Monday, July 30, 2012

Then the softball season came around...part 2

In last week's post, I talked about how I never set out to be a coach this year. 

Earlier, both my daughters expressed interest in playing softball.  That surprised me because neither girl had played before.  I signed both up and thought nothing more about the game other than putting in some time with them on fielding and catching. 

By stroke of luck, both girls had to report to the same field for first day of practice.  My younger daughter had her practice first and I saw her team had a coach and two assistant coaches.  They broke the team up into sections and worked on drills separately, rotating sections out to other drills.  Practice ended an hour later.

Right after that, my other daughter had her practice with her new team and coach.  Other than noting her coach looked pregnant, I settled in to watch and wait for my wife to get here from work and pick up our younger daughter.  It dawned on me that the coach was handling this practice by herself and it was taking FOREVER to go through a drill before moving onto another.

After an hour, the coach had just finished the pitching drill and that was the first drill.  I knew right away help was much needed and that's when my wife showed up.  I told her about that and she said, "Why don't you offer her your help?  You've coached before."  I nodded at that and said, "Come with me then."  We walked over to the coach and with my wife interpreting for me, I volunteered to be an assistant coach.  3 others jumped in to volunteer as well. 

What I remembered the most about that moment was all the girls coming over to look at me when I offered help.  I got strange looks, curious looks, bewildered looks, and so forth.  However, my daughter was super-thrilled to have me on board as an assistant coach.  My wife overheard her tell her teammates "My dad is a very good coach and you will learn a lot from him." 

The coach texted me two days later to make sure I would be there for practice.  I showed up and she didn't know what to do with me.  I'm used to that and I had a feeling that would happen, which was why I had an interpreter.  I discussed with the coach on how to communicate with me in an effective manner and she was very attentive.  I promised her I would have an interpreter at every practice because I knew not everyone would understand me.

During practice that day, I noticed some girls didn't know how to throw properly, catch properly, and/or field properly.  What I meant by that is how you use your feet while throwing, having the glove in proper alignment when catching, and setting yourself in front of the ball to field it cleanly.

The coach was amazed by how I picked up on the minutae and I told her, "It's easy to overlook things when it's second nature to you and to me.  Our job to to make sure they all know how to do things correctly to minimize injuries."  That impressed her even more and she took to me right away.  We became comfortable with each other and she was surprised by my approach to the game.

She liked how calm and attentive I was with everyone and she became my fan when I made a player run the length of the outfield for trying to catch a ball in a dangerous way.  That is, catching a ball palm up with the back of the hand horizontal to the ground while the ball is coming in high instead of having the glove pointing up to the sky.  That's a sure-fire way to have a ball hit you in the face.  She had never been able to break the girls of that dangerous habit last year and my way did the job much faster.  I even did it to my own daughter, making her run the length several times.

When a parent tried to hassle her over something trivial, I reminded her that she is "HBIC" and she should utilize her assistant coach to make sure everything would be done correctly.  Her eyes widened at that and and she said, "If that's what I think you said, you're right.  I want you to handle the girls while I go and make it clear who is in charge here."

To clarify what HBIC is, it's "Head Boss (or a bad word) In Charge".  The letter B is beautifully interchangeable for either sex.  ;) 

Not long after the season started, she texted me to let me know she wasn't handling her pregnancy well and had to be on bed rest.  She felt that since I was the only assistant coach to show up at every practice AND game along with showing patience and great attention to details, I would be ideal to replace her.  I was honored by her faith in me to lead the team.

When a parent found out that I was promoted to head coach, she volunteered herself and her husband for assistant coaches.  That instantly allayed any fear any parent might've had with the team having a deaf coach.  We got along easily without the aid of interpreters and the husband turned out to be a fabulous coach - I would say something small like "One out" and he would follow all the way through by saying to the runners "One out, that means what? That's right, stay and wait unless there's a ground ball then you run!"

I made sure to let every player play in whatever position they wanted to and I followed the rule of letting each player play on the field for at least 2 innings per game (not every coach followed that).  I must confess that I did have an ulterior motive for letting everyone play in all positions - this allowed me to develop depth in each position.  This turned out to be the right thing because two players got suspended for the year due to off-field infractions and two players dropped out.

We started the season with 13 players and finished with 9 (one never showed up in the final game) with the record of 2-10 (there were only 4 teams in the league, 4 game series each).  We lost 2 games by 2 runs or less, which is awesome considering the fact the majority of the players were playing for the first time.  The girls loved playing and loved playing for me. 

I spoke with the former coach; she wants to come back.  I told the husband and wife that they made great assistant coaches.  I even told the husband that if he decides not to move this year and the league needs another coach, I'd gladly coach against him because I thought he would make a very good coach too.  He was touched by that and liked the idea of coaching against me as well.

I am looking forward to next year.  ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Then the softball season came around...part 1

The funny thing about this softball season was...I wasn't looking to be a coach and I was made to be a coach, twice. 

