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  • Bill Chastain

Fathers Coaching Their Kids

Fathers coaching their kids.

In theory it’s beautiful. The father instructing his kid, along with other young kids, in the fundamentals of the game. Like Ward Cleaver spinning one of his Aesop’s fables for Wally and the Beave. Unfortunately, when a father agrees to coach his kid’s team, theory and reality usually bring a skewed outcome.

The father always seems to be the villain, whether it’s accusations of nepotism or his wife telling him how he’s pushing the kid too hard. Eventually the father comes to equate the experience to coaching a team of Eddie Haskells. So it’s a gamble from the outset. But when it works, it’s worthwhile.

Which was the case when Dad coached my Pony League team.

Dad inherited the team when nobody else wanted it. Kind of like Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears — only Dad wasn’t getting paid like Matthau’s character, at least to my knowledge.

Pony League According to the rules, Dad had to wear a uniform for the Hillsborough County Tournament (much to his chagrin). My brother, Buddy is on the left. His Colt League team also won the league and played the same day we did. The boney kid on the right is me.

Yellow sanitary hose, combined with green-trimmed flannel uniforms, made our team resemble a poor man’s Oakland A’s. Unfortunately, we looked jinxed from the start after our No. 1 pick, who went by the nickname “Pig,” hurt his knee before the first game. With Pig sidelined for most of the season, only power source was a kid with sideburns — and he was in the eighth grade. Otherwise, the team had little talent, save for strong defense.

Dad recognized our deficiencies and decided to take the bats away by instructing us to take pitches until we had two strikes. Nobody hit for a high average, but the walks-to-strikeout ratio was huge and there always were base runners. We were pesky, a left-handed counter-puncher against the stylish boxer.

We captured the first-half title in a close race, then there was a break before the second half of the season. During the week layoff, Dad only held one practice. But its effect was significant because he introduced us to the double-squeeze play that day.

He’d seen the play while growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, watching the town’s professional team, a Class D affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

The way it works is simple.

With runners on second and third, both break with the pitch. The batter bunts, easily scoring the first runner. The key to scoring the second runner is the pitcher’s reaction after fielding the ball. If he checks the runner, it won’t work. But if he throws to first, the second runner scores as easily as the first.

Darndest thing was, the double squeeze actually worked. Nobody seemed to know how to stop it, propelling us to a runaway second-half title.

Do you have any idea how great it makes a 14-year-old feel to think his dad’s a baseball genius?

Father coaching son at its finest!

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