• Now I Know Why Baseball Managers Drink

    Posted by on June 7th, 2013 · Comments (8)

    I’ve shared in the past this year – maybe more so in comments left than in posts made – that I am managing my 9-year old son’s Little League team this season.

    At his level, the kids do their own pitching – and this is not coach-pitch, as it’s become known in Little League circles. And, we have umpires who work the games, calling balls and strikes, safe and out, etc. As coaches, we are required to count and log pitches thrown – and there are clear rules on how much a kid can throw, and how often he can be used, etc. (to prevent against arm-abuse). And, we keep score during the games – mostly because there’s a 3-out or 5-run rule that’s applied to each half inning. (The side is retired when they make three outs, or, score five runs – whichever comes first.)

    So, with all this umpiring, pitch counting, score-keeping and run watching, it’s obvious at the end of the game who won or lost the contest. Yet, the league has a strict take on game outcomes at this level: There are no wins, no losses, no standings, no playoffs, no champions and no prizes. The games are about playing baseball – teaching, learning and having fun. And, no one should be concerned about winning and losing, etc.

    O.K., that’s understandable and good. But, 9-year olds, while very young and all that, aren’t total idiots. They can keep track of when they win or lose. And, they can tally up the win and loss totals pretty easy.

    Back to my team, while wins and losses don’t count, going into our game last night, we were 13-2 on the season. And, in the only two games that we “lost,” even though there are no wins and losses per the league, we just “lost” both games by two runs – and each of those games were against other teams who have played very well this season (again, even though wins and losses don’t count).

    Forgetting the record, which doesn’t really exist, per the league, what I am most proud over, for my team, is the way they play the game. They try and have good At Bats. They’re very aggressive on the bases. And, in the field, they know to try and prevent against giving away extra bases or allowing for extra outs. Each game, they got better and better at this as the season progressed.

    Well, last night’s game was our third to last game on the schedule. We have one tomorrow that will probably be rained out. And, then we have our last game next week. (That said, last night’s game just may be our next to last game for the year.)

    How did we do? Keeping it short, we were terrible. We had 23 plate appearances and probably four or five times where our batters struck out on pitches that were nearly over their head. In the field, we let balls get through and had catches dropped that either allowed runs to score or extending the inning further than it should have gone. And, in the first four innings, we only had four batters reach base – never allowing us to get our running game going on the bases. The final “score” was 8-4 in the “loss” – even though wins and losses don’t count, etc.

    After the game, I felt very sad for the team. They didn’t play well across the board and that’s the reason why the game went down the tubes. And, truth be told, even though everyone knows about team records (despite the fact that there are no real standings, and wins and losses), I don’t even care that it was a “loss.” What bothers me most is that they played so hard, and well, all year long, and, now, as we’re almost done, they have this turkey of a game as what could be their last taste in their mouth for this season.

    Man, I was so chapped over it yesterday – I didn’t even sleep well last night (since it was gnawing at me).

    I hope we get another game in this season. Again, tomorrow looks bad. And, who knows, maybe our game next week gets rained out too? I just want them to have one more chance to get out there, play well, and cleanse their palate after last night’s mess.  The memory of this season should be about how well they did, all year – and not about how they played very poorly at the end.

    In any event, as I fussing over the game last night, I had to think about how stressful it must be for big league managers to deal with this, probably at least 40 times a year, being chapped over a bothersome loss. No wonder why so many of them have a bottle handy to dull their senses. Tough job, being the manager, eh?

    Comments on Now I Know Why Baseball Managers Drink

    1. 77yankees
      June 7th, 2013 | 12:11 pm

      You had it much better than I did. I volunteered as an assistant coach for my 9 year old nephew’s LL team back in the late 90s, and it may have been the worst LL team of all time.

      We went 1-10, scored a total of 14 runs for the season, eight of them came in our only win, which of course was the only game I missed.

      One of our other assistant coaches was a hothead parent who decided to get in a Lou Piniella type argument with one of the umps after his kid was called out at 1st. I felt mortified, and I can only imagine how his son felt.

      And my nephew got hit in the helmet with a pitch and developed a phobia which pretty much ended his LL career. We counseled him afterwards to get out of the way if he saw the ball coming toward him, which he took too literally, as he soon started backing out of the box as soon as he saw the pitcher release the ball.

      Such incidents also brought a close to my coaching career, and convinced me my future baseball management be limited to fantasy baseball & Strat-O-Matic. :-)

    2. June 7th, 2013 | 12:43 pm

      @ 77yankees:
      Yeah, I got lucky. We have three kids who are reliable pitchers and another two who have times where they can be effective. So, for the most part, it’s been managing their appearances and pitch counts to the point where I can use them as much as possible and then fill in with another boy or two, where needed for an inning or so (even if it means he gives up 5 and then the inning is over, per the 5-run rule).

      It’s a lot of tracking, knowing the calendar, planning, etc. But, that’s what I do for a living :-)

      It was that and the fact that I had a lot of practices between mid-March (after the draft) and the first week of April, when the season started, to drill into the kids what we wanted to do in the field and on the bases. It was brutal cold out there for the practices. But, it helped that we got the time in, etc. I think we had four or five practices before many other teams even had their first. They can thank/blame me for that – I wanted to get as much time in, before the season, to access the talent and lay the groundwork on how to play, whether it was cold out or not.

      Basically, I treated the kids like they were a travel team and not a Little League team. And, I treated them like they were 11- or 12-year olds instead of 9-year olds. I pushed them. But, they, for the most part, responded. (Even my son, once, late in the season said “You can be pretty hard on the team sometimes.” But, when he said that, I reminded him about how well the team plays and how happy everyone is after the games. And, I told him “If you want the good stuff, you have to put in the work.)

      After our last game, that’s going to be the message to the team – they were pushed, handled it, and it paid off. And, wherever they play next season, they should continue to use what they learned, without having to be asked by the coach to do it, and play the game the right way.

    3. Raf
      June 7th, 2013 | 1:32 pm

      @ Steve L.:
      That last paragraph is why you and others will keep coming back despite the nonsense that comes with coaching/teaching at that level.

      Keep up the good work!

    4. June 7th, 2013 | 1:48 pm

      @ Raf:
      Thanks Raf. Yes, there’s some stuff to deal with, etc. But, the offset is worth it. To be on the field with these kids and see them learn, and make things happen in games, is an amazing feeling. I’m in my most happy state when on a ball field and part of a team – even if it’s “just a coach.” There’s nothing like it. They don’t call it field of dreams for nothing! :-)

    5. Greg H.
      June 7th, 2013 | 6:27 pm

      I had a six-year career, coaching in Rookies (7-8yr) Managing in Minors (9yr), Coaching in Majors (10 Yr) and Managing Majors (11-12 yr). Our team never won it all, but in my son’s 12 year old all star season, our very small league team won the District 53 championship, defeating Vallejo LL (where CC played as a kid), a cocky team that wins the district almost every year. In the 50 years of its existence, our league had never won before that year. I retired from LL when my son turned 13 and started Babe Ruth, relieved to have my schedule back, but definitely bittersweet.

      It was a great way to spend time with the kids, and well worth all the BS associated with it, not the least of which is “there are no winners and losers.” What a crock that is, and of course the kids know it’s a crock. Better that they know how to act when they win and when they lose, and better that they know what it takes to feel good about the game, winning or losing, as you are teaching your team.

      Enjoy this time, Steve – it passes quickly. And you’ll be shocked at how your IQ plummets when your boy turns 15. :-)

    6. June 7th, 2013 | 7:07 pm

      I hear you @ Greg H.

      I’m already starting to think about what a small window this is…

      He’s nine – in the 3rd grade and in the Minors. Next fall and spring, he’ll be in the Majors. What’s he got left? Three more years? Maybe two if he plays on the Middle School team? (He already plays on a travel team. And, I can’t see him playing travel, Little League AND on the school team. His schedule is insane enough with LL and travel now.)

      What a thrill for your son taking the district. It’s stuff like that which you remember for the rest of your life. Very cool.

    7. Scout
      June 7th, 2013 | 8:33 pm

      I did a lot of coaching when my son was growing up (up to 40 games per year, because we did summer and fall ball, too), and one of the important lessons is how to deal with losses and keep a sense of perspective. Over the years, I certainly had more bad teams than good ones, but I can honestly say my players always enjoyed themselves. I thought I would miss it when we finally gave it up, but instead it was a pleasure to get back all of that free time. And I gained an appreciation for just how talented the professionals are, because none of the guys I coached ever made it to the pro ranks.

    8. June 7th, 2013 | 10:38 pm

      Scout wrote:

      one of the important lessons is how to deal with losses and keep a sense of perspective

      Amen. That’s been the hardest thing to get through to some of the players on my team – my son included. I have seen kids in tears after a strikeout in the first inning. And, I have seen kids you think allowing just one run is a terrible outing.

      I keep telling them that baseball is a game of failure. And, even the best of the best will fail more times than they do well. On past teams, I’ve told kids that they shouldn’t sweat striking out because Reggie Jackson struck out over 2,000 times and he’s in the Hall of Fame. Of course, most 8-year olds don’t know who Reggie was…

      This year, I have been using the Mo Rivera example. I’ve told my son and others on the team that Mariano has “instant amnesia” – meaning the second after something bad happens, it’s forgotten and his focus is not on what just happened, but, more so, on what he’s going to do in the next opportunity.

      But, it’s so hard for this kids.

      My son is one of the worst with it. We recently had a game where he went 2 for 3, pitched an inning – facing four on 19 pitches, allowing no runs and getting a K – and we won, 11-2.

      In that game, in one inning, he was playing SS and made a long, hard, throw from the hole that the runner just beat out. The third base coach for the other team and some of our team parents in the grandstand were gushing over the laser that he threw.

      Of course, the next morning, he was bitching about how he felt he should have charged the ball more and gotten the runner on the play. And, as much as my wife and I tried to tell him to focus on everything else positive from that game, the more he talked about that play, the more pissed he got.

      He may be the quickest/shortest to “Red Ass” 9-year old in the league.

      Part of me gets it – he cares, wants to do well and hates to lose. But, a bigger part of me knows that he needs to get these emotions under control if he’s going to keep progressing in the game.

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