My son, Coco, played on a competitive 10u AAA baseball team last year. Coco has been playing ball since he was 4 1/2 years old. Baseball is his passion. When he was 9, Coco played his first year of competitive ball. Prior to that, at the age of eight, he played on a Rec League and he played in about 10-12 games during the summer. I knew it was time to put Coco in something a little more competitive when he looked at me, at the age of eight, and said, “Mom, I know it’s not all about winning, but, it would be nice to play with boys that at least want to win, and are trying to win. Plus, the season doesn’t last long enough. I want to keep playing ball.” Yes, it was time for a change.
When Coco was 8, at the end of the normal season, he tried out for, and made, the 9-year old All Star Team for his Rec League. While a part of that team, we met a family, whose son was also on the All Star Team, that was looking to start a competitive baseball team. We knew of this family. The father was the Head Coach of a team that was in our same league. We had played against their team for the last three years. And, quite honestly, we had never really heard anything great or positive about him as a Coach. Yet, we spent the entire All Star Weekend with them, and, guess what…they were wonderful people. Kind, considerate, genuine. So, when they asked us to join them on their competitive baseball team, well, it seemed like a real win-win. Time would tell a different story.
The season started, and, our families became close. We spent time at one another’s homes, and worked very closely, hand in hand, on the hopeful success of a brand new baseball team. My son became very good friends with their son. And, before we knew it, we had 11 boys and families ready to play ball! I have come to learn, as a result of this experience, that just because someone is kind and considerate and genuine off the field, does not mean that they carry these same traits with them on the field, or, as a Coach. The Head Coach was an ass. I could define him another way, yet, at the end of the day, that is what he was. He yelled at, and belittled every single boy on our team. His own son the worst. My Coco went from being very confident about his baseball skills, to feeling like he was the worst player on the team. It was horribly sad to watch. None of the boys were having fun. They never smiled. They never laughed. They were nine year old boys, playing in fear. Every time one of them made a mistake they would look over to the dugout to see the Coaches’ reaction. I once told the Head Coach that if the boys weren’t smiling and having fun, there was no point in them playing. He didn’t like my sentiments very much. So, what did I start to do…every game, while my son was out on the field, I would yell to him, “Coco, smile and have fun!” What can I say, I’m a little bit of a feisty one! 🙂
As the season wore on, many issues evolved. Between how the Head Coach treated the boys, to how he and his wife were handling the finances, to the Head Coach not including his Assistant Coaches in any of the decisions. It wasn’t pretty. The most difficult thing of all was watching my son’s confidence deteriorate. Coco said to me once, “Mom, I don’t think Coach L has any confidence or faith in my ability.” How very sad is that. On top of it, we had five boys on the team who no longer wished to play baseball. Boys that were great competitors, great athletes, great sports, they were all giving up on a sport they loved. The Coach had taken away their love, passion, and confidence. This was not even remotely OK. The season could not end soon enough. And, once it did, it was time to start trying out for new baseball teams.
At one of the team’s tryouts Coco’s Ex Head Coach and his son were there also. We were one participant behind them at sign up. When the Ex Coach turned around and saw Coco, he didn’t even acknowledge him. I understand him not saying anything to me. I’m an adult, and, I can take it. I really had nothing to say to him anyway. At least not anything productive. However, for an Ex Head Coach, who just coached my son in a game three days earlier, to completely ignore my son, was not OK. It solidified for me his lack of character, and confirmed our choice not to return to his team. Not that there was ever any chance of that happening regardless.
At the tryout that day, my son tried out as a pitcher. The Coaches used their radar guns to catch his pitch speed. His Ex Head Coach was watching, and, a gentleman next to him, when he saw my Coco pitch, said, “Wow, that kid is a really great pitcher. You should try to get him for your team.” Oh yeah, did I mention that the only reason the Coach came to the tryout was to try to recruit kids for his own tryout that was occurring the next day. Classy, huh! The Ex Head Coach looked at the guy and said, “He played for me this year.” The guy said, “Are you crazy to let him go?!” Satisfaction galore for this Mama!
Every team my son tried out for, he was asked to join. Confidence booster. The organization Coco ended up deciding to play for is a Christian based organization that has quite an impressive facility. The facility has an indoor bubble with hitting cages, a pitching area, and an infield area. It also sits on two lighted, and turfed, baseball fields. My son starts practicing baseball in January. Three days a week. And, you know what, Coco is in 7th heaven. He is loving all the baseball. He has been improving immensely. And, having fun. Oh, and smiling! Along the way, boosting his confidence.
At our very first tournament of the season the outcome was amazing!! Allow me to backtrack and share that those five boys who had lost their confidence last season, they all play on our team. They are just like my Coco. Smiling, having fun, regaining their confidence. As far as my son is concerned…his season has taken almost a complete 180 degree turn.
In Coco’s very first at bat of the season, he hit a Home Run! His next at bat, he was HBP (hit by pitch for those of you less baseball inclined). His next at bat, he hit another Home Run! In the second game, Coco hit TWO MORE HOME RUNS!!!! Coco and I talked about it later that day. He said to me, “Mom, last year, I didn’t get a hit in at least my first 8 games. This year, I hit four home runs in my first 2 games.” He is so excited, and, proud of himself, and, I am right there along with him. It is amazing what a difference confidence can do, especially for a child. My son did not get a single hit in his first 24-32 at bats during his 9u season. In his first 5 at bats for his 10u season, he hit four home runs. I will admit, I wish we had been playing against his old team. I would have loved to have seen the look on his Ex Head Coaches’ face when Coco smacked those balls. On top of Coco’s achievement at the plate, he also pitched an entire game, only throwing 43 pitches total over 6 innings. I, for one, am impressed.
As a whole, our team went 3-1, to get us into the Championship game on Sunday. The boys played an undefeated team, and only lost 11-6. They were all smiles. Happy and proud of their accomplishment. The difference in the feel of those five games, compared to the 9u season, was night and day. Not only for my son, but also for me. I think for everyone on our team that had played together the previous year. This is the start of something great, for young boys, and their confidence. I am proud to be a part of this. To watch as it all unfolds. To see the pride and confidence, in my son, return to his own heart.
Coco in his first at bat. When he hit his very first Home Run of his life!!!! Just one of many…
And, before I close this long story, I must share about Lou. You see, there is someone else in my household who also has baseball fever. And, that is little Lou. At her urging, we made bases out of chalk on our driveway, and I went out and pitched balls to her. She is quite the baseball player herself. She wants to play softball. I am trying to find a team for her to do just that. As we were playing, she smacked balls at me left and right. And it brought me back. This is where and how it all started with Coco. He and I playing ball in this very same driveway, with chalk bases and a wiffle bat and ball. The only difference is his bases were blue, his bat was orange, and his helmet was blue. Unlike Lou, who said, “Mom, my team is called The Pinks,” his team was his favorite local MLB team where we live.
I look forward to the day when I can tell stories about all of Lou’s wonderful hits and accomplishments. And perhaps, we will get lucky, and she won’t have to have her confidence stripped along the way. One can always hope.
Originally Written 17Mar15