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The thrill of victory

That sound you heard tonight had nothing to do with the Presidential press conference. That was the sound of the monkey climbing off my back in the wake of the Mustang Twins’ first win of the season, a 9-5 triumph over the Astros. My two holdover players and I are officially off the schneid and in the W column.

The game was not without its tense moments. With the score 4-1, the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third, the Astros batter hit a line drive that was snagged by our shortstop, who then stepped on second to double off that runner and end the inning. Call it an omen or call it dumb luck, but both the batter and the shortstop were on my team last year. We upped the lead to 9-1 in the bottom half of the inning, as that same shortstop hit a two-run triple and later scored.

Games are limited to 90 minutes in our league, which basically means that no half-inning can start after that hour and a half have passed. Game time was six PM, and we entered the bottom of the fifth up 9-5 and 7:21 showing on the clock. Had we taken nine minutes to bat, the game would have ended, but we were retired in five. Once the sixth inning begins, the five-run limit is rescinded, so we either had to hold them off or not let them get too far ahead and take our chances at last licks.

The first batter in the top of the sixth grounded out, but the next two reached on a walk and a single. Batter #4 then hit a popup on the first base side of the pitcher’s mound. Our hurler, that same shortstop from earlier, got his glove on it but couldn’t hold it. He then went for a force at third but the throw was late. I was starting to sweat.

Thankfully, the umpire remembered that this was an infield fly situation, which I had quite forgotten. He called the batter out – the runners were allowed to advance as they had, but I didn’t care. We had that magic second out. The next batter hit one back to the box for out number three, and the celebration began.

As anyone who followed through my 0-12 campaign last season can attest, winning or losing any individual game is not what’s emphasized at this level. We’re all about having fun, learning to play the game properly, and improving over the course of the year. No matter how you handle it, though, losing all the time is tough on the kids. They do try their best, and it’s really hard not to get at least some tangible, obvious reward for it. Whatever happens from this point forward, these kids now know that they can win. Learning how to deal with losing in a sportsmanlike and dignified manner is important, but so is learning how to win in a sportsmanlike and dignified manner. Success can breed success, but it can also breed arrogance and a sense of entitlement, and in some ways can be harder to cope with than failure. It’s good to experience and learn from both of them.

No time to bask and wallow in it – we play again Thursday and Saturday. We had only one game scheduled last week due to Easter, and it was rained out. Three games a week will be the norm for the rest of the way. We’re 1-1 now, and I think we’re ready for what comes next. Go Twins!

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7 Comments

  1. Congrats, Coach! I know it means a lot to you, and I’m proud of ya.

  2. Linkmeister says:

    I used to manage a softball team of flippin’ adults, and I doubt if they took defeat as well as your guys did. OTOH, beer sales went up when they lost (well, actually, either way beer sales went up when there was a game, but still…)

  3. norbizness says:

    Way to go, Twins!

    Aren’t you glad you have a life? I actually tried real-time commentary on the press conference. Going to call in sick for the rest of the week as a result.

  4. Thanks, all. I appreciate it.

  5. Byron L says:

    Congrats Charles… good luck to your team this year… Go Twins!

  6. William Hughes says:

    Congratulations, Chuck!

    I know how difficult it was last year trying to keep the team’s spirit’s up when they were losing all the time, so this must have been all the more sweet for you and the team. Having dealt with the character building associated with a losing team too many times to mention, I can assure you that kids have all the character they need win or lose.

    As long as you don’t turn into Coach from Cheers when he managed a Little League team (“But you won’ Coach”; “Yeah, but it wasn’t by enough”), you’ll be OK. 😉

  7. Tim says:

    I remember the one year I played Little League, as a clumsy 9-year-old kid in ’75. We were a horrible team, winning one game all season if I recall correctly. We also had a girl who was about 12 years old playing on farm-level league; this was very shortly after they started letting girls play. She was twice as big as anyone else on the team and, while she wasn’t a very good player, she was so big that when she swung and made contact, the entire defense ran from the ball as it screamed toward them.

    I don’t think I even hit .200 — I was a pretty bad hitter who was afraid of fast pitch baseball (though I played a ton of sandlot ball). I did walk what seemed like half the time I came up, though. So maybe a few years later, there could have been scouts watching me in the Oakland organization nevertheless. 🙂