Marolt: There is no politics in baseball
Once, I coached a baseball team made up of 13-year-old boys. We were playing in some backwater town or another and I was sitting in the dugout before the game concentrating on making out the starting lineup. Boys will be boys and when they are not, the grown-up in charge should worry. I realized the dugout had grown very quiet.
I tried to figure out what the problem was without looking up, because I really wanted to know what was up and didn’t want to alert any of the kids that I was on the alert. You are not a salty, old coach, which every coach strives to be, until you learn this trick.
“Whoa!” I heard one of the kids exclaim in awe under his breath.
“Hoy crap!” gulped another.
Finally one of the kids got up his nerve. “Coach, look at the size of their pitcher!”
I nonchalantly looked up. Their starting pitcher had begun warming up on the mound. And, yes, he was huge. Whether or not he was actually 13 years old I can’t say for sure, but the physical evidence was not in his favor. He was all of 6 feet tall and probably weighed every bit as much as any two of my guys together, maybe more than my entire outfield.
“He’s a giant!” another of my players exclaimed.
Then I said the only thing any great coach would have said in that circumstance: “It’s a good thing we’re not boxing him today.”
The kids laughed. The tension was gone. And, we went out and hit the cover off the ball. The only good news for the big kid was that he hit two triples at the plate. More bad news for him, though, was that we picked him off at third base both times. It all added up to a big win against the odds for us.
“Hey, coach,” one of the kids said as we loaded the van heading for home. I looked down at his relieved face. “I’m sure glad we didn’t have to box that guy.”
So, I’m going to tell you one thing right now. Since I turned a real-life story into a metaphor for dealing with our president last week, I am certainly not going to do it two weeks in a row. If you want to infer that the big, cocky kid on the mound is like our current president and the rest of us are just now beginning to realize we don’t have to box with him, then be my guest. It’s a relatively free country. I’m going to move on to another baseball story.
There was a coach trying to create a legend about his team of 9-year-olds and how they were undefeated and amazing. He called and asked if they could play my team of 13-year-olds. I hung up on him, because that’s what you do to scam artists. Unfortunately, the league commissioner was a sucker and fell for it when the coach called him, so he set up the game and I couldn’t get out of it then.
Through no fault of their own, the 9-year-olds didn’t swing the bat once in their game against us. Their “amazing” coach had instructed them to never swing, no matter what. The strategy almost worked since 9-year-olds are tiny compared to what 13-year-olds are used to. The little kids never swung and my big pitchers couldn’t hit their tiny strike zones. They scored a ton of runs off of walks in the longest, most boring, stupidest baseball game I have ever been a part of. When the umpire came to the dugout and announced “last inning, coach” all I could muster was, “Thank god.”
Those little kids and their ridiculous coach almost won, and I emphasize “almost.” Their totally passive approach was amazingly frustrating. They didn’t have the skills to hit our pitchers, so they played it perfectly safe hoping we would self-destruct out of shear frustration — either that or we would get bored and give up. We actually did both several times throughout the game, but still pulled out the win somehow.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Now you think I’m talking about the Democrats’ approach to the presidential election in baseball code. You think that I think that the losers of that election were like the team of 9-year-olds who basically came in with no strategy other than doing nothing and hoping to win the game.
I’m telling you, it’s really not like that. I just like talking about baseball.
Roger Marolt hopes to tell enough baseball stories to become a writer someday. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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