Good News Muckdogs
Nobody expected us to be here late Saturday evening. We were supposed to be eliminated first thing this morning. But, that didn’t happen. Now, we three coaches gather down the left field line talking philosophy, deciding how important it is to win the Roaring Fork Valley 9-10 year-old baseball championship.The Snowmass Village Muckdogs entered the tournament with a regular season record of 2-9. (We stole two wins from severely vacation-depleted teams.) The odds of us winning four times today were one in a daydream. Our first game was against Basalt, one of the best teams in the league.We beat them by one. Then, we beat Glenwood by five. We followed that by beating an Aspen team that loaded the bases in the last inning and needed to score just one. Parents were stunned. Umpires rubbed their eyes to make sure they were looking at the right team. I had to alter my family’s vacation plans.I’ve never seen a team come together like this. Every kid made a big play. We had catchers making diving catches, second basemen throwing to first from their knees, and outfielders mimicking Willie Mays. One boy, who thought bats ate flies at the first practice, got five hits!Most satisfying was that we were a team. Everyone knew what everyone else was doing because everybody had played every position before. In fourteen innings we used 11 pitchers! We got down by six runs in the third game and all you heard on our bench was encouragement. The kids hustled all day in the hot sun. High-fives were exchanged after strikeouts and backs were slapped after dropped balls. A few times I suspected intentional errors just because someone needed a little Muckdog love.We ended up here completely unintentionally by trying to make the game fun. Now we had to decide if we would trade the very principles that got us here for a championship. We were three outs away from the most improbable victory since David slew Goliath. Would we play this last inning to win, or did we have the discipline to stick to our formula?Our season-long standards were simple:- Everybody plays equal time.- Nobody sits the bench for more than one inning.- Everybody is in the batting lineup. – Everybody plays every position.- We always hustle; because it takes no skill, only enthusiasm.- Coaches coach. Everyone else encourages. – We never throw gloves, bats, or tantrums. Those outbursts define failure. – We expect errors, and we accept them. It takes the pressure off.- We focus on playing, not the outcomes of winning or losing. As long as the process is fun, there’s no reason to give up. – Find a way to help a teammate and he’ll find a way to help you. These rules had served us perfectly, so imagine my horror as the words rolled off my tongue: “Let’s play this to win!” It was pure emotion. I wanted this so badly for the kids that I was doing what was wrong for them.They deserved better. The way they were playing, we could put any player at any position and hold the lead. But in our fervor we missed that point.We take the field and our pitcher strikes out the first batter…then walks the second. I feel that the entire team is about to get what we grownups deserve. My heart sinks as I look at the scorebook. Our meddling has hardly altered the lineup from what it was scheduled to be anyway. It is only our attitudes that have changed dramatically.Behind the backstop the Muckdog fans cheer wildly. Every parent has seen their son be a star. I recall the many times throughout the season that I have been proud of this team. They reminded me constantly of why I love kids, and the game of baseball.Our pitcher looks at me from the mound. He’s scared, worrying. Perhaps he senses our change in attitude. We can’t let the season end like this. I smile, “just have fun!” I mean it. He knows it. He smiles back, and lets ‘er rip. And, as the famous poem goes: “Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout…”That place is Snowmass Village. The mighty Muckdogs got two more outs! The Muckdogs are: Alex Hunter, Ben Belinski, Trey Robinson, Matthew Ferguson, Kai Middlebrook, Dylan Rosenfield, Aiden Keelty, Liam Keelty, Ben Throm, Davin Wilkinson, Max Marolt, Reese Johnson, Colter Guillon, Chris McNamara, Evan Morris, Jack Dresser. Coaches: Patrick Keelty, Doug Throm, and Roger@maroltllp.com
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