Peter and the T-Ball Tutorial

Last week I outlined some of my exploits on the baseball diamond, in Orillia, in my youth. This week, I take you behind the bench as you are made privy to the secret life….of a T-Ball coach!

My daughter wanted to play T-Ball and, as a result, I took her to register. As I said last week, operations like this rely on so many volunteers. (I had no idea how intimately I was to become acquainted with that concept.) I paid the fee and the registrar looked at me and said “You know, Mister Montreuil we are always in need of coaches.” The fact that he pronounced my surname correctly should have warned me. I nodded a) and the registrar smiled up at me from behind his table.

As we drove home, Nicole, my daughter, was ecstatic! Peter was frankly in a daze. He cast his eyes into the mirror and noted the duffel bag which newly resided in the back seat. He pulled in the driveway and let the kid out.

I hauled the duffle-bag-ly smelling duffel bag into the house past my wife’s dubious glare, and toted the evil smelling object to the basement and put it in the furnace room, far out of the sight of decent folk.

Trudging back upstairs, I explained to the boss that I had been made the coach of Nicole’s team. Sighing, I opened a beer. I explained that I would get a call from the league in a few days. The next night, when I got home, I pulled out the bag and checked the contents on my patio. There were bats, bases, balls, batting helmets and a batting tee.

A quick backgrounder on T-Ball for the curious. T-Ball is nearly identical to baseball or softball, except there is no pitcher. The batter hits the ball off a tee, which is adjusted to suit the batter’s height. It is an excellent sport for kids who are too young to have good hand/eye coordination.

A further note on our league, which was composed of girls 6 and 7 years old. It was non competitive. Games lasted 6 innings, I believe, and they had a “mercy” rule. If a team scored 5 runs, their turn at bat was over. The primary idea behind the league, I think, was to give the girls some recreation and exposure to different people and situations. There were a number of well maintained fields available, which got frequent use. Again, a lot of people had done a lot of behind the scenes work, investing in their community.

A few days later, I had to go pick up my list of players, caps, t-shirts and our team’s schedule. I began organizing a first meeting and calling parents. We met at a diamond near my house, and I spoke to the 13 girls and their parents, handed out the schedules and passed out the uniforms. I glowed inwardly as I saw how excited they were to get their team shirt b). I smiled, remembering my own naked joy when getting my uniform. I had prepared a write up with phone numbers and names and told everyone that I was there at anytime. We confirmed the date, time and location of our first game and adjourned for the evening.

A quick backgrounder on Peter Montreuil as a T-Ball coach for the curious (bored?). I had never played T-Ball and had never read a book or taken a course on the subject. I just transferred my limited baseball knowledge to the T-Ball field. (It’s probably a good thing they didn’t pay me 😉 )

How did the season go? We won one game. One game was rained out. We lost the other 18 games. You know what? Who cares? The girls had a lot of fun and tried their best. I told them that they made me proud because they never gave up. (I think that’s the most important lesson they took away from the experience. c) )  Let me entertain you with a few vignettes of that long go era.

-One little girl had the build, even at that age, of a power hitter. I drooled at the thought of her crushing the ball like a grape.- “Well (insert name), you hit clean-up d)!” I thought, smiling inwardly. Alas, my dreams of arguing with angry house owners over windows broken by her long home runs came to naught. She had become enamoured of hitting pop-ups, and would go to the plate and smack the pill about 300 feet………straight up. Bases loaded, bases empty, our team winning, our team losing, didn’t matter. She would crush the ball vertically. I nicknamed her “Roberta Bonds”.

-One day I was at a rec centre when a man came up to me with a little girl. I kind of knew the man, but the little girl was one of my players. He introduced himself as her father and we shook hands. I crouched down so I could look his daughter in the eye. e) He had two daughters on the team, and I praised them both. As they left, he said that she had seen me and told him that I was her coach. After they left, I mulled that over, before realizing that she had been telling him, in not so many words, that she too knew people and wasn’t always going to be just a little girl.

-One evening I had talked to them before the game about the importance of keeping your emotions in check. (Ironically, I had had a rough day at “the coalface” f) ) During the game, I paced behind the bench, as was my wont. My eyes on the action, I tripped over a previously unseen folded lawn chair and promptly launched the offending impediment about 20 feet away from the field. Dusting off my palms, I quietly swore a satisfied oath….and felt eyes boring into my back. I turned to see 5 little girls staring owllike at the adult supervision who most definitely was not practicing what he had preached.(Took me a while to live that one down.)

-I would always assemble them on the bench before the game just to go over stuff. One evening I told them that I had been yelling at people at work all day g) and my throat was sore so I couldn’t yell at them when they made a mistake tonight. Then I smiled. One of my really dedicated little girls h) said that I should yell at them when they make mistakes. I told her that she was 6 years old and should be having fun and playing with her friends rather than worrying about her play on the field. She smiled back at me, I think she understood.

-Before one game, the opposing coach came to me and asked if he could put his whole team on the field, which would mean that instead of 8 players, he’d have 12, with the extra kids in the outfield. I agreed, after all, the point is to give the girls some exercise. We shook hands. Our team led off and had our usual quick half inning. His team came in, got ready to bat and I told everyone on my bench to take the field, the extra players to go to the outfield. Well, he came off the bench like George Brett!

