boys on our team that they’re not supposed to tackle. It seems like a perfectly reasonable request if you’re coaching flag football. However, I was coaching T-ball.
It was my son’s Monument Little League T-ball team. I say “I coached” his team, but you don’t really coach 5-year-old boys. There’s a cliché that says coaching 5-year-olds is like herding cats, but that’s wrong. A cat will occasionally listen to you.
To prepare for my stint, I watched some YouTube videos designed to help you coach T-ball. For this I feel I deserve much credit, because on the right-hand side of the screen, YouTube recommended several videos for me that looked much more interesting, many involving swimsuit models.
But I ignored these videos and tried to learn how to coach. These videos consisted of experienced coaches, older men, none of whom were wearing swimsuits. The men taught you how to teach the art of throwing and hitting, and this all sounded nice, but what I really needed was a video to show me how to get boys to not sit down and draw in the dirt.
A T-ball coach’s job doesn’t involve teaching. You simply email a schedule to parents and repeat the same instructions 576,321 times to their kids.
Instructions such as, “Don’t put rocks in your mouth.”
I actually had to say this. The boy playing shortstop had gotten so bored, he tried to see how many rocks he could fit in his mouth. (For the record, it was six).
We had one girl on the team. She didn’t eat rocks. Because that would mean she was actually on the field, rather than in the stands with Mommy, unable to deal with those long, brutal innings that lasted around five minutes or so.
She once arrived to the game in a ponytail. She asked me, “Does my hair look pretty?”
I’ll bet legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel never had to tell an infielder he looked pretty.
Nor did he ever have to tie a player’s shoelaces. That was my main job: tying shoes. I’ve become a big fan of the Velcro industry. Then there was the boy who left the field, mid-inning. “I’m sooo hot,” he said at around 6 p.m. on a cool night in April.
Other kids would go out to play defense and suddenly have to go to the bathroom. Sometimes multiple times in a game. If your 5-year-old child ever suffers from constipation, sign him up for little league.
The only consolation was to see the kids on the opposing team act the same way.
Once when I was coaching first base, the opposing first baseman completely ignored the game, and all the throws sent to him, just so he could tell me all about the birthday party he was going to after the game. Apparently there was going to be cupcakes.
The one joy of the whole experience was to see the kids improve as the season went on. At the start of the season, we had players who didn’t know where to run or how to hit. Some could fit only four rocks into their mouth.
Of course, some of the players were spoiled and whiny and didn’t hustle. In other words, they were just like most Major League Baseball players. All in all, however, the kids were good kids, happy kids.
Which is why in my dreams, I see this is the start of a something great.
That this first taste of baseball will spark in them a lifelong passion for the game. That they’ll keep at it, growing into talented players and eventually reaching the majors, where they’ll one day hit a walk-off home run in Game 7, after which they’ll tell the reporter they owe it all to their first T-ball coach, who years ago imparted in him these immortal words of wisdom:
“Don’t put rocks in your mouth.”