The Twins played their final game last night. They played hard and they played well, but they came up short. We finished the season as we started it, looking for our first win.
The final loss was really tough. We were down 9-7 to start the bottom of the fourth, and with a little more than 15 minutes left before the time limit kicked in, I figured we needed a 1-2-3 inning to get another chance. When the first three batters got on to load the bases with no outs, I was sure we were doomed.
Not so fast! The next batter hit a line drive right at the third baseman, who snatched it for out number one. On the very next pitch, a sharp ground ball was hit to the shortstop, who grabbed it, tagged the runner heading to third, then stepped on second base to complete a spectactular unassisted doubleplay. We hustled everyone into the dugout and were able to start a fifth inning.
Now the kids were fired up. We were drawing walks and hitting the ball, and when the dust cleared, we'd scored the maximum five runs to take a 12-9 lead. All we had to do was shut them down for the win.
Alas, it wasn't to be. I could see some jitters out there, and when the opponents started to come back, the pressure may have gotten to us. In the end, we lost 13-12.
The guys took it pretty hard. I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of, that they'd given their best and they'd gone down fighting. I told them they were all better players than they'd been at the start of the season, and that I was proud of them.
The team parents took everyone out for pizza afterwards, which no doubt helped take some of the sting out of losing (that and some Shiner Bock sure helped for me). They presented me with an autographed team ball, and a card with a gift certificate at Oshman's Sporting Goods as a thank you. I was really touched.
Before the game, I asked each player in private to tell me who his pick for team Most Valuable Player was. I told them that I would announce the MVP and the All Star Game selections afterwards. We were limited to three All Star choices, which was tough for me, since I had four legitimate candidates. The three kids who got picked, one of whom was the team's MVP choice, were pumped when they heard the news. One of them had been in the league for four years, and this was the first time he'd been picked.
Several parents told me later that they really liked the team MVP concept. It helped each kid think about the other guys' contributions. They chose a worthy candidate, who was given a "season ball" as his prize.
I lingered at the pizza parlour after the bill was paid, saying goodbye to everyone. There were some rough patches during the season, and plenty of times when I wondered if I had any clue about what I was doing, but looking back over it, I can say it was really rewarding. The kids were generally responsive, the parents were involved and helpful, and it was just plain fun. I was asked several times if I'll do this again. I deflected the questions because I wanted to take some time and think about it. I do think I will, though.
So that's the story of my season as coach. I'll be at the All Star Game - each team coach is expected to be there - but for all practical purposes I'm done. I do know one thing: if I do wind up doing this again, my won-lost record can only improve. How many other coaches have that assurance?Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 23, 2003 to Just call me Coach | TrackBack