There’s a letter on the internet from Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals manager, to a group of travel ball parents that he was coaching. I’m going to steal a lot of it here to explain what I’ll be coaching your kids this fall. My goals this fall are the same as Matheny’s were a few years ago while coaching his team.
First lets start with class. My goal is to have your boys handle themselves with class. Whether it is on the field, in the classroom, or at home. I look back at all the life lessons baseball has taught me so far, how to be part of a team, handle disappointment, how to work, how to fail, how to succeed, etc. The main thing it has taught me though is how to do all these with class. We will not throw equipment, I’ve done this plenty, and it never once helped me get a hit the next at bat. We do not cuss. There’s running for that. We will not yell at, whine to or even really pay attention to umpires. To borrow from Mike’s letter,
“Let the record stand right now that we will not have good umpiring. This is a fact, and the sooner we all understand that, the better off we will be. We will have balls that bounce in the dirt that will be called strikes, and we will have balls over our heads that will be called strikes. Likewise, the opposite will happen with the strike zone while we are pitching. The boys will not be allowed at any time to show any emotion against the umpire. They will not shake their head, or pout, or say anything to the umpire. This is my job, and I will do it well.”
My goal is to have your boys recognize what they can control, control it well, and realize what is out of their control and let it go. They will learn this from me, but the place they can learn this the quickest is on the car rides home with you after the game. Instead of, “Coach MattE, is a moron,” (which I’m bound to be at times) for the growth of your kid on and off the field please use this strategy “I know you think you should bat higher in the order son, I do too, but that’s not how coach is doing it, and just be the best ninth hitter in the tournament, and he’ll have to move you up.”
Another goal of mine is to impact your boys positively as they grow into young men. I will pass on my cell phone number. Please, call me about anything dealing with your kid other than baseball. If there’s a teacher, who gives him a hard time, let me know, sometimes a third party can help. If there’s a problem at home let me know. If his grades are bad, let me know, we can run better grades into the young men! All of these potential conflict points will be dealt with from a biblical perspective. That doesn’t mean that I will shove my Christian beliefs on your kid or you for that matter, but my faith will shape how I try to respond to most situations, and when asked, I will not sidestep that I am a Christian. Again, please call me if your kid is struggling to let me know how to help, but please know any calls about baseball will go unreturned. We can always talk in person about that.
My third goal is to make sure we represent this game well. This is a TEAM sport. All 11-12 kids will have a chance to impact our tournaments. We will not win every game. Some of this is by design, we need to know who can do what, but know this I really enjoy winning. There’s a scoreboard, and I want to win, but not at all costs. We will not risk you kids elbow, and possible a college scholarship one day for a shiny trophy from Jim Smith’s travel ball invitational. We will not play in tournaments every weekend. The games are the test, and the fun part, but not where your kids get better. Your kids get better practicing, and we will practice better than 99% of teams out there. However, baseball is a sport that is improved through repetition, and hitting on Sundays with us will hardly help your kid excel. It will only help him stay even. As far as individual lessons go, let me quote from Matheny’s letter again,
“I am completely fine with your son getting lessons from whomever you see fit. The only problem I will have is if your instructor is telling your son not to follow the plan of the team... I will teach mental approach, and expect the boys to comply. If I see something that your son is doing mechanically that is drastically wrong, I will talk with the instructor and clear things up. The same will hold true with pitching coaches. We will have a pitching philosophy and will teach the pitchers and catchers how to call a game, and why we choose the pitches we choose. There is no guessing. We will have a reason for the pitches that we throw. A pitching coach will be helpful for the boys to get their arms in shape and be ready to throw when spring arrives. Every boy on this team will be worked as a pitcher. We will not over use these young arms and will keep close watch on the number of innings that the boys are throwing.”
Having said this about individual lessons, sometimes throwing in the backyard with dad, mom, or brother. Or hitting into a net off a tee daily will help as much as paying $100.00 an hour for lessons to a guy who is a parrot. You know the guy, all he says is “nice swing, good, nice swing, head down.” Our pitching coach will offer lessons, and there will be arm conditioning involved, as well, and if you are able to afford this expense I highly recommend having your kid work with him.
So now you know what to expect from me, and here’s what I hope to expect from you. Trust. I hope you can trust that I have achieved more in this game that I ever dreamed, and I truly am out here just to pass it on. I hope you trust that when I bat a kid 10th or play him in left field it’s nothing personal or permanent! I hope you trust my coaches and me with baseball. We will not get too busy fixing “mechanics” early on. We will get to them, but the most important this is the “approach” and we will hammer on the physical but mostly MENTAL approach, as this can cover a lot of mechanics. Please trust us during games. The dugout is your kid’s office, please practice letting them work uninterrupted. Get them in the habit of being responsible. Give them enough snacks and drinks to make it through a game, so we are not constantly seeing mom, dad, or grandma at the “office” asking if they are thirsty. I am excited about this fall. I thank you for taking the first step in trusting us by giving us the honor of coaching you son! If you have time, Google Matheny’s letter. It’s a great read!