On Saturday, we signed Isaac up for another season of Little League baseball and I agreed to coach again. Last year it was non-competitive Tee Ball and it turned out to be a lot of fun, but this year we’ll be moving up to the Bantam level which is where things officially get competitive. Talking with the league commissioner yesterday, he equated dealing with some of the parents to having a conversation with someone who’d drank 20 beers and was feeling punchy, the kind of thing I was worried about happening last season but never did, and now I’m hooked so I’m not worrying about it too much. If anything, it’s more likely that I’d get into a fight with an opposing coach than one of my parents!
The main differences at the Bantam level, beyond there being winners and losers, is that coaches pitch to their teams instead of hitting off the tee and there’s only 12 kids on the field at a time. While the former will be challenging for most of the kids, the latter will be toughest part as it pretty much requires organizing a weekly practice in order to identify who’s best to play which positions and ensure they understand the various nuances involved in fielding those positions. I never really thought about how complicated the game is until I had to explain it to kids.
Last year I shuffled them around every inning (and in some cases, within an inning) to keep them all in the game and give everyone a chance to play different positions, and that was fine as the main focus was almost always on throwing the ball to first base. This time around, though, with scores being kept, they’ll need to be able to understand making force-outs at other bases, tagging players out, and even double plays.
I want to have every kid field two positions each that they can focus on, ideally on opposite sides of the diamond or infield/outfield, but the most important thing will be quickly identifying two good 1st Base(wo)men. In a competitive setting, there’s nothing more frustrating than giving up infield hits because a kid can’t catch the ball, and the last thing I want to deal with is 15 frustrated 7-8 year olds, never mind their parents!
Assuming they all come back, I’ll probably have at least half of the kids I had last year as most of them were 6 years old and will be moving up to the Bantam level. They were a fun group to coach and I’m really looking forward to doing it again. Hopefully the guy who had the Mets last season stays at the Pee Wee level and I can snag the team name this time, but if not, I’ll stick with the Marlins.
I’ll have to make some time to practice with Isaac as he hasn’t picked up a bat, ball or glove since last Summer but is looking forward to playing again. We’re taking a trip down to my mother’s later this month so hopefully it will be warm enough to give us some time to play outside. Might as well as start working Saturday mornings into our schedule, too.