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".