Saturday, June 22, 2013

I got a buddy, eh ...

I don’t care much for self-proclaimed experts.

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 …”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Of Insanity

It's a breezy June morning on the back deck of my little family home.

There is just enough wind to cause one to worry if the patio table will blow away, lifted by the umbrella like some campy Disney movie scene.

But when the sun does appear between the clouds blowing across the sky, the rays dance off the waters of the pool as though I were in some tropical paradise.

Ahh, my poor pool still has no staircase installed to let the kids climb down into or out of it yet. It's still in my shed under the deck. Perhaps today, out of some Father's Day sense of duty, my daughters will help me pull it out and drop it down into the summer waters of our back yard.

There's just so little time anymore. With three ball teams consuming our time, and the chores of home and the duties of work, the back yard deck has been sparsely populated this year.
My faithful black lab Suzy let out a deep groan of contempt as she lied curled on the deck beside me at such a thought.

But this will change.

It has to, it's summer you know.

There is just so much ball.

I am managing a house league team that my youngest Ashley-Rae plays on, a ten year old playing with fourteen year olds and she is one of the best on my team. And now Ashley-Rae has made the All Start Select travel team. My eldest daughter Allannah's traveling team of selects – where I coach only on an as needed basis – still takes me to the diamonds every other night, and off to distant locations like Toledo on the weekends.

The fast-pitch softball this year has been great. What every ball loving dad dreams about once his daughters start playing t-ball. Line drives and double plays and strike outs and balls caught over the shoulder as they near the fence. Pitching clinics and three-two counts with the batter getting caught on a change up to swing at strike three before the ball gets to the plate.

It's great stuff.

Memories for a lifetime.

But it sure takes up all the time for everything else.

My lovely wife Darlene has had enough, and tells me each night as we come home around nine o'clock that we had better enjoy this year because next year will be different!

I only hope she is bluffing.

And my poor golf clubs sit on their stand beside my pool table downstairs – looking at me as I pass by as if to say "remember me? You used to love me you know … what ever happened to us?"

This year I feel in the best shape that I can remember over the past decade with all the exercise that softball brings. It would have been a great year to golf. Maybe in August as the ball teams wind down.

I barely have any time to even write. My last headstuffing post was in February.

I refer to fast-pitch softball as merely ball. It's not quite baseball – but it's just as good. The mechanics of pitching – of which I found myself becoming quite knowledgeable on from countless pitching clinics and practices with my own teams – is more complex than that of pitching a baseball.

Pitching a softball - be it eleven inch as used in Canada or twelve inch as played in the U.S. – is very much like a golf swing. It is a series of complex and intricate moves that once put together in one fluid motion allows the body to consistently hurl a projectile at very high speed exactly where the player is aiming.

But learning to do either takes years of endless practice and often results spotty occurrences of success until consistency finally appears, almost out of nowhere, threatening to leave as quickly as it came should the practice give way to complacency.

My lovely wife Darlene proudly wears a t-shirt that exclaims "my daughter can pitch faster than your son!"

I love that shirt.

But my golf clubs are not so happy these days.

I used to crush a golf ball off the tee. And there is no greater satisfaction than hitting a short iron from a perfectly placed drive to within a couple feet of the waiting flag pin on a pristinely maintained green.

But this year I would almost be scared to swing a club. I am so out of practice. And while I used to think it's like riding a bike, I have found that now in my fifties I might have to retool that swing that the younger me used to execute almost effortlessly.

If only there was more time in a day. And more days in a Canadian year. More opportunity to go outside and play. Or sit on my deck by the pool with my laptop … and write.

Summer days in Canada is a precious commodity.

And since I am not yet financially independent enough to retire from my work that provides the luxury of these wonderful pastimes, well the days dwindle to even fewer.

Maybe I should focus more on my book. It's done and I have it ready in the ebook form. I just haven't taken the time yet to get the thing printed – then marketed. But even the chance of such success to retire off the return on that two years of invested effort seems as likely as winning the lottery.
It's a pretty damn good book though, if I do say so myself.

But my book has no sex in it though. And I notice that all the novels written lately, the ones that sell really well, that would allow such a comfortable retirement, well … they all use sex as the main hook to keep the reader interested.

But my book doesn't use the terms "throbbing" or "glistening" once … at least not in a sexual context.

And I have yet to win anything by playing the lottery.

But Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

So something has to change – for the better.

I just hope the change doesn't mean giving up softball, or golf, or writing.

Or my family.

If it does, then I might as well be insane.

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