The coach is on the baseball field again.
Some may question that, as they wonder why he’s a little late to warm-ups.
But I can assure them, my husband has mentally been there since last night.
Actually, he’s been there all season, well before it even started for the rest of us.
He’s late because he was working and reworking the line-up to get it just right. He was umpiring a game so another team could play. He was offering extra tips to a struggling player. Resolving an issue with a parent. Making sure his own son was prepped and ready to go. And he still would have made it on time, except he was lugging enormous bags of gear alone across the parking lot.
And that’s just barely a glimpse behind the scenes.
On the field is where it all comes together.
The coach is the first one rushing out there when he’s got a man down. I’ve witnessed the healing power of his confidence that all it takes is to “rub some dirt on it.” He builds up discouraged pitchers with a few simple words and a calm look in the eyes. He knows when to stand up to the umpire and fight for his guys and when to let a bad call just be part of the game. When to let his players wrestle with their mistakes and exactly when to sit boys out to contemplate being men.
He has to balance risk with caution, fun with hard work, praise with discipline, humility with pride.
His definition of winning is different than most, and learning his version of success has helped shape my life for the better. If you lean in close, it just might move you.
My favorite coach doesn’t have to get a “W” in the score book to consider it victory. Winning might mean losing this particular game. He may give up five heartbreaking walks to let our most timid player feel the confidence building power of pitching his first strikeout. It’s a choice that plants a seed which blossoms at just the right time during a playoff game, proving that patience and perseverance and humility create character that lasts a lifetime.
You may not see it now, but that once-timid player is going to change the world someday, having found the courage that his Little League coach was willing to risk the game for.
Sometimes the pressure of pleasing all the people who don’t take the time to understand stirs up ideas about quitting. But then a player he’s been working with all season, the one who has dropped twenty pop-flies, makes the catch of his Little League career. That priceless ear-to-ear grin of a child transformed is enough to swell a coach’s heart right past all the theatrics we adults load on top of him.
I’m humbled thinking about all the lives he’s already touched outside our family. But I get front row seats to the impact he makes on the younger version of himself. I’ll never forget watching our son round the bases after he sent the ball sailing over the fence, jumping into a pile of teammates, his dad/coach’s proud cheers drowning out the rest of the crowd. And I’m so excited to see how both of my boys apply all the lessons that baseball offers to their lives.
Of course, there are days I get frustrated with the overall system. The bureaucracy, the drama, the crowd screaming over bad umpiring calls or criticizing a coaching decision, the coach’s chair at the dinner table sitting empty…it’s enough to make me wonder sometimes if this is still where God wants us. But I ask our Heavenly Coach to guide us on that, and leave this temporary assignment in His very capable hands.
Because right now, my favorite coach is running out there with his little band of followers, lining up to start another game, hands over hearts reciting the Little League pledge…
I trust in God.
I love my country
And will respect its laws.
I will play fair
And strive to win.
But win or lose
I will always do my best.