By Braddah Lance
I still can't believe it but I guess my white hairs will prove it.
Baseball practice just started up this week and amazingly, it'll mark *gulp* my 20th year of coaching.
I still can't believe it cause if there's a sport I really don't care about, it's baseball. I don't keep up with it nor do I watch any games oddah than highlights on ESPN so it's ironic how a sport I could care less about I'm still actively involved with.
Wassup Wit Dat!
Well, long story short. I was asked by a friend loooooong time ago if I wanted to help him coach.
BL: "Coach wat?"
Friend: "Uh, baseball - what else?" (He's a baseball fanatic)
BL: "Baseball? BASEBALL?! Dat isn't even a contact sport!" (BL played football and loves contact sports)
On the very first day I show up to da field expecting "teenagers" but wat did I see? Little 5-year old munchkin rugrats wearing gloves too big and hats that didn't fit. AI-GOO!
We had a majority of those kids for da next six/seven years moving up in age divisions and it was really interesting to see them grow especially since we spend a quarter of a year with them. Once we hit da 11-12 year old bracket, it was like a calling and we've stayed at dis age level evah since.
My friend has since "retired" about 8 years ago and I've been carrying the torch alone evah since - at times coaching two teams in a single season. I have anoddah friend dat helps out wen he can, but his work schedule prevents him from being there "full-time".
Why do I do it?
For the most part, I tell both the keiki and parents I don't coach baseball... I coach life. If they want hardcore baseball they've signed up at the wrong place. Don't take me wrong, the players will most definitely learn baseball - and I can say with certainty that they leave the program learning more about baseball in four months than they've learned the past six years they've been playing - but I will nevah sacrifice a life lesson in order to get a "W".
I also coach in a low-income latch-key community where I've seen too many punks with no guidance or direction...... I can say that because I grew up there for most of my young life and it hasn't changed much. I've seen and experienced things most keiki should not and know how tough it is to be an environment where most of the people you see are struggling in one way or another.
Thank goodness for having been raised by "old school Korean parents" and key coaches and teachers since now I blend all the influences I've expereinced and share them through coaching - hopefully it'll sink in for those keiki tyring to balance on the fence of life.
Every season as da baseball season starts, I always read this little story. Some say it's true, some say it's made up and oddahs say it was tweaked. But all da same, it's a reminder of why I still do what I do after all these years.
In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school careers, while others can be mainstreamed into conventional yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs. There are a few children who attend Chush for most of the week and go to a regular school on Sundays.
At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything that Hashem does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is Hashem’s perfection?” The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish and stilled by his piercing query.
“I believe,” the father answered, “that when Hashem brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child.”
He then told the following story about his son Shaya.
Shaya attends Chush throughout the week and Yeshivah Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway on Sundays. One Sunday afternoon, Shaya and his father came to Darchei Torah as his classmates were playing baseball. The game was in progress and as Shaya and his father made their way towards the ballfield, Shaya said, “Do you think you could get me into the game?”
Shaya’s father knew his son was not at all athletic, and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father understood that if his son was chosen in, it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.
Shaya’s father approached one of the boys in the field and asked, “Do you think my Shaya could get into the game?”
The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, “We are losing by six runs and the game is already in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field, a position that exists only in softball. There were no protests from the opposing team, which would now be hitting with an extra man in the outfield.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shaya should at least be able to make contact.
The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shaya.
As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game.
Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman’s reach. Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!” Never in his life had Shaya run to first.
He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the rightfielder understood what the pitcher’s intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman’s head, as everyone yelled, “Shaya, run to second! Shaya, run to second.”
Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him towards the direction of third base and shouted “Shaya, run to third!”
As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!”
Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit the “grand slam” and won the game for his team.
“That day,” said the father who now had tears rolling down his face, “those 18 boys reached their level of perfection. They showed that it is not only those who are talented that should be recognized, but also those who have less talent. They too are human beings, they too have feelings and emotions, they too are people, they too want to feel important.”
By Rabbi Paysach Krohn
If that doesn't move you, dunno wat will.