Life is as complicated as you make it!

For as long as I can remember, I have always subscribed to the beginning of the kiss. Keep it simple, stupid!

“Often times, the only change people like is the one that makes noise in their pockets.” Richard bach

Baseball is a simple game and almost everyone knows how to play it. The game is very simple: 1) you throw the baseball; 2) you catch the baseball; 3) you hit the baseball with a bat, right? But, there are people who can make the game of baseball so complicated and technical, it will make your head spin! Case in point:

Many years ago, I led a minor league baseball team and got my brother-in-law to help me as a coach. I had never done something like this before so I didn’t know what to expect from a group of 9-12 year olds etc. I had no idea how much a nine, ten or eleven year old knew about the game of baseball or what he could learn. Seeing 15 of those little faces sitting around the back gauge didn’t sit well with me when we started. I felt like we were going to fail, etc. And I started wondering if I should have volunteered in the first place. But we went ahead and did the best we could. After all, it was all for the kids.

Fifteen kids … ages 9-12, from all walks of life, were waiting there in the back for it to start. I must say I was nervous and didn’t really know where to start. I had no idea how much 9-12 year olds knew about baseball and what they could do. How was he going to mold these kids into a team that could win? It was about a month before the opening day and we had to start practicing immediately. After some comments on the rules of the game and our own rules as a team, I took the guys out onto the field to throw the ball and relax. My brother in law hit a bit in field practice to start with.

While they were doing this, I went to another part of the school grounds and saw another team at our league practice. I thought it would be good for me to get ideas and advice on how they were doing things and go from there. I thought it would also help me with my own training. As I watched this equipment practice, I found out very quickly what I was NOT going to do with my equipment! What I was seeing here was amazing!

This team was working on things that major league teams work on. Things like double plays; exhaustion; bunting; signals from third base and the bench; get the lead to run; a bounce to the gardeners plate! These two parents (coaches) were confusing these kids and getting too technical with them, in my opinion. We are talking about 9-12 year olds … they are just beginning to learn the game!

It irritated me to see this team, because many of these children do not have the strength, coordination and eyesight to act like the grown-ups … they don’t! I didn’t really know at the time what I was going to do with my team, but I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to do what these coaches were doing with these kids, etc.

In the two years that I coached in the minor leagues, I only saw one double play; without outrages; I didn’t see touches; and no theft of bases, etc. So why practice them! By practicing these various things, I felt like this team I was watching would get worse as the season progressed. The only reason I think a coach would teach these things to children is an ego trip. Try to show the children how much they know about the game of baseball. That’s all it could be!

Our approach was going to be the complete opposite! Our focus was going to be to keep it simple and practice, practice, and practice more, until the kids got it right and until they made no mistakes. Children would learn to catch the ball over and over again until they got it right! They would learn to throw the ball over and over again until they got it right! And they would stand at the plate and hit the ball over and over again until they were comfortable at the plate and were not afraid of the ball, etc.

We were going to make the game as simple as we could make it. There would be discipline, and the first thing that disappeared was chewing gum. Blowing bubbles was too distracting! And, there were only four things players had to remember. Throw the ball (hopefully straight): catch the ball; hit the ball and go for the easy way out! We would never, ever go for the leading runner, even if he scored.

I think it was pretty easy for the kids to remember.

There would be no complex technical blah blah blah on this team. Simplicity reigned and would continue to do so. Good pitching was the key to winning. I was lucky, I had good pitchers, and they were very good, and we worked with them whenever we had the opportunity. As the season began and progressed, my pitchers struck out an average of 14 batters per game. So why would we need all that practice in defense? Not many from the other team will make it to base anyway. And why should we practice all that technical blah-blah? Not many are going to make it to base anyway.

I felt like we had a good month of practice and now the proof was in the pudding. Opening day came, we were going to have our first game and we would find out if we were a disciplined team that could win. It was discipline that got these kids organized and looked and played like a baseball team. I was pleased with what I saw and how far we had come in such a short time. I felt like this team was going to win more games than it would lose, but the jury was still out.

When the season started, we won our first eight games in a row and we won them simply and without making mistakes. And then we lost two in a row, which worried me a bit. But, to shorten a long season, the boys came back and, for the season, they won 17 games and lost only 3 games.

Sadly, the team that I saw practicing early on, won only 2 games and lost 18 games! I felt sorry for this team because they were in ruins. In Little League, there is a 10-run rule. If one team is 10 races ahead of the other team, the game stops! That’s so kids are NOT humiliated … that’s not the purpose of Little League. We beat this team by more than 10 runs both times we played and the games stopped.

The guys on that 2-18 team were confused by the coaches; They used too many technical terms and they played baseball and they were horrible. At the end of the season, the coaches (parents) were nowhere to be found and the team ended the season with a 14-year-old coach. PRETTY SAD!

As for me, I enjoyed working with the children so much that I went back to training the following year. Surprisingly, it was a repeat of the first year, as we again won 17 games and lost only 3 games, for a two-year total of 34 wins and only 6 losses. And we did it for simplicity! He was very proud of the children!

“We design our lives through the power of choices.” A stranger

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NOTE: I have been a woodcarver for over twenty years. I was invited to teach a class on woodcarving at the University of New Mexico. If I do, it will be the same approach to wood carving as minor league baseball … keep it simple, stupid!

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