Over the holidays I decided not to coach the town travel baseball team this summer. There were several reasons for the decision; the main one being I am between jobs and didn’t want to make a commitment I might not be able to keep. Though I will still coach, as an assistant on the town travel softball team, the decision was agonizing.
It was agonizing not because I am worried about my son’s playing. He and his game will benefit from playing for someone not named “Dad” even if I feel we could have punted on that issue for at least another year. The decision was agonizing because I love coaching. I love the preparation that goes into it and I love the in-game managing. I love replaying every play after the games thinking about what I should have done differently.
I love the moments when baseball reaches out and touches your soul, and it happens just about every day at the youth level. I’ve written about some of the on-field moments, but the off-field ones are just as evocative.
We’re at a restaurant on Father’s Day after a tournament. My son and I are still in our baseball gear to the amusement of my wife and daughter (she’s yet to start her travel softball journey at this point.) A family scoots behind us ready to exit when the dad stops and comes back over to us and says, “I love your uniforms. Happy Father’s Day.”
I nod and say, “Thank you. Same to you,” without really understanding what’s to love about our jerseys. They are just plain red after all. Then it clicks. It’s what’s on the back of our jerseys.
But what I’ll miss most is the extra time spent with my son forging a bond as we’ve weaved our way through the parent/coach/child relationship. I can’t say every step has been easy just as I can’t say I have been perfect. There are plenty of moments I’d like to do over. Still, we’ve always been close, but baseball has brought us closer and being his coach even closer still.
Kid, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy having your dad as your coach. I know I’m hard on you, and I know I expect more of you on and off the field.
What I don’t know is if you understand how proud of you I am. Not because of what you do on the field; win, lose, ofer or three HRs, it’s just a game. I’m proud of you because you listen and make adjustments without fussing. I’m proud of you because you learned long ago that practice helps you improve and now you ask me if we can get more work in. I’m proud you because you show up every day dying to play, ready to compete. Don’t ever lose the fierce competitor in you. It’s okay to hate losing, and I’m glad you do, though you always have to be a good sport about it. And I’m proud of you because of the teammate you are becoming, they way you celebrate your teammates’ successes. In a world that is increasingly all about “I” remember what you give to your teammates you will get back five times over. I’m proud of you because you’ve grown in some many ways I never did.
Every year at the team introductions, I when I ask the players and coaches to name their favorite player, I name some pro. Here’s a well-known secret. You are my favorite baseball player. Why do you think I wear number 72? You wear 27 in homage to Mike Trout. I wear number 72 in homage to you.