A few months ago, I was at my son’s baseball game. He had just completed an at-bat, and did not get a hit. He was a bit frustrated, because he’d been working hard on his swing. When he came by, I got his attention and called him over. I told him what I thought he was doing wrong at the plate, reviewing some of the things we’d worked on in previous days. He looked at me…with a blank stare…and said, “Thanks, Ted Williams.”
Ouch. It was his way of saying to me that he knew exactly what he did – or didn’t do. He saying to me, “Leave me alone. I got this.”
I’ve said often that baseball is a ‘cerebral’ sport.
The rules…the strategy…you gotta be pretty smart to play the game (and even smarter to coach it). I’m not disrespecting other sports, but, let’s be honest…the game of baseball involves much skill and strategy. After all, squaring up a round baseball with a round bat is the most difficult thing in sports.
I’ve been around baseball a lot. I’ve experienced baseball as a player. I’ve coached baseball. And, my two sons have played (and still are playing) baseball. I would estimate that I’ve played in, coached, or watched well over 2,000 games. In those games, I’ve seen and done some pretty stupid things.
As Leo Durocher once said, “Baseball is like church. Many attend, but few understand.” I think I understand what Leo is saying as I attend games and hear the side comments made by moms and dads. While the game is ‘cerebral’, some of the comments I’ve heard are not.
Just Watch the Game
I know mom and dad are trying their best to encourage their player. And, I know that they’re wanting their player to succeed. But, if I were a player, the things that are said would make me want to…well…scream.
1. “…two strike approach…” Your son is at the plate and has two strikes. What other kind of approach is he gonna take? Sure, with 2 strikes a batter will shorten the swing, maybe spread the feet, and just try to put the ball into play. But, I think your son knows he has 2 strikes and will adjust accordingly.
2. “…put something in play right here…” This is usually said with 2 strikes on your batter, right after you’ve instructed him to take the “2 strike approach.” Basically, you can interpret this as “don’t strike out”. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure your player wants to put the ball in play.
3. “…it’s ok…that’s not you…” This is a baseball cliche which is intended to soothe your player’s hurt feelings. The umpire has called a pitch – which is clearly a ball – a strike. Your son reacts negatively – maybe he rolls his eyes, or walks out the box a ways shaking his head. So, you tell him “it’s not you.” How about we say, “quit pouting and swing the bat”?
4. “…ok…now you’re ready…” This one is similar to #3. The pitcher has thrown a first-pitch strike right down the middle. Your player should have knocked the snot out of the ball, but instead let it go by. In essence, he wasn’t ready when he stepped in the box. Maybe next time he bats, you can use the cliche when he’s walking to the plate.
5. “…here we go…how about a two-out hit…” Yep. There are two outs, and your player is at bat. Two out hits in baseball are valuable, especially with runners on base. But, again, I doubt your son is going to the plate with no intention of getting a hit. As a matter of fact, I’m sure he wants to get a hit. If not, he needs to do something else.
6. “…one more strike…” Your player is pitching and has two strikes on the batter. And, you say that? Really? Unless the rules have changed, one more strike is all it takes.
7. “…here we go…hitter’s count…” When a batter has 2 balls and no strikes, or 3 balls and 1 strike, it’s known throughout the universe as a “hitter’s count.” The pitcher is at a disadvantage because he needs to throw a strike. Since the batter knows this, he can take a mighty hack. Everyone in the park knows this is a hitter’s count…you don’t need to remind your player from the stands. Thank you, Captain Obvious!
Watching you player play without coaching from your camp chair is much more fun…maybe not for you…but for your player. Get a Coke, maybe some popcorn, and sit back and watch the game. Save the coaching and the cliches for practice.