For all that I have met, there is one guy who sits at the top of my list.
When I was a younger man, still living in London, I played on a fastpitch softball team with some friends and we were a pretty good team.
The guy who coached us was a bum of sorts. And we dismissed him and usually coached our team by committee. If we all agreed we did it. And this guy would always say that it was his leadership that brought us to our conclusion.
Anytime this bum needed to sound authoritative on any subject, he would always preface his next statement by saying “I got a buddy eh, …” and he would go on to tell us what this expert buddy told him.
And for every subject there seemed to be a different buddy.
This guy was not so likeable that he would have that many buddies. Or that they would all be so incredibly knowledgeable, and more so to be so generous with their knowledge to share it with this bum of a coach guy.
It drove me nuts, and the tripe that spewed out of his mouth after declaring his buddy status was usually quite useless.
So I have never really held much credence to those who start to impose their wisdoms with the sentence “I got a buddy, eh …”
Until now, because you see …
I got a buddy, eh … a fellow I work with who over the last two years who is a coach of a much older team than my girls play on. His daughter plays on this team and he has always described her as very good. And we would talk about softball, usually with me asking questions and he giving answers. His answers have always been very good ones.
One day this spring I was telling him about our upcoming trip to a tournament in Toledo. Let me first say that the level of play in Toledo is fantastic, with clubs that that recruit players from up to a hundred miles away. Their coaches are paid instructors – not the volunteer parents and neighbors our leagues here offer. Not coaches like me, who try to work with the basic knowledge of a fan.
So I was telling him about our Toledo trip and he told me to try to get the girls ready to be beaten badly – mercied if you will – every game. Then he told me “spend the remaining part of your time teaching your girls how to defend against the bunt. These teams will test you early, and if you can’t make the right plays, they will spend the whole game simply bunting on you and taking your defense apart. Train them every scenario with runners in every combination – runner on first. Runner on third, runner on first and third – bunting up and down the first and third baselines – teach them all of those until they know it cold.”
So I shared this knowledge with our team manager, but I prefaced it by saying “I don’t know what level of authority this is coming from … but here is what he told me …”
Our next practice was devoted entirely to bunting – just as my buddy Len had suggested. And it paid off. While we did get beaten badly every game - losing by ten runs easily as we entered the third inning of each – the other teams only tried bunting on us once or twice, maybe three times a game, and our girls handled most well enough that the other teams just resorted to hitting home runs and line drives to every open spot they could find on the field. And when batting, we only had one base runner that entire tournament.
The next week, when I saw Len, he asked how we made out. I told him how humbling the experience was, but that his advice about bunting was great advice that worked, and even though we got completely annihilated, it wasn’t because they bunted us to death,
Our second tournament in Toledo we won a game from a Toledo team, and played close in a couple others, but annihilated by the best teams.
He smiled and told me that was great progress.
This week, I ran into Len in the hallway again, and he told me with beaming pride about how his team actually won that weekend’s tournament in Toledo.
“Really?!, That’s fantastic!”, I said.
“Yes, but we have a lot to work on still he replied”.
That struck me.
Thursday, our coach mentioned that we were going to have one of the other clubs coaches come to one of our practices. I was curious, so I looked at the other clubs website to find out about this other coach. As I was weaving my way through the teams on their site, I tripped over their under 18 girls team. And there was my buddy Len as the coach.
And below in the list of players – his daughters name was listed. And above that list there was another list of accomplishments.
Ontario Provincial Woman’s Softball Association Silver Medalists
Len’s daughter was listed as the PWSA Top Batter from two seasons before, and the PWSA most valuable player last year.
And I realized the true quality of advice that I was getting.
And I felt kind of silly in my boasting of my own two girls, who are both doing very well and I am very proud of, but not anything like Len’s daughter. We are truly just beginning.
All of Len’s advice had been excellent advice, and I did take and followed it when given. But I did not realize the level of authority that my buddy held when he told me.
But now I have this conflict. I really don’t want to sound like that bum of a coach that we all dismissed on that team from long ago.
But I’m afraid I probably will now.
I can just hear me during our next practice, standing at the fence with the coaches, and saying ….
“I got a buddy, eh …”