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Spring training is not far behind…

February 20, 2010
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Hard to believe it’s time to start thinking about baseball already.

Not just with the major league pitchers and catchers reporting- followed soon by the position players and then full on (yet completely meaningless) spring training games- but also with Ian’s team.

Ian is moving up to the “minors”, which is the first kid-pitch division of his league (basically, it’s for 9- and 10-year-olds).  Since his coach’s boys are also moving up, Ian will be pulled up with them and a few other kids on last year’s Diamondbacks team, and thus won’t have to try out.  I’m really kind of happy about that, since I kinda think Ian would really put himself under enormous pressure and would wind up stressing himself into do poorly at the tryout.  That boy is his father’s child.

Today is tryout day.  All the kids who aren’t moving up as part of a team, who wish to switch teams, or who are new to the league will try out for a spot on one of the teams.  As Gene’s assistant coach, I will be attending tryouts today to help him choose who we might want to try to get on our team.  The short [and VERY unorganized] fall-winter league in which we played was kid-pitch, and we realized quickly that we need to find some pitchers, or it may be a long summer.  I’m also kind of looking for kids with at least decent defensive skills (relative to 9- and 10-year-olds, of course), since we’ve been kind of deficient in that area as well.  We’ve always been at least above average in the hitting department, so I’m not necessarily as concerned with getting hitters as I am getting pitchers and good defensive players.  Besides, the hitting just seems to improve itself as we progress through the season, and hitting is what our guys get the most practice on at practices.

Anyway, we’ll evaluate the kids today at tryouts, and then get together with the other league coaches in a couple of weeks to draft the rest of our teams.  With any luck, that’ll occur over beer and assorted munchies, but that’s another story.

I feel almost giddy for a couple of reasons.  First, just because this means baseball- and, with any luck, spring- are on their way, but also because I feel all… I don’t know… coachy.  Two summers ago when Ian was first placed on Gene’s team, Gene was pretty much on his own.  He had no help, and was basically handed a team at the last minute.  I volunteered to help him out since, being a stay-home dad, I wasn’t bound by any sort of schedule, for the most part.  Then before last season, when Gene called to make sure Ian was still interested in playing, he also asked me if I would be willing to help him coach again.  I was floored because Gene’s one of those guys- not unlike myself- that will opt to just take on the responsibility himself than to “ask for help”.  I think his wife Tammy may have had a little to do with his asking, especially since he had to have back surgery a week or two before the season started, but whatever the reason, I was thrilled to have been asked and excited to help.  He even told me how to get a team shirt so I can look the part.

So without ever really being “dubbed” as such, last season I think I officially became the assistant coach, and was given quite a bit more rein with the kids instead of just being First-Base-Coach-Helper-Parent Guy, especially during the fall-winter league.  Gene seemed to lean on me quite a bit more, to talk to and with me more as a partner or an equal than as a parent helping out, and to allow me to get on the kids- especially his own- when they were kind of screwing off.  That seemed to be pretty rampant in the fall-winter league, for some reason.  He even said to me, “I want you to get on my boys when they are dicking around- they don’t seem to feel the need to listen to me.”  I understood that completely, since Ian doesn’t listen to Coach me any more than he listens to Dad me most days.  I also “got it” simply because I am fully aware how awkward it can be to have your father as your coach.  My dad was my baseball coach for six years, and though I figured out, about four years after he stopped coaching, why he was “so hard on me” (in my mind), it took me becoming Ian’s coach to really comprehend the whole Dad-vs-Coach dynamic, since now I have seen it from both the kid’s viewpoint and the father’s.

And now, with me actually being involved with tryouts and drafting, I am feeling like an actual coach.  And that’s really a pretty cool feeling for a baseball-loving dork dad like myself.

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