Coach

Practice was over. We were gathering all the stuff together and cramming it into a huge, well worn, canvas duffel bag. A bit of excitement on the field caught our attention and all eyes turned toward the area between the pitcher’s mound and home-plate. The team troublemaker/bully was standing nearest to home-plate and another player was positioned just in front of the pitcher’s mound visibly upset as his father approached him from behind almost a little too quickly. His father was mad. In his right hand was a bat.

My father not only coached our little-league baseball team, but in the absence of any ‘official’ community sponsored sports leagues in our area, he also conceived of, and organized the league. He convinced my mom to fabricate several sets of bases from an old canvas tent and some odd, picky stuffing we had about. He successfully recruited several other fathers to coach a handful of teams made up of youngsters between 8 and 12 years old. My dad loved baseball. My dad loved kids.

As we gawked at the drama unfolding on the field we hadn’t noticed Coach quickly making his way onto the field. With all intention he positioned himself between the bully and the other boy’s father. In that silent moment that followed I heard Coach ask, as he stood there empty handed, “Is there a problem?” The intensity on the face of the boy’s father is still in my memory of that moment. “He’s going to hit someone”, I remember thinking to myself. “What in the world does dad think he’s doing out there?” I mumbled to my brother. Time seemed to take on a bizarre quality; an almost surreal sensation of both standing still and potentially running out of control.

Suddenly, there was a change. The father’s grip on the bat relaxed just a bit. I heard him quietly, but still very intensely say something about making fun of his son’s ears. My brother shot me a look that suggested confusion. Was this guy serious? However, Coach did not react very quickly, but rather took a deep breath and asked the father to take a good look at him. You see Coach was not the most aerodynamic from the neck up — my brother inherited dad’s ears. After looking coach in the eyes the father relaxed so that I almost thought he was going to just flop right down there on the mound. Instead, he and Coach headed over toward the parking lot having a gentle conversation along the way. We resumed packing the stuff.

My dad never did share any of the details of that conversation between the two men with my brother and I. In fact he never really talked about it much at all after that day. I have certainly played out in my mind what they may have talked about. I have also wondered how things would have gone if my dad approached the situation with his own bat…?