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I’m an old-school baseball dinosaur – a little rough on the diamond

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If there ever was a person who could be described as a baseball dinosaur it’s me. I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s when even little leaguers played like the big guys. When I was a kid only the best players made the starting lineup and played in the games. If you weren’t a starter, you had to work hard to show the coach that you belonged in the game. No one received trophies for just showing up. They had to be earned by either individual or team success. Kids actually were taught how to bunt and other fundamentals. No one wore batting gloves and, by the way, bats were made of wood from a forest, not aluminum from Alcoa! I don’t like the designated hitter rule, eighth inning setup men or pitchers who are closers. I am appalled that catchers are now prohibited from blocking home plate and baserunners can’t break up a double play unless they say “excuse me.”

That’s me … a baseball-saurus.

I realized, as a young father in the ’80s, that my conception of how the game should be played would be in the minority. Because of this, I thought it not best to be an official “coach” of my son Mike’s teams. I knew that most of the kids would not play the way I would want or expect, so to avoid any problems I chose to always be at Mike’s practices and games and act as an unofficial “advisor” to any of the kids who chose to listen. Since I had played the game at many levels, I wanted to pass some knowledge on but didn’t want to appear to undermine the actual coaches. I’m glad to say it worked out pretty well.

When Mike was 7 years old, the township offered t-ball for the kids of his age. Now please understand that I have nothing but admiration for fathers who coach and teach “t-ballers.” These dads have the patience of Job and deserve a special place in heaven. I, on the other hand, would never let my son play t-ball. In a real game, the ball is never still when a player is trying to hit it. When it came time for baseball season, I told Mike that I would be teaching him the game and then the next season he could play when the kids actually pitched to the batters, like the real game. So we spent the summer playing in the front lawn and back yard with me pitching to Mike while he hit. I also would hit him grounders and pop-ups so he could learn how to catch. After he showed that he could catch well enough, we switched from a sponge ball to a hard ball. Soon after, while having a catch, he missed my toss and the ball bounced off of his glove, hitting him in the forehead. He took it like a little man because even back in 1989 he knew there was “no crying in baseball.” We both agreed not to tell Mommy about the mishap. Good kid … saved me from a little aggravation that night!

When he was ready to play the next season, he joined the team that was coached by one of the other dads, who did his best. As the first game was to begin, the coach told the kids to take the field. All nine of the players, including Mike, started to take a leisurely stroll to their defensive positions. Two of the kids were throwing their gloves up in the air and catching them as they walked. I called Mike over to me and told him, “Mike, this is a baseball game. You always hustle on and off the field. You don’t walk.” He said, “OK, Dad” and trotted out to shortstop. By the third inning, all of the kids were running on and off and did so for the remainder of the season. 

There was one kid on the team that clearly had no interest in the game. He didn’t like to be there but was dropped off by his mother who used the team as a baby sitter. There was a game rule that all of the kids had to bat and this young man NEVER swung at a pitch. He either walked or struck out. Once I asked him if he liked being on the team and he said no. Since he loved to read, I suggested he ask his mom to drop him off at the library instead of the ballfield. The mother only went to one game and unfortunately she sat right behind me. When her son came up to bat she saw him strike out, taking three strikes without swinging once. As the boy walked back to the bench with his head down, his mom said, “Good job Johnny.” I couldn’t help myself. I turned to her and speaking in a controlled, calm manner, I asked her, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what was good about that?” I further explained that he didn’t enjoy being on the team and would prefer to do other things. She wasn’t happy with my observations or comments but I didn’t care. She was teaching her son that not trying and failing was “good.” If the kid had swung the bat and tried to hit the ball, I would have been the first one to tell him, “Nice try Johnny, you’ll get ’em next time.” She told me to mind my own business.

I guess she thought dinosaurs were extinct.

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” He was raised in Philadelphia and lives in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

Charlie Sacchetti

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

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