This week I got an email from Ben Wornall and Kyle Vena who ran a "backyard baseball" event for kids in third and fourth grade. I would love it if you would take a minute to watch this video. Watch as these kids all play together and really enjoy learning the game. There's no shouting, there's no screaming, there's no pressure. Just a group of kids learning to play the game and really enjoying themselves.
My favorite part of the video is watching the kid who is playing catcher for the first time in his life. He's just terrific. You can see his excitement as he throws to pick off the runner at first. He has seen Salvy do it so he knows just what to do. He's finding his own way in the game at his own pace and just loving it.
Here's to Ben and Kyle and the folks who put together the backyard baseball event. People like that are real heroes to the kids. The guys and gals who just show up for these kids make such a huge impact. This first event filled up quickly and I have no doubt these events are just going to get bigger and better. Coaches like Ben are helping to create that safe place for kids to find themselves through play, and that's really what the sandlot is all about.
"From Day 1, when they come right out of the womb, talk to your child. You want your child to talk to you, so talk to your child...Be their anchor and support system so they can let you help them."
From the Keepers of the Sandlot - Last Chapter, The Ride Home. page 102.
So the phone rings at 9:06 and it's Drew. Drew is 30. He doesn't often call at 9:06 just to talk. The Royals are quietly going into the night in the grip of Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins.
"Hey buddy, what's the matter?"
"Well, I just called to talk because I can. Don't know what I'll do when I can't. Just glad you're here for me to talk to".
So we talked. He needed to talk. He has started a new job and he is killing it. He just doesn't know it yet, or realize how great he is doing. The results don't come as fast as they did in another job.
He was focused on the wrong things. He is dwelling on the rough times, the people who didn't believe in him, the lack of success he is having at the moment... the things that we all do periodically.
From the day they are born to the day you die. Your kids need you to be there. Never assume they don't. Give them all of your attention while you can.
I helped him focus on the right things. I said, "Buddy, remember the day all of your teammates at Taylor stood and watched you pitch your final inning. Remember the banquet when the all wept at the thought of you not being there anymore. Remember the way you played the game at your last job and the way your employees stood by your side because you loved them?"
I wrapped it up with this. "Just keep playing like Jeter. Derek Jeter was the Yankees shortstop for many years. He was the Captain. They won many championships with Jeter playing shortstop... just playing shortstop...every day."
That's all we can do... play our position. We can't play them all.
And the success will come... just keep doing your job.
And Drew wrapped it up with this. "Pops, thanks for these 37 minutes. I really needed to talk. I'm ready now to get some sleep and get after it tomorrow... good night Pops."
I didn't know we were being timed.
It's January 22. It's 21 degrees outside. Feels like 21 degrees.
It's time to hit!!!!!!! Royals Fan-fest is next weekend and it is time to hit. Take your team to Fan-fest if you can. It's warm in there and the Hot-Stove is lit Everybody wants to hit. Even pitchers want to hit. Hitting is what it's all about. Your Sandlot team wants to hit. Hit...Hit...Hit.
It all starts at home When you gather your team around you at home plate, they want to hit. Get em hitting.
We all like to talk hitting. We all had someone who taught us to hit. You are the coach, it's your job::)) What a privilege!!, you get to teach kids how to hit!!! It takes a long time to learn how to hit. You have a round ball and a round bat and you gotta hit it square!!!. It is hard, that's why it has to be fun.
Like I mentioned yesterday, Charlie Lau taught George Brett how to hit.
He said,"there are 60,000 ways to hit a baseball, but there are 10 "absolutes" that all the great hitters absolutely do". "That's what Charley burned into my head" He climbed up on his book-shelf and handed me his copy of "The Art of Hitting 300". Get yourself a copy of this book just for fun. It'll help you sound smart when you talk about hitting::))
Again, there are as many ways to coach as there are coaches. This is what makes baseball...baseball. Everybody has a theory, an opinion, it is called, "passion". The love of the game is what we pass on to our kids. There are as many batting stances as there are batters...you get it.
