(Just wanted to say before I start, I’m trying to avoid using names because I know not everyone likes to be talked about online)
The past 2 years have been pretty big for me…..I met my wife, Ashley, we had a daughter, Felicity, we got married, and now I’m about to have a son. It may sound completely ridiculous, but I rank that meeting I had with my Dad about possibly being the JV coach for Deer Park right up there as far as big life events go.
Ive always wanted to be a coach like my Dad. Since I’ve loved baseball my entire life and was able to play for 14 years, it always seemed like the next step would be coaching. Simply watching wasnt enough for me, but I needed an in, some way to get started. I mean, I created a slow pitch softball team and ran it for a few years, but it was men’s beer league softball. There’s no strategy, there’s no room for growth. I had been seeing my Dad turn entire school softball programs around and even win Coach of the Year. I mean, my Dad is the most intelligent baseball guy I know. He’s a great hitter, a great fielder, and he knows his shit. So when he asked me if I wanted to be the JV Coach at the school that he’s got a pretty good reputation at, I was ecstatic. My Dad was trusting me to help him with his softball program, something I know he takes a ton of pride in, something that means a lot to him. I was honored, basically.
So he tells me the basics of the job and lets me know the differences between fast pitch softball and baseball. It was a lot to take in, but I was eager for the challenge. I know a TON about baseball, but this, this was a challenge. I LOVE challenges. But nothing could prepare me for the first day of practice. I thought I had it covered, but I realized really quick I didnt know ANY of the drills my Dad considered basic, and I didnt know any of the players. So instead of getting involved I stood back and watched my Dad run the show, studying everything, studying the players and their personalities, and just…learning.
As I may have mentioned before, I’m not exactly the best public speaker. I’m a natural leader, but talking…..eh. So the first day of JV only practice, I was on my own and I was absolutely fucking terrified.
The last thing I wanted to do was just be myself….I’m coaching teenage girls at a HIGH SCHOOL, so I have to watch my mouth. I have to make sure not to cuss, say my usual grown up inappropriate things, and not offend anyone when I try to fix a swing, a throwing issue, or teach a better way to do something. I didnt want to screw up or embarrass my Dad and make him regret giving me the job. But oh well, I had to suck it up and just coach.
It was pretty easy to tell in the first practice that the girls I had were going to be fun to coach. I had freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. It seemed like they were all pretty cool with each other for the most part, so there wouldnt be any team drama. I had experienced and inexperienced players. I had wiseasses and quiet ones. Most importantly, I had girls that can straight up play. Sure they needed work and I needed to get them to believe I could actually teach them something. That was easy, since they all seemed to be pretty responsive to everything. And dude…….lets get one thing straight about the situation…..I love to be in charge. I love running shit. I couldnt wait to get this started.
My first struggle as a coach came before the first game of the year when a varsity player got hurt, which meant I wasnt going to be getting a pitcher on a regular basis. So basically, I had to create a pitcher from scratch. I really didnt think anyone would want to seriously try, so I was pretty surprised when Haley and Miranda got up there and threw. Haley threw almost as hard as some varsity pitchers I’ve seen and Miranda was throwing strikes, so I felt pretty confident we’d be ok between the two of them.
So our first game was a complete success….everyone is hitting the crap out of the ball, Alex was throwing a freakin no hitter (and had hit 2 home runs already), and we were about to win, so I threw Haley and Miranda for a couple of innings. You could see how nervous they both were but they got the job done. #RealTalk: Seeing them get their first strikeouts as pitchers was one of my proudest moments as a coach. The blowout win was nice, but seeing how excited those girls got was so badass.
I’m not going to go into every single game or every single situation but a few stood out. Hope, one of our best players, got hurt in a Varsity game and was going to be out for the season, meaning I had to create a 3rd baseman. I feel like I made the best choice, even though Emma will tell you it was the worst idea ever. But hey, she didnt bitch (she whined a little though) and she did a great job. Thats what good team captains do.
There were some hard times though….the team had gone undefeated the year before, so naturally when we hit a bit of a losing streak, it sucked. I started to doubt myself a little, but my dad was quick to remind me I had 2 pitchers who had never pitched before, I didnt have Alex pitching for the team like the year before, and I had people playing positions they had never played. The fact that we had done so well even against teams that shouldve killed us was a testament to how good of a job I was doing and to how talented the team was (next year we’re going to be the shit, btw).We were only clearly outmatched twice the whole season and were in just about every game.
The players individually all improved over the course of the year….it wasnt just from me, but they really kind of helped each other even if they didnt realize it. Anna was pretty much one of the quietest players on the team, but she was a captain because she led by example. Always wanted extra help, never bitched and complained, never refused to do anything. Haley was one of the most surprising players because she could kill the ball and throw hard as hell despite being a smaller girl, not something you’d expect obviously. Miranda, the youngest girl on the team (I think), was one of the more impressive players since she basically played everywhere and got better each time she did it. Sarah caught great for us all year, Hailey played a good first base and kept people laughing all year (Kaitlin too, girl was hilarious), and Bryanna and Hayley were pleasant surprises (especially Hayley in the last game of the year). Angelika was basically the best bunter I had ever seen……I mean the list goes on in ways the players impressed me.
Throughout the year I realized coaching wasnt all that difficult. Things started to feel more natural, I started to understand the game and the way other coaches approached it better, and I knew every strength and flaw in my players. I finally felt like I belonged as a coach. Granted, I still have a long way to go to be like my Dad, but this was a good first year.
The players arent just good players, they’re good kids. I mean, they’re typical obnoxious teenage girls, but they arent the kind you hope your kids dont turn into. They get good grades, they’re good to their friends and families, they respect authority (to an extent), and I could only hope Felicity is like them when she’s in high school.
Coaching was seriously one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I got PAID to do something I loved for the first time in my life. I wish it was my full time job. I only hope that eventually I can get as good at as my Dad and get good enough to coach a Varsity team and build and sustain a successful program like him. Thanks to this year’s batch of players, I firmly believe its possible.
PS: Simba’s got the hookup at PJs. Wed-Sun, hit me up and I’ll see what I can do!!!