Mike adjusted his cap, squinting through the glaring sunlight. With a runner on first and third, no outs, and their best hitter at the plate, things were looking up.
He grinned at his son Dylan, “Come on, Pal. Don’t just stand there! Knock it over the wall!”
He could see Dylan’s jaw tighten. He had been thrilled when Coach Stan had enlisted his Dad as his assistant. As time passed, however, he seemed uncomfortable and moody, especially when Mike gave him pointers in front of the rest of the team.
Mike felt cross inside, thinking of the different concepts he and Stan had about coaching a little league team. Stan never raised his voice or lost his patience, which made Mike look bad sometimes. No need to coddle them. So what if they were only ten and eleven? Baseball is baseball, and it’s a chance to make kids grow up and get tough.
Mike recalled Stan’s remarks to him about keeping moods positive and tempers calm. Stan’s team pep talk before the game about sportsmanship and just “doing their best” was fine, but if they were to advance in the tournament, they had to win, and that’s all there was to it. Sure, he and Stan were friends, even went to the same church, but this was different. This was baseball.
Dylan connected. The cracking sound of bat to ball was music to Mike’s ears. All eyes turned to watch the soaring ball. Almost to the wall, it took a sudden dip, dropping to the ground. A quick recovery and return throw put the runner out at second base, but Dylan made it to first, and the speeding tall boy from third base flashed toward home plate.
“Ye’er out!” yelled the ump.
Mike couldn’t believe his ears. “You gotta be kiddin! He was safe by a mile. He scored, I tell you” He was getting louder with each word. The umpire gave him a hard look without speaking, but Mike was not nearly done.
“That’s a bad call. Anybody could see he was safe. Give me a break!”
At the umpire’s signal, Stan ran over and stood between them. Restraining Mike with one arm, he told him to calm down. Then he turned to the official and offered a sincere apology.
At that, Mike was beyond angry. He pulled off his jersey and cap, threw them on the ground, and stomped hard on them with one foot, balancing wildly on the other.
Stan and the opposing team’s coach sent all the boys for a short break, clearing the field. From the corner of his eye, Mike saw Dylan’s shoulders slump as he turned and walked away.
“I can’t believe you made such a display, Mike,” It was Stan’s turn to be angry. “These kids are watching us, hearing our words, seeing everything we do. We’re here to show them how to handle play and competition, including disappointments, even if there is a questionable call. Do you honestly want them to follow your model?”
Mike stalked away,whether from embarrassment or lingering fury, he wasn’t sure. Finally, he turned, walked back to Stan, and mumbled a response.
“Okay, okay. I messed up. I’ll go talk to Dylan first, then I’ll make it right with the rest of the team.”
“Yeah, sure,” Stan answered glumly. “The same way you can unscramble eggs.”
Unfortunately, this is based on a true story.
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