Who's on first? Well, no one for the past six months. Thankfully, that drought ended Sunday night when the league-switching Houston Astros topped the Texas Rangers 8-2.
This is a great time of year because, before any of the games are played, the Chicago Cubs are still in first place in their division. If 2013 is like almost every other year for the last 100, that won't last long.
I grew up loving the Cubs and Braves. Cable was pretty new and the two "super" stations carried almost all of their games.
As cable television and the contract with Major League Baseball has expanded, there is almost no game that you can't see if you have enough money and desire.
My love of baseball was kindled as a kid in Little League. It was almost doused during the same time by a "daddy coach" who took over our All-Star team. He decided to join in with some of the kids in trying to bully the fat kid. It didn't matter how many home runs I hit or kids I struck out. All that mattered was that I was heavier than the other kids. I hated him and he was my baseball coach so, for a few years, I hated baseball because of him.
Thankfully, some weird twists brought me back. My nephew's tee ball team didn't have a coach. One of the dads got suckered into being the head coach and when my brother-in-law was too busy with a new job to help out, I got a call asking me to help. I figured it was a great way to kill a summer between semesters at college.
I've had a very blessed life. But I'm not sure that I will ever top the 10 years I got to coach those kids.
Part of it was baseball. I love how every pitch is part of a plan. Baseball is equal parts strategy and skill. Smashing a home run isn't worth any more than the smallest player on the team executing a perfect sacrifice bunt to drive in a run.
I also love baseball because preparation shows up during key times in games. You know who wins the game when you go into the last inning tied 4-4? I'll put my money on the team who was practicing inside while there was still snow on the ground outside. The other thing I enjoyed about those years was learning to manage individuals. I think coaching a kids' baseball team made me a better manager in my career.
I learned quickly that everyone is not the same. If you treat them all the same, you will see some excel and some fall away. You can treat everyone differently while still being fair to all. We all respond to different stimuli and need different rewards. Some kids needed a pat on the back. Others needed a kick in the backside. The key was that they all wanted to succeed and they knew that each individual had to be successful in order for them to have success as a team.
Page 2 of 2 - Coaches have limited control over which batter comes up with two outs in a big situation. You can't just pass the ball to your best shooter or throw it to a favorite receiver.
If your 8-hole hitter comes up with two on and two out in the last inning, he better be able to deliver. We had some players who would crumble if you raised your voice to them. We had others who couldn't get in gear if you didn't challenge them.
One pitcher we had is a good example of both strategy and psychology. We were in the later rounds of a tournament. We had used up some pitchers and we were trying to save others for a potential shot at a championship.
We put a kid on the mound who should have been able to do just that. Instead, he gave up eight runs in two innings and left us in bad shape.
We pulled him out and put in a new pitcher who only had a few of innings of eligibility left. He did a great job and our bats came alive. With one inning to go, we were up 11-10 and needed someone to finish the game.
Who did we put in? We brought the same kid who had given up eight runs in the first two innings. He had the ability. He just didn't do it the first time. While he was getting loose, I could tell he was nervous. This kid needed a little fire in his belly to make his arm work. So when he threw his last warm-up pitch, I asked him from the bench if his arm hurt. He gave me a confused look and said, "No."
"Then throw the ball!" I yelled at him.
He got angry at me and went on to shut down the next three hitters and close out the game. Afterward, he came up to me with a smile and said, "I know what you were trying to do. You tried to make me mad."
"It worked," I said with a laugh. Everyone is different. Teams only succeed when everyone contributes. And when someone screws up, sometimes you have to give them a second chance.