No, I do not mean the boys of summer. You know, the ones that get payed obscenely large amounts of money to play a game that almost all of us learned as a child. By "men of summer", I am referring to those thankless few who donate their time, efforts, and energy to teaching someone else's untalented, unmotivated child how to play the game.
These thankless few attempt to instill in the children the same love they themselves have for a game that the children have absolutely no idea how to play, if they even have an idea as to why they are on the field at all.
These thankless few attempt to teach children who are more interested in playing with the dirt on their shoes than trying to learn how to field a baseball, let alone hit the stupid thing. These thankless few attempt to teach the mechanics of a game to children whose great accomplishment up to this point in their short lives is not using the restroom in their pants.
These thankless few try to teach the rules to the children. Don't everyone go after the ball. The pitcher throws; the catcher catches, and outfielders shouldn't just try to catch grasshoppers. A foul ball is different from a fair ball, but both are still part of the game. Throw the ball to the player instead of running across the field to hand it to them. Even rolling the ball is an acceptable attempt to get the ball to the person.
When asked the question on everyone's lips and mind -- "Why?" -- one coach said, "Because my son is on the team and I was the only male that was able to make it to sign ups that day. I was kinda just chosen to do it." Beyond that he went on to explain, "I have a deep seated love for this game, I hope that my child will be able to have just a bit of it instilled in them."
Another coach stated, "I have always wanted to coach, but was never able to get a job doing it. I want to be able to ensure that the kids have something fun and exciting about this game to remember." He went on to say, "I had a great coach when I was a kid about this age. My parents always talked about how much he enjoyed doing this, and he always made it fun. He didn't care if we didn't get a hit, or made a play all day long, so long as we as a group had fun he was happy. That made things fun for us."
They do this all week after thankless week, in the cold spring rains, and the hot summer sun. The whole while getting peppered with questions by parents as to why their little future gold glover, Cy Young Winner, golden slugger, or triple crown winner isn't actually batting lead off, or clean up. The whole time they do this with a smile on their face, and attempting to make sure that ALL of the children are having a good time. While trying to remember that we all have our bad days, and sometimes it is actually more important to find out where the trail of ants lead. If for nothing else at least to be able to answer the one question which will spawn one hundred more.
These thankless few will spawn in their lifetime possible one player that is able to make into the major leagues. Once there, will this child recall the one person who was there week after thankless week teaching them how to stay down on a ground ball? Will there be even one mention of the one person, besides the player's parents, that saw the talent that is there to spend the extra time hitting fly balls to? More times than not, the answer will be a resounding "NO."
To these legions of thankless men and women, I want to say thank you. Thank you for the time you took on me as a youth. Thank you for imparting to me an understanding and a love for the sport, game and competition. Thank you for everything that you have ever done, do, or will do to help some misunderstood child be able to have the confidence to take a swing at what ever life possibly throws their way.
I further thank you for taking the time to do this with my three year old son. If someday he grows up to be the next Randy Johnson, I will try to remind him to thank you as well when he eventually goes into the hall of fame. If he doesn't, but has a love for the game that he cannot explain, I will remind him that you were there for him. Letting him be a child during the game, which will have taught him so much!
A Proud Parent of a Sports Child.
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