Pointing at me, he said to the umpire “He I) can’t do that!” The umpire had heard our earlier conversation and stood his ground j). He ruled that I could play my whole team in the field for this half inning, but that then we would revert to the normal rules of the league, As I walked back to my bench, I wondered about the psyche of an adult who would argue about a game being played by 6 year olds. I said a silent prayer for anyone who had to call him “Boss”.

I am now going to address the parents. I said previously, this was a non competitive league. The team sponsor was a nice man and his daughter was very well behaved. I told the parents that my decisions were final as far as who played where. One evening, after yet another rough day in the front end of one of the biggest Unemployment Insurance offices in Canada, I was in a less than conciliatory mood. After the game, one of the yappier dads questioned my judgement. I turned to him and said that if he was so smart, he could take the job! To the horror of my wife, I began to take off my t shirt and I started to hand him my team baseball cap. He shook his head and backed away. My blood was up, so I spat out “I thought so!” Cooling off, I put myself back together, apologized to everyone and said I would see them next game. I understand that his wife and daughter gave him the “silent treatment” the whole way home. Another parent called me at home with an Unemployment Insurance question. I asked him if he was at work. When he replied in the negative, I said that we at least had that in common at the moment. He got the message and rang off.

As stated earlier, we had a woeful record that season. One of the parents began pestering me about having a practice. The girls were all frustrated and wanted to quit, according to her. I replied that I saw them as a group for a longer period of time and at a much closer distance than her, and they seemed fine to me. I called the parents together after the game and addressed them. I explained that there had been requests for a practice. I did not say that only one person had made this request. I outlined my very busy day, what with daycare and commuting and rushing home to eat. I asked for a show of hands and saw that I wasn’t the only one with such a hectic schedule, apparently. I then asked who had more than one child in a rec program with the attendant games and meetings which ate into weekly free time. Again, agreement was pretty much unanimous and we also came to determine that pretty much everyone used Saturdays for shopping and errands. Warming to the topic, I asked if Sunday was the only free day of the week to do family stuff for most of my team’s families. They all nodded. I then said “I will not cut into your one free day of family time for a T-Ball practice. You want your daughter to catch the ball better? For Christ’s sake k) go out after dinner and play catch with her. Buy a batting tee and go to the local school and spend some time together!”

There was an uncharacteristically close play at 3rd base one night. My player was called out. From the corner of my eye, I saw movement. It was the girl’s mother going towards her daughter. I “headed her off at the pass” l) and interposed myself between her and her daughter. The mother accused the daughter of eating too many French fries at dinner. I said that she had just been called out at third, and really it was not that big of a deal. The mother kept jawing at her daughter, not at me, I noticed. The woman was making a spectacle of herself and her daughter. I calmly asked the girl if she had my phone number. She said that she did. I told her that if her mother continued berating her after the game about this, she was to call me and I would speak to her mother. I then turned to the mother and said that when her daughter was at the park, she was my responsibility. I gave mom a choice. I told her that she could either quietly return to her seat and watch the game or she could go wait in her car in the parking lot. She gasped like a landed fish but did meekly return to her seat.

Most teams have certain pregame traditions, such as team cheers. One team in our league had a coach who made them run the bases twice immediately before the game. I’m not sure why. Our team would huddle and I would say “Do your best” and the girls would all yell “…and have fun!” Although it usually lacked unison, that cheer never lacked enthusiasm. They made me very proud. They never gave up.

Sometimes I wonder what became of them. I am sure that they are mothers, possibly even grandmothers. I am sure that they are fine citizens. They certainly gave me a summer to remember.

======

Let’s finish off with MR! MOURAY’s latest tune, Happy Ever Over. Clever title, great lyrics and video, sit back and enjoy this one!

See you soon

  1. a) An interviewing technique in which I had been trained. It encourages the speaker to continue to speak, and was known in the trade as a “minimal encourager”. Obviously in this case, our signals got crossed.
  2. b) This was the mid 80s, and organized sports for girls on the municipal level were slowly coming up to speed. Don’t forget that less than 15 years before, Maria Pepe had been forced to take Little League Baseball to court in the States just to get the chance to play. Look at Justine Blainey as well, here in Canada. Of course, being in Canada, Justine Blainey’s sport was hockey, but she still had to fight to get the chance to play. Shameful, when you think about.
  3. c) “I hit 14 home runs playing T-Ball when I was 6!” is a pretty strange icebreaker. Probably wouldn’t fly very well in a job interview list of achievements either.
  4. d) Fourth in the batting order, at the time assigned to someone who could hit the ball a very long way indeed.
  5. e) I was at an airshow once and a little boy came up to a pilot. I never forgot that the pilot crouched down to give the young boy his full attention.
  6. f) English expression, meaning to be at work.
  7. g) In fact, I had not 😉 .
  8. h) And isn’t it always the dedicated ones!
  9. I) Ten minutes earlier, I’d been Peter. Now I was “He”
  10. j) The umpire was a high school student. Some of them got bullied by coaches and parents. I would never let that happen to an umpire at one of my team’s games. I remember interceding because the opposing coach was arguing about a call the umpire had made which went against his team. His team had beaten us by 20 runs, but he wanted to argue that one call. There are times when being 6’2″ is an asset.
  11. k) I did too say that!
  12. l) Worked for Tom Mix.
=PJM=

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