Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The LL Chronicles #13: Practices, Clinics, Scrimmages & Jalen Pitches!

As most of you know, I was recently railroaded into managing my seven eight-year-old son's Little League team this spring. Jalen will be playing in the "farm" division on the A's -- a magnificent confluence of random fluke AND our favorite Major League Baseball team! It's been three weeks since ten other children were essentially left at my doorstep. In that time, we've held three 90-minute practices and a two-hour scrimmage. Our first official game is on Valentine's Day* and these are my early experiences and observations:

* -- I've already made the "getting my wife a baseball diamond for Valentine's Day" joke 20 times over the past two days. Friends, co-workers, Mrs. Bootleg...they've all heard it. I regret nothing.

When in Oakland -- I'm taking my case to the readers of this lightly-read blog, because my wife and I can't seem to reach an agreement. Is it considered over-the-top to purchase white batting gloves with forest green trim for your baseball-loving child because that's what the
players on his favorite team wear? And, where do you stand on the purchase of a matching green batting helmet? Just for grins, let's say it was affixed with a gold A's logo decal that was separately obtained off of eBay. Y'know...as worn by the players on his favorite team. That's not "over the top", is it? Of course, it's not. Could you guys let my wife know?

The Designated Hitter -- During my introductory phone calls to the parents of my players, I contacted a father who insisted his 10-year-old son was "too good" for the farm division. His son tried out for the next higher level, but wasn't drafted by a team so he dropped down to our division. I was less than thrilled when the league asked me to invite the child to one of my practices where he'd receive a second evaluation from the upper division. When he showed up, he was the biggest kid on the field...but, he couldn't throw or catch. Our practice hadn't even ended when the league's player agent confirmed I'd be keeping this kid on my team. It wasn't until our next practice -- a week later -- that I got to see him hit. Oh, my. Left-handed...all torque...all bulk. He was obliterating the ball. Jalen compared the kid's swing to
this guy...and I couldn't disagree. Welcome, new player! I can teach him defense. Can't I?

Clinically Speaking -- Every Little League manager in our district is required to attend a 90-minute coaching clinic. As you might imagine, I
took it in stride. It began at 9:00 AM and was held outdoors on a drizzly 48-degree morning. It was a lot like traffic school as the instructors taught us obvious lessons ("Be patient with your players.") in their most condescending tone ("Don't be afraid to take a knee and talk to the kids at their level.") One of the instructors had played college baseball at San Diego State under Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. He mentioned this several times, each instance more forced than the last. Afterwards, another manager and I tried to estimate how many times a day our instructor mentions "his time in the cage, talking hitting with Coach Gwynn". We settled on 30 times/day from Sunday through Thursday and a bar/nightclub bump to 50 on Fridays and Saturdays. Don't say you weren't warned, women.

Now Pitching for the A's... -- Our team played a scrimmage against the Cardinals last Saturday. For most of the kids, it was their first chance to pitch from the mound in game conditions. Jalen was penciled in to pitch the third inning. Earlier in the week, I had a chance to discuss his impending pitching debut:

Me: "Are you excited about pitching on Saturday?"

Jalen: "Yeah. I think I'm
gonna do this if I strike someone out."

Me: "Don't do that, J."

Jalen: "Why not? Brian Wilson does it."

Me: "He does it for his father. His dad passed away and it's a tribute to him."

Jalen: [Pause] "Do I know any dead people?"

Jalen took the mound with a 6-1 lead. He was clearly nervous and rushing through his pitching routine as if the ball were a live grenade. In his one inning of work, he gave up one hit, one walk, one strikeout and no runs. Another batter reached base on a poor throw from our shortstop, which caused Jalen to turn towards our dugout and squeakily shout from the mound, "That's not a hit! That's not a hit! That's an error!" At least he didn't do the Brian Wilson thing.

Well, THIS Might be Over-the-Top -- The Oakland A's are the only Major League Baseball team that
wears white shoes. Oh, yes I did.


CrazyCanuck said...

Gotta admit, when you wrote of what Jalen wanted to do if he struck someone out, I first thought of this guy.


Though if I was a batter, and saw a pitcher twitching like that on the mound, I'd be more afraid of that than anything the Giants' reliever can do.

that mexican guy said...

WHITE cleats?!? I didn't think you could buy those off the rack. Pretty sure you've sewed up the 2012 awards for best AND worst sports father. Undisputed!

Is J going with the high socks or did he talk you into socks/stirrups combo?

Smitty said...

I have SO much to add on all of this.
#1 The gloves- Get these http://www.legendaryauctions.com/LotImages/25/30692_med.jpeg

#2-Green helmet- gold brim.

#3-Can you teach him defense? The better question is will dad let you.

#4 Came in with a 6-1 lead. Jalen is Mike Norris

#5-Strike a batter out-have to do the Eck

#6 Nice to see J is a team first guy. He wouldn't throw a guy under the bus or anything.

#7- Then again maybe the kid tanked the play

SHough610 said...

The gloves are no more over the top than the ones I wore as a defensive lineman playing pee-wee football. At least Jalen's have a point. My own parents drew te line at fingerless gloves like Ricky Watters wore (I was also running back on a trick play and my parents were deaf to my "what if I fumble in regular gloves?!" concerns).

Funny how times change, I high stepped like Deion Sanders when playing football (thought you'd appreciate that).

Aaron C. said...

@Sam -- Oh, don't get me started on Deion. Easily top three among my favorite athletes who never played on one of my favorite teams. Jalen can watch his Nike "playground" baseball commercial on YouTube all night long up until bedtime. (And, we have!)

@Smitty -- That Rickey collection is a treasure trove of awesome. And, yes, it's clear that "sportsmanship" is going to be a lifetime learning process for J. However, if the shortstop did tank it, we can always have Jake Taylor pay him a visit and profanely put him in his place.

@Mex -- High socks, primarily. I even bought him pants with intentionally shorter legs. He's got the "alternate" (J's word) gold socks with green stirrups at the ready, though.

@Crazy -- Agreed. Thankfully, J was relatively subdued after his first strikeout. He turned to his defense behind him, held up one finger and shouted, "one out!" (Yeah, I should probably get him to not do that, either...)