So as you head out to teach your boys and girls how to hit, have a blast.
Here are Charlie Lau's 10 "absolutes". The 10 things that all the great hitters absolutely do.. Now remember, you have children in the sandlot. They won't be able to do all this yet. It is just something you can begin to talk about and build on.
Balance, get "comfortable" in the box.
Rhythm... (Watch the pitcher, figure it out, stay balanced. shifting/Moving at the right time, timing...It comes with experience)
Weight shift... (Sitting back, then striding..It comes with experience)
Front foot closed... (Don't let that front foot fly open, you lose power)
Launch... (Fun to see when it all comes together, but this one takes a while)
Positive drive at the pitcher... (right up the middle)
Tension-free... (Relax.... tension keeps you from swinging like you should)
Head down... (Head in the zone, see it better, into the catcher's mitt))
Use the whole field... (Moose learned to do it real good these past couple years!!)
Hit through the ball....hard...follow-through....drive it...good.
The Sandlot Strategy is a practical guide for parents to teach their kids how to play the game. Your kid wants to talk about this stuff with you. This is the good stuff. Trust me, the time goes very quickly and you don't want to miss one day. I don't get to go to Fan-Fest. Will is getting married this week-end. You kidding me?
Get to Fan-Fest. The Royals, (our Boys in Blue), our World Champions absolutely want to talk hitting. Take your bats, get em signed. Have a great day. Les Norman will be there talking about hitting...get his book!!!
Check out The Sandlot Strategy in our Store!
I am a story teller. I love great stories. This is a great story. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. It is coaching kids, it is about great dads out there every day making it fun and it reminds me, baseball in January in a heated building....what I would have given for that growing up!!!!!
Going through my notes to start the year, I came across this note I had written...
"January 12th, 2013. Headed to a practice outside of Lawrence to speak to a group of parents and watch their 3rd graders practice in a heated indoor facility thinking, "Really, you kidding me, it's FREEZING out here, 1 to 3 inches of snow headed this way and a baseball practice, for 3rd graders?".
So I get to this metal building in the middle of nowhere and immediately hear that beautiful sound of bats pinging!!. It might as well been June inside, it was great. As I watched these 10 or so great dads working at "stations" all over the facility, I remembered just how much there is for these little guys to learn!! There is so much.
I listened to a dad talk to his young pitcher. After he showed him a couple things, (I could tell he had pitched, he was spot on with his approach) he said to his child, "Now if you are comfortable with that, that is fine. Just get comfortable and keep throwing those great strikes!!"
Comfortable: free from stress or fear.
I heard Orel Hershiser, (the great Dodger pitcher who holds the record for 59 consecutive scoreless innings) says on TV one time, "There is a saying in MLB that says, don't mess with comfortable". I love that....
It was a great practice and the kids got a lot accomplished in about an hour. What a great "sandlot" in the snow. Great job Diamondback dads.
Whether it's hitting or throwing or fielding or running, everybody is different.
Charlie Lau taught George Brett how to hit. He used to say, "Batting stances are just like fingerprints, everybody's is different." Of the 60 or so kids I coached, nobody even looked remotely the same. If they could hit the ball, it was good with me. I was comfortable with that. Likewise when I had a pitcher who could throw strikes, I was comfortable with that.
When they get stuck and can't do either, you get to jump in and help them get back on track. I had a kid play for me named Alex. He could carry the Mustangs for 3 or 4 games, get 9 hits in a row and then completely disappear. I would explain to him what a "streak" hitter is, (because I was one at times) and we would work his way back to "contact" and he would carry us again. He would say to me, "coach, if you didn't help me get back to comfortable, I don't know if I would ever get another hit".
When Will was 4, we were hitting outside and I was trying to get his hand placement straightened out. He said, "Dad, it just feels better if I do it like this"...and he turned around and started swinging left-handed!!". I about had a heart attack, I am left-handed and now he was comfortable switch-hitting. Ultimately he preferred left, but just like Kendrys and Zobrist, sometimes it is good to be able to switch hit and beat the system.
Get to "comfortable" and stay there.
Have a great winter, can you believe it? 30 days til pitchers and catchers report. Here's to all you coaches who are doing it right and getting the Sandlot ready.!!
George and I were sitting around talking one day during batting practice and he looked at me and said, "you know, the longer you see it, the better you hit it". I thought, that's true in hitting and parenting. So sit back, enjoy your kids and get ready for a great season!!
Stay tuned tomorrow to read Charlie Lau's 10 absolutes from "The Art of Hitting .300".
Here's a great letter from a friend of mine. We talk about our kids all the time. A few weeks ago, he shared this story. I couldn't have made up a blog better than this, so here it is. Periodically, these "guest" blogs are going to show up. Not because I am lazy::)) but because they are so darn good.
I would hope that your New Year's coaching resolution will be to realize how important you are. There are so many lessons in just this one blog, competing, never giving up, having a Royal mindset, never believing that you are beat before you even play, playing til the whistle blows..... Never underestimate the power of your teaching and coaching dad. Bill is very consistent in this, he is there for his son and his friends.
I’ve been holding life lesson conversations with my son to help him develop his character and never giving up.
I noticed his first tendency is to want to give up or believe he or his team is going to get beat before they even take the field. Young boys on his baseball and football team whisper doubts and statements such as, “They’re undefeated. We’re going to get crushed today.”
I’ve repeatedly told him to ignore those words, play the game (whatever game it may be) until the clock runs out and then worry about the score. If at the end of the game you’ve lost, then you know you’ve given it your all and you did not give up.
The Kansas City Royals have provided plenty of examples. As we watched many games this season and with so many late comebacks in the post season, none have been as spectacular as winning the World Series. I used each and every game as an example.
I often wondered if my son was hearing what I was saying. Could he grasp and understand the concepts. He gave me an example that showed me he really got it, believed it, and put it into practice.
In a recent football game he was playing, the other team had marched to the 2 yard line. Our boys stopped them from scoring on the first attempt. Then our boys received a penalty for off-sides on 2nd down. With 3 attempts left at the 1 yard line, the opposing team calls a time out. Before our coach came onto the field to discuss the strategy with the boys, my Son gathers all the boys and says, “My dad has been teaching me to not give up until the clock stops, to keep playing and then see what happens. So today, let’s not give up until the clock stops.”
So how did the next 3 plays end? The boys stopped them on 2nd and 3rd down. On 4th and goal with a half yard, my Son, gets into the backfield, sacks the Quarterback for a 6 yard loss. The boys ended up shutting the team out because they didn’t quit until time ran out.
We can’t win all the games we play, whether it be sports or life in general, but we should never go into it believing we are going to be defeated. The game of life doesn’t stop until the clock runs out.
Thank you Royals for playing a full game and for providing a truly positive example for our kids and for us to live by.
As I watched the summer wind down and the kids finish their seasons, I noticed how quickly they jumped right into fall ball, basketball, soccer and of course school. It all just runs together these days. No time to reflect really on anything.
And I am behind on my blogs.....
To me, a blog has to be something that sticks with me for a while. It isn't just blogging to get something written. So...I am going to start with one that has stuck. There are 4 in my head, so I should be able to keep Samantha happy for a week or so.
I'll start with the one that has been there the longest.
A dad called me to tell me that his son had made the varsity baseball team this past spring at his high school. He had waited and planned and practiced for years for this to happen and as a "senior", he had won the spot.
Then he hit me with the bomb. His son decided not to play.
"Dad, it's never enough. It's never good enough. Nothing I ever do is good enough. I made the team but I still don't feel like I've done enough. I just don't want to do it anymore"
Grab your children tonight, (or your team), no matter what they are doing and tell them that they are the most amazing gifts you have ever been given. Tell them that they have "done enough" to make you complete. Just by showing up on this planet, they have made you the happiest and luckiest parent on earth. Tell them how thankful you are to be with them.
Sometimes, WE just get so busy. We are working, coaching, parenting, and all that stuff.
I got an email from a dad just this week and he said, "I coached 4 teams, baseball and basketball but I forgot to be a dad". We all have done that. We get so busy with everybody else's kid, we forget our own. Personally, I struggled with that a lot for the 22 years I coached. I was harder on my own kids that the others at times. I was so busy taking care of everybody else, I forgot my own!!
You officially have been given permission today to enjoy your kids. And don't be so hard on yourself!! We have a tendency to over-analyze this stuff.
In the Keepers of the Sandlot, the last chapter is called, "The Ride Home". Check it out. "On the ride home, the game is over. Your child got excited to play the game and now the game is over and they are on to the next thing. Don't make too much of a win or too much of a loss, just tell them that you love them and that you loved watching them play.
Because one day, you'll ride home alone and you'll wish you had those days back. Make every ride home a great one. You can do it, that is good enough.
My daughter in law Lindsay has always said Thanksgiving is her favorite. Initially I kind of thought that sounded a little unusual. But not now. Man do we need Thanksgiving.
In this crazy world, both the world in general and in sports, everything is so hectic.
So please, make this Thanksgiving matter.
Don't miss a chance to hug your family, throw the ball around, call a friend or meet the need of a stranger if you can. Nothing fancy, just do it.
We have so much to be thankful for. Not hard to see when you stop for a minute and think about it. Just a minute....make a list
For Suzanne and myself, this has really hit home this Thanksgiving.. Will, our 4th is getting married January 30th of 2016. Are you kidding me? Baby Will??!! He flew in this week-end with Lauren!!::)) Baby Lauren??!! Her mom and dad are saying, Are you kidding me? They had a "couples" shower. We are so thankful for these wonderful children, now amazing adults.
Great song a few years ago, Don't Blink.
Time flies, enjoy every day and be thankful.
Our family will stop by.... now in pairs. We will get amazing hugs, 8 grand children. We are so thankful.
The Royals are World Champs. We are thankful. Kansas City experienced an amazing Fall Classic, topped off with a World Series Championship Trophy and an outpouring of fan support. 700,000 thankful strong!! Congrats to all the team, who had fun playing the game, played fearlessly, never quit and accomplished the goals they have had since little league.
"The Sandlot Journey" won a film festival award at the IndieFEST. I am so thankful for Rick Waggener as a friend, artist and film maker for the Journey!! The Award of Excellence recognizes, Truly Exceptional Film Making!! Check it out on our web-site. Rick and I are so thankful for George, Ned, Kevin, Joe, Frank...and the host of friends who gave us their time.
The fall has been amazing. We are thankful.
We will have a beautiful week planned and realize that for this we are blessed and should be thankful.
Moms and Dads of the Sandlot, we are thankful for you. You are the ones who drive the cars, protect the kids, go to work and keep it together.
See how easy it is...take a minute...get a pencil...relax...make a list and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
In his post game interviews during the playoffs, Royals center-fielder, Lorenzo Cain has been saying something very simple yet highly significant in describing what he is trying to do with each at bat. "I just try and keep the line moving..."
What a great approach. It works in everything. Especially with kids. As a parent, you want your kids to "want" to play "next year".
Say hi to the "Hotstix". This is an amazing group of young girls who have just finished their season. From their Facebook page, I think they played 200 games::)). From the looks on their faces, they are ready to "play next year!!".
Say hi to the "Prairie Panthers". They had so much fun playing this year and combined with the Royal fever they now have contracted, they got together this last week-end to play at their school. Anybody, anyone, brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents and after the game we eat!!!
Say hi to the Kansas City Royals!! They are really glad to still be playing too!!
Ned says in the Keepers of the Sandlot on page 5, "Just teach them what YOU know, do it in a positive, loving, fun way and they will remember you for the rest of their lives!".
Ultimately, it doesn't matter at which level we coach, because the principles are the same at all levels."
So mom and dad and all you wonderful coaches out there....keep the line moving!!
Brian Holman has told me for years that when he and Randy Johnson came up together they could really throw bullets....ya think?
He would also admit that at times they had a hard time finding the strike zone. Isn't that a scary thought if you are a hitter...oh yeah. I spent 6 years in the minor leagues, 4 years in college and there was nothing worse than a 6'5" horse trying to find the strike zone with a 95 mph heater and 56 foot curve ball.
Because of a great friend of mine, I have watched the "Elite" through Facebook all summer. They have had a blast. Now that I am through coaching kids::(( I live vicariously through these young teams::)). They wound up their summer in Orlando for a week. The families and players really love to be together and they had a great time. That is what is so important. What a sandlot.
So I finally got to see them play last week-end. They are really good. They won the game I saw. Here's what I saw.
A well coached, fun loving, winning team with a great bunch parents.
Then I got to sit with them for a minute. See picture. Eye level...I love this level. And I was privileged to get to talk to them for a few minutes.
I have always said that at age 11 or 12, something clicks. Well, for the Millard Elite, it's starting to. The double play to end the game would have made Alcides and Omar proud.
Brian said that his coach would say to he and Randy, "when it all clicks, you'll be on your way"
They have located the strike zone. Great job Millard parents of getting these boys to the point that they can't wait to play next year. The "Elite" are on their way.
I miss that level.
Cherish every moment.
Sunday September 27th, 2015 will go down in Royals baseball history as one of the most amazing, memorable and significant memories we will ever have at "The K".
On the final home game of the season, Chris Young, (a.k.a. C. Y.) took to the bump, (that's baseball talk for the pitchers mound). The Royals were in danger of being swept by the red-hot Cleveland Indians, on the most gorgeous day of the year, in front of 37,000+fans wanting to end the home stand with a much needed win.
Up until this day, C. Y. has not been in the starting rotation. But today his team needs him. He has a game to pitch. In his mind it is his obligation to his team.
What no one in the stands knows however, is that the night before, his dad had passed away.
Sunday, September 27th, 2015. Chris Young threw a 5 inning no-hitter at Cleveland leading the Royals to a 3 to 0 win. By the time the game was over and everyone heard about his father, Chris was in the air, on his way home to be with his father and family.
He fulfilled his obligation to his teammates. He didn't want to let them down.
He didn't want to let his dad down either. His dad would have wanted him to pitch. He learned that in the sandlot days with his dad. He learned about life.
The day I leave this earth, my wish for my wife and family is that they wake up the next day and keep playing. As a parent, if that happens, you have done a great job.
Well done, Mr. Young...thank you for sharing your son with us.
Our documentary, "The Sandlot Journey" literally begins...on Yogi's porch. We were directed (by my ex-teammate and friend Marty Kunkler) to visit Yogi's childhood home on "the hill" where Yogi, Joe Garagiola and Jack Buck lived and played together in their sandlot.
Hall of Fame Lane is probably the most famous street in St. Louis I would imagine. We ate the best food we had ever tasted. What an amazing setting and time we had. What a sandlot.
We were met there by Mary Francis, Yogi's niece. She and her family are just what you would expect, the most gracious people on the planet. They invited us to film right off the porch.
Joe Simpson, our narrator starts the documentary by painting a picture of what it probably looked like as Yogi headed off the porch to go get Joe and their buddies and play in their "sandlot" all day.
This is where they learned how to play the game. This is where the smiles came from. Try and find a picture of these guys where they are not smiling when they are together. Baseball makes you smile...and it breaks your heart.
But when you are with your buddies, it is the single greatest time of your life. Most guys who are now out of the game will tell you it's the "camaraderie" they miss the most.
Catchers are amazing. The whole game is in front of them. They control the game. Yogi showed them not only how to play the game, but love the game and be a great human. There will never be another Yogi. To watch him play made us smile, to lose him breaks our heart.
I always thought the most amazing statistic he had, (other than the 3 MVP's, 10 World Series Championships...and all that stuff) was that there were a couple of seasons where he hit more home runs than times he struck out!! Now...THAT is hand eye coordination, power, learning how to shorten up your swing and go to all fields, concentrating and putting the ball in play. I hated to strike out!!!!! I know he learned all that on "the hill".
Mary Francis said she is going to turn Yogi's childhood home into a bed and breakfast. If she does, go check-in for a night. Walk the hill. Bring your glove and your appetite.
You can start at Yogi's porch, enjoy the journey.
We had a garage sale last week-end. Empty nesters...gonna clean out all the junk. What's junk when it comes to your kids? OK, tough guy, what do you want to throw out? Remember when you used to look at a messy room and want to say something? Now you wish the "culprit" was actually there to mess it up. Be careful what you wish for.
So...I'm walking off and the garage sale is in full swing and Suzanne says, "Here, take Doug". There was a long time when Will and Doug went everywhere. Doug for a $1???. I don't think so. I grabbed Doug and laid him in the backseat.
So, I'm at the athletic club in the restaurant and start talking about The Sandlot Journey and the years that we had with our boys and the talk gets a little sentimental.
Probably the biggest and toughest says, "You know, now the room next to my office is empty and I kind of wish it wasn't".
OK, all you tough guys out there, call your kid and check in. They'll love to hear your big ol tough voice.
Doug's riding with me.
With all of my children, we played catch before they could walk or talk.
In The Sandlot Journey, George Brett says, "sometimes I think parents quit playing catch with their kids". Don't stop!!! ::))
In that short time, you will watch them grow-up. You will see them begin to handle short-hops, (Hosmer) type stuff. You will watch them learn to move their feet, (Frank White type stuff) and begin to throw accurately, (Gordo) type stuff. It takes time, patience and encouragement, but it is the best time!! Laugh, have fun and soak it in!!! You will be so thankful you did!!
Over time, that game of catch will probably be your kids fondest memory of your time together.
Watch "Field of Dreams" and see if you agree.
Play catch...while you can.
The Sandlot Journey begins. OK, here we go, Sam, Jeremy and Rick say I have to do a blog. We'll see how it goes::)) I'm coachable!!
How can I start without thanking everyone for making this happen? Too many to thank, won't even try. So....if you know any of us...thank you. Our kids are the reason we are so passionate about this Journey and together, we will make it, promise::)). Always easy?...no...Always worth it?...yes.
Just be there for your kids. They will ultimately keep us humble and help us through this thing called "parenthood".
After the "premiere", Drew and I were talking and he says, "you know, you were pretty good on the ride home, most of the time." I exclaimed, "MOST of the time, what are you talking about?? "Well, as good as it was, there were lots of times when the "awkward silence" was almost too much.
In The Journey, Natasha talks about wanting to go to sleep instead of talk, Les asks his son, "why are you upset, who told you you struck out 3 times? I didn't", Brian said, "I just started talking baseball, I had no idea what was really on David's mind. Mac says, "after all, we are parents and we want some answers!!"
Man, it hit me like a ton of bricks. "Every message you send is received"....and silence may be the worst.
On the ride home, start quickly with the good stuff...and then go eat.
How Exciting!! This week we had the movie premier of The Sandlot Journey. It was great to have our family, friends and supporters all in one place to experience the kick-off of The Sandlot Journey.
More information on Keepers of the Sandlot will be posted soon. Thanks for being a part of Keepers of the Sandlot and for all of your support!
What a pleasure to speak at Midwest Sports Productions' National Girls Fastpitch Softball Tournament. With 190 teams, parents, coaches and grandparents, the experience was literally Worlds of Fun!
Congratulations to Jeremy McDowell and your wonderful staff! Great job!