Isn’t there another chance to learn that play? A chance to show the new skill being mastered? When can we cover this again? Why does it always have to end?
Those who are closest to me in the baseball circles that I tread upon, they know how the last day of the season means to me. How much it affects me. And they probably know how much I have written on the subject over the years.
But this year was different. Aren’t they all.
When my Dad died on April 14th this year, it was baseball season. When I couldn’t bring myself around the team or the game for 3 weeks afterward, our coaches and parents picked up my slack. And when I did return, the game was there, like it always is, to rescue me and lift me slowly to my feet.
Then when the playoffs ended, we started the all-star season. Our first team practice was on June 27th, just 20 days ago. We practiced for 7 straight days. We had the 4th of July off, then another practice on the 5th. On the 6th the District tournament started. We hosted the tournament in Goffstown, at Allard Park. Then another practice on the 13th. Bang, the State tournament started on the 14th. Again, we hosted (we are still hosting).
On Friday the 15th, I drove to Canada for a family commitment. I drove back, nearly 400 miles on Saturday, hoping to get back to Allard Park before our game was done. I missed. So close.
So did we. We missed, as a team. So close. We lost the final game of our season, 3-1. Just writing the words makes me cringe, and reminds me how difficult sports are, as only ONE team finishes the season with a win. Yes, just ONE.
I pulled in among the pines as the crowds were just starting to disperse following our game. I felt the pain that I always feel when there is no competitive tomorrow. I felt bad for having missed the game. But as much as I love baseball, family is more important, and that’s where I was needed.
Knowing me I will write too much and blow some readers out. But, as I usually do, I give the feeling of the good, or the bad, the great, or the disappointing, a chance to wash over me. A chance to resonate. Because the taste left in your mouth doesn’t always have to be bad even when things don’t go your way. And I do that by staring the reality right in the face, and I feel the pangs, while taking accountability for the parts I caused, corrected, or corrupted. So take away what you will.
Last year we had 27 days. This year it was just 20 days. So much work. So many throws, and swings. So many words and methods of communication. So much heat and frustration. So much fun. So much improvement. So much effort. So many lessons. So many chances to grow and learn, together. So many positive results that always seem to get less attention than the ones we stop to correct. I hate that about baseball because there is so much failure in the game. But then when skills are being mastered, appreciation should absolutely soar. Most kids are done playing baseball by the time they reach the age of 12.
Ya it was a different year. We had 3 players who practiced regularly with us as to improve their games while not being on the roster at all. I am thoroughly impressed with them for showing up and taking reps all in the name of improvement. Thank you to those kids and their families. You helped us all get better.
It probably goes without saying far too often, so I will say it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To the parents, the families, the players, the coaches, the volunteers, and the entire support group we all count on. You all are second to none. As one Dad from another team said to me last week, “Hey coach, you guys have a great facility here. What really stands out, is all the work you all do to make this a great experience for all of us. (Laughing, he added) And you look like you have so much fun working together”. I thanked him sincerely for taking a moment to share that with me. I heard a lot of similar commentary from coaches, parents, and officials who happened to spend time with us at the gem we know as Allard Park. So, again, thank you to all of you and those who support your efforts. Thank you to the Allard Family.
Finally, I point out that several folks approached me with encouragement as they relayed their own perspective of how much they thought the team had grown or improved, or both. As a coaching staff, we don’t have the effect on these young men to the level a college football coach might have over four years, but I think there’s a valid lesson in a quote from the great coach, Amos “Alonzo” Stagg when he was asked if one of his college football teams was his best team ever, he answered: “Is this my best team ever? I won’t know that for another 20 years or so.”
So many things to learn. How to improve mechanics. How to make this play or that one. What to do in a game situation. Situational thinking and execution. So many lessons. How to be a better teammate. How to overcome adversity. How to win and lose with grace. How to approach each opportunity to be on the field. How to carry yourself as a fine young man. The list goes on and on.
I am proud of the team, and how hard they worked to improve. I got to see them raise their compete level to a previously unprecedented height, without losing sight of the game, or respect for their opponent. I love the spirit shared, as they willed flawless execution for one another while working to do their best on the splendid symmetry of the diamond. It was my pleasure to work with all of you. And despite me getting fired up to make a point every once in a while, I am truly humbled and honored to walk among you all, and be called coach.
Some previous writings on this subject: