Saturday, July 01, 2006

World Cup Brings the Blues?

I'm watching Brazil vs. France on this lazy Saturday afternoon, and while I watch, I can't help but reflect on something that has been rattling around in my brain since the World Cup started. Not sure why the World Cup did it, as I watch sports always, but it did.

Why did I ever stop playing sports? I used to play Baseball, every year, since when I could first swing a bat and throw a ball! Then, I just stopped. Junior Year of High School was the end of my Baseball endeavor. I had a shitty coach that year and he did more to kill my confidence than probably anyone ever has in my life. As I reflect back, I almost can't believe how terrible he was.

I was a good baseball player, but there comes a point where you really need to start learning the nuances of the game if you want to keep moving up the ranks. You can't just get up there and hack and make it to the big leagues unless you're Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones, who have a Million Dollar Skill Set and a 10 Cent Brain between the two of them! Anyway, this coach had no patience to teach anyone. He took the guys who he felt were the best players he had and put them in the starting lineup, very heavy on favoritism. There was little strategy that I ever saw him use, and he didn't seem to care about anything but remaining 'cool' in the eyes of the Stars of the Team. I call that John Baeumiller Syndrome.

I was the odd man out. And when I say, the, I mean THE. I was the cast away of the team, which was a whole new world for me. I was used to starting every game, and being an important part of things(save for 9th grade when I couldn't hit anything for some reason). Yet, this coach kept me planted on the bench doing pitchcounts, scorecards, and pretty much nothing. I was lucky if I got to pinch hit in a game. Now, those who know me know that I've never been a 'Jock', and this coach lived by the code of the 'Jock.' I was doomed from day one.

Very quickly I learned this guy didn't give a hoot if I showed up to practice or games. Everybody back then would miss a practice now and again, and I had missed one a few days before a game. Not even the day before the game! That next game we won by 13 runs. I was the only person who didn't get in the game. After the game ended, I asked him what was up. He said 'You missed a practice, can't put you in, you know that's the rule' He didn't even look me in the eye when he said it! Of course, one of our starters missed practice the next day, and come game day, he sat that player for 2 innings, then put him right in after the players Dad came up to the coach and said 'Hey, c'mon, he starts everygame.' Not that it mattered, he had told the player before the game started that he was gonna sit for 4 innings, not the whole game. His Dad got him those 2 extra innings. This happened right in front of me also, and for some reason I remember I was smiling at how the Coach knew I was sitting right there and I could see the discomfort in his face that he was capitulating in front of me. He put me in the game for the last 3 innings that day. I got a hit, RBI and a stolen base. Jerk.

You'd think I remember all the details of this season based on this entry so far. I think I almost do to be honest. I feel like I may never forget some of the interactions I had that year on the baseball team. I'll try to keep this shorter than it can be though.

Though he didn't employ much in-game strategy as a Coach, he did try to advance our skills in practice, which lead me to make a choice that I'm not sure if I decided correctly on to this day. He would have us do various bunting drills, which is a great skill to have as you move up in the game. I was good at it. He also had us take curve balls and try to hit them to the opposite field, which is a great skill to have. Not everyone was good at this. I was very good at it. After that practice session, I thought for sure I had earned a spot in the starting lineup. I was wrong. Didn't get in to the next game. At this point we were halfway through the season, and it didn't matter how well I did, or how many times I would try to improve in an area where I had made mistakes before, this coach was keeping me benched. Here is the choice I spoke of. My father asked me one day how I was feeling after not playing much. I explained everything to him. Told him how I was not favored on the team, and wasn't really sure how it was going. I had even thought of quitting the team! At that point my Father asked me if I wanted him to go down there and talk to the coach. I told him no.

I told him no because I didn't like the thought that if I started getting in games after that, it was only after my father had to come down and talk to the coach. I wanted to play because I made it happen. I knew back then I would feel very embarrassed if I "had to have my Dad come down and talk to the coach" to play. That would've been humiliating. Now, I wonder if I should've not felt that way. Again, as I look back, this coach sucked, and the team did not play well as a result. Maybe my Dad would've given it to this guy straight. Those who know Big Jim, know that he doesn't beat around the bush. He gets to the point. But back then, I wasn't thinking like I do now. I was thinking as a High School kid who didn't want to look like a bigger loser than I normally did (I know, I wasn't a "loser", but I wasn't the 'hippest' dude that ever hit Pat-Med).

I ended up staying on the team all year, and played sparingly. I finsihed hitting a respectable .308, whith a hanfdul of RBI's and some SB's in my limited playing time.

At the end of the year, they do an 'Awards Night' for all the sports players where you get your 'Varsity Letters' and a certificate and the coach says nice things about you. I remember my Sister took me, which I'm thankful for! Not many players showed up, and when he got to giving me my stuff, he said 'Now here's a player that I'm happy to see stuck it out and is with us tonight.' He made some generic remarks about being a good player and gave me my Letters. As we were leaving he was giving exit greetings and asked me if I was palying baseball in a summer league. I told him no and remember thinking "What the fuck do you care?" He said that was too bad, and that he looked forward to seeing me next year. I can only imagine how hard that was for him to say, because I don't think he meant a word of it.

So I never played organized baseball again. Senior year I was solely a Techie and didn't try out for Baseball. In College I thought about joining the Syracuse Club Team (they don't have an official team) and I even went as far as to call the coach of the Club Team to get details, but he seemed so uninterested in the conversation I didn't give it further thought after that.

France beat Brazil, and it was an exciting second half. Now that I've written this, I definately wish I had kept playing. I'm a firm believer in if you keep at it, you can make it happen. And I'm such a dreamer that I feel like at 26 years old, if I practiced every day, and got into great shape, I could still be a good player. Life feels very strange sometimes.


Blogger evan said...

The similarities of that experience and mine in regards to soccer at Pat-Med are striking.

1:59 PM  

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