I was looking to play again this year...this time as a player without the "/coach" added on.  To clarify this...last year, I was a player/coach of an adult coed slo-pitch team (with a mix of deaf and hearing players) and we managed to win just one game (when a team full of barflies didn't bother to show up).  Last year's team was, at best, a mediocre collection of players.  We had lost two games by two runs or less and 3 games by 5 runs or less to finish at 1-13.

When a very talented player joined the team in the final game of the season last year as second baseman and played brilliantly in tandem with me at first base, I realized with her returning next year we would be one or two good players away from becoming a respectable team.  I am a great catcher, I am a very good pitcher that doesn't crack under pressure, and I am a decent infielder.  I'm just like Crash Davis..."all my limbs put together are worth 7 cents a pound", but boy do I have the brains for the game.

Don't get me wrong...I am not all about winning.  Yes, winning feels good (always!) but I would never try to win at anyone's expense.  I *am* competitive by nature - I always give everything I have on the field and I always leave it all on the field.  Most players, who came consistently to the games, always played their hearts out and I would take them over any talented player who doesn't care about the team.

The point is, it's just a game but I wanted to give the players a chance...more accurately...a fighting chance to win every time.  I always put everyone in the game, even if it means losing the lead...even if it meant I wouldn't get to play.  Growing up, I was always picked last or excluded from the games and I *hated* the feeling that came standard with being excluded or subbed for a better player.  I vowed to never do that to anyone if I ever became a coach and I still haven't done that to anyone.

Here's what happened this year - I was supposed to play in a league 30 miles south with one of the last year's players becoming the coach but he took too long to register a team.  You guessed it correctly - I was able to register a team in my league and again I was the coach.  However, the majority of players from last year brought more players and the skill level was much better this time around. 
I moved a player from her usual shortstop position to second baseman because she had trouble making the throw from there and I knew she would adjust to the "flipped" side.  She adapted so well that she gained confidence in her game and she even went after players who would "lollygag the ball around".  I promptly made her the captain of the team.  Certain new players who instantly upgraded the skill level were put in center outfield, shortstop, and first base, becaming permanent fixtures along with the captain.
Me?  I ended up not playing at all in order to accomodate the sudden influx of available players.  I knew I missed being on the field, but I didn't realize exactly how much I missed it until I had to pitch on July 9th and again on July 16th.  More on that in a future post, I promise.  :)

And the "twice" part I alluded to at the beginning?  Stay tuned. 

Bonus points to anyone who caught "Bull Durham" references - I *love* that movie and it is the greatest baseball movie.  Ever.  No, not even "A League of Their Own" or "Field of Dreams".  I loved the story about female players and "There's no crying in baseball!!!" and I played catch with my dad so I didn't have to "build it and he will come" which means "Field of Dreams didn't hit me as hard as it did with others.  So there!  LOL

Monday, July 16, 2012

Confessions from a deaf man doing his best he can...

I stopped blogging right before last Thanksgiving because of several reasons:
  1. I had a personal crisis
  2. Because of #1, I threw myself into serving the deaf community
  3. Because of #1 & #2, I ran out of time/things to say
  4. Because of #1, #2, & #3, I stopped blogging
  5. Because of #1, #2, #3, & #4, I took on a second job (teaching)
About 2 days into the 2nd job, a friend needed us after her husband walked out on her and the family.  His reason at the time?  "I can't do this, I need time to myself."  That made me very angry because of the way he said if he really wasn't required to be responsible for everyone.

As if he had an escape clause.  What the...? 

This triggered the following scenarios:
  1. Stepped in as a substitute for the friend and her family
  2. Discovered the husband had a mistress (he denied everything, even when the mistress' father stepped forward to say he is living with her)
  3. Had to deal with the jerkwad myself since I report directly to him on the board
  4. Aforementioned jerkwad disappeared, shirking his duties which made my job harder
  5. After missing 3 straight meetings while barely doing any of his duties, he resigned via e-mail
  6. Incompetent Veep had to step up and I had to deal with the moron myself
  7. Wife asked me to talk to the friend because she was feeling down
  8. Friend asked wife something about me; wife told her she trusts me and directly asked me to flirt with friend a bit - make her feel good and like a woman again
When we (friend and I) were getting to know each other a little bit better in the beginning, she asked me WHY her husband would leave her for a woman who is young.  My response was this - "He left you for a woman with no obligations in her world; no kid, no house to maintain, nothing.  Even her car and auto insurance is being paid for by her parents.  Remember, he said he didn't want responsibility and she fits the bill."

I have discovered friend's mind to be incredibly beautiful and intoxicatingly erotic.  Could not get enough of her...she was incredibly smart and she held her own against me during our chats and I'd think this the whole time - "And he left her?  I'd never leave her!"

Right before the date for divorce to be finalized in court, he TRIED to get back together with her.  She did waver on that a little.  I knew why - it's the familiar feeling of having a security blanket.  I reinforced the very reason why he left and she never wavered again.  Despite his best efforts, friend walked into the court, signed the papers, and walked out.  She showed me her text to the mistress afterward, "It's over, you can have him now."

Then...softball season came around.  Come back next week for that...if you want.  :)