I am working on a book about my experiences during 13 years coaching youth baseball, the players, and the game’s basics and nuances of the game. Here are some of my favorite moments.
One of my favorite players was the son of a high school classmate of mine. He was a great kid and fun to coach and, being left-handed, had some Bill Lee in him. In a game at Rideout, he hit his first home run: a line shot over the right field fence which did not get any higher than 15 feet above the ground. He practically danced around the bases. At another game, I had come directly from work still dressed for an earlier business meeting. He was pitching and, as the game wore on, he began to struggle. I called time and went to the mound to settle him down. As I headed back to the dugout, he said “Nice bow tie, Coach Anderson!”
A player on a different team was hitless going into our last game. We had worked on things in practice to no avail. As the final game of the season approached, there was despair in the air. Before that game, I brought him to our house for some focused coaching. We had a device which would roll balls down a rail to a sharp incline, flipping the ball into the air for the batter to time his swing and hit the ball. After an hour of practice, we got into my car and headed to the game. It was a glorious day and I remember quoting Ernie Banks: “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame…let’s play two.” I opened the sunroof and pushed a country music tape into my tape deck and off we went. We got to the field and, in his first at-bat, he beat out an infield hit. Our whole team erupted.
Months later, I bumped into his mother and asked after him. She said that he was well but that he was driving her crazy as he repeatedly asked her to find my country station on her radio.
The first year I coached a softball team, all of our players had nicknames. Abby Marsh and her sister Holly were on the team. The latter was Swamp while the former became Doubleday. Doubleday was the youngest, but the feistiest, of our players. Every game each player played both an involved and a less involved position. In one game, Doubleday was in right field. Leaving the bench, she came up to me and said, “Coach Anderson, right field is boring!” “No, Doubleday, it’s not; it is a very important position for two reasons. First, a lot of right-handed batters cannot get around on the pitch and end up hitting the ball to right field. And second, if a ball is hit to third or short, the right fielder should hustle in to back up first base in case the first baseman misses the ball.” Pounding her fist into her glove, she said “Right, Coach” and trotted to right field. The second or third batter hit the ball to third. The first baseman missed the throw and the ball went by her. But there was Doubleday backing up first base and the runner was held at first!
Every kid has a dream about hitting a grand slam to win the World Series. Our older daughter expressed this dream in a story she wrote in her fourth-grade class. Needless to say, her teacher was overwhelmed:
Ever since I was seven years old I’ve wanted to be a baseball player. I have dreams about the year 1999 (my first year in the minors). I am up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, the bases are loaded, count is 3 and 2, and the score is 5-2 Jackson. My team, which is Pawtucket is losing.
The pitch comes in, I close my eyes and POW! A grand slam! The fans cheered and screeched while I ran around the bases. Then I wake up. Now is really the year 1999 and I do the same thing I did in my dreams.
The next year I was on the Boston Red Sox. It is so much harder up here and my average is only .205.
On September 23, I broke my arm and wrist and wasn’t able to play the last few games.
May this dream come true for all of the youth baseball players (and for any dreaming parents) in Concord!