There’s one more week left. And it all comes down to the next two weekends. This weekend is our home tournament. Next weekend is provincials. And that’s it.
I’m sitting here by the diamond, literally watching the heat waves make their way across the outfield. It’s going to be a scorcher. Bottled water in hand, I’m taking a breather. The calm before the storm.
And when I say day by day, what I really mean is I’m dealing with the ins and outs of managing a team of skilled players and their parents. Yes, I’m managing the parents. And they’re not always the easiest part of this job.
I’ve had parents tell me that the league is a joke and they’ll be calling to complain. I’m dealing with parents who are so hot-headed that they’ve yelled at coaches. I deal with ones who are absentee and never show up to help out. And I deal with chasing people for money, producing schedules that some aren’t happy with, and listening to every complaint and grievance about how baseball should be run. Because they all have opinions, yet not one of them have offered to help me out.
But that’s not why I do this. I do this for the kids. It’s easy to get attached to those little faces when they make a good play or even when they get hurt. I want to be there for them. I want to share their ups/downs, happiness/sadness, and their joy/pain. Because I love these little buggers. They have my heart. They make me proud. All of them.
They make me forget about their parents and the bad things I have to deal with. They make my job worth it.
Especially my own son, J. He has come so far in such a short amount of time. This kid, who didn’t want to play baseball until his third year, who got a black eye from a ball at the age of three, who has now fallen in love with game, has made me the most proud I’ve ever been.
In his first year, during his year-end tournament, he caught a line-drive at third base to steal the win from the opposition and, ultimately, won the tournament. In his second year, he was the best player on his team. And now, in his third year, making catches in the outfield worthy of Kevin Pillar, he has found his calling. And he knows it.
Instead of playing hockey this winter, we will be travelling to off-season baseball training. This is what he wants. And I support him. He wants to be better for next season. He wants a baseball life instead of anything else. His grades are good in school and he’s a relatively good kid, so I said yes, because he’s earned it. If this is the life he wants, I will do anything he asks as long as he tries. And he tries hard.
I’ve never seen this kind of ambition in my son before. He loves team sports, which is why he played five years of hockey. But he hated the hockey off-season training. He loves the lifestyle of travelling and being part of something bigger than himself. But there was always something holding him back in all the other things he’s ever been part of it. He hadn’t yet found his passion in life. Because he’s found his natural skill at baseball, it’s now become his passion. I’ve never seen him motivated to do his best like I’ve seen in baseball.
I see it in a few of the other kids too. Baseball is their thing. It’s their ambition to become better, to keep trying, and to motivate themselves to be the best they can possibly be. It’s refreshing to watch.
So, when a parent texts me to complain, or stops by to chat about something they don’t agree with, or yells at one of the coaches, I tune them out. I focus on the kids. I see them smile with pride and I watch them learn while having fun as their parents drone on and on about the most petty things. The parents don’t matter to me. The kids do.
I know this weekend will be tough, both mentally and physically, but I’m up for the challenge. I’ve been doing this job for months now and nothing has stopped me yet. Not the worst of situations and not the worst of parents. Every time I feel beaten down or when I feel like giving up, I look to my son for inspiration. And he never disappoints me. He teaches me perseverance. And pride. I know I’m doing my best. And that won’t ever be enough for some people. But it’s enough for my son and that’s all that matters to me.
So now, because some of the parents haven’t shown up again, I have to rake the bases, sweep the dugouts, and chalk the lines so my kids can enjoy their first home tournament game tonight. It’s a heavy job with a lot of work involved. I understand why some refuse to do it even when they’re scheduled, but they obviously don’t see what I see when the kids take the field.
I see happiness in baseball. I see pride. And I see a bunch of kids who love this team and this game.
Any parent who doesn’t want to be part of that is missing out. I won’t be one of them.
I’m here. And I’m here to stay.
For love of the game.