Because life is a series of edits

Leading Off

In Places & Spaces, Sports, Westminster on January 17, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Bases
“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

I’m about to enter new territory this spring. No, I’ve not been offered a new teaching position anywhere, nor have I yet to receive a multi-book publishing deal. No, I have not decided to try to finish our attic by myself (God have mercy), nor have I come to the attention of anyone for anything in particular of late.

My new territory? I’m the new junior varsity baseball coach at Westminster…in St. Louis…home of the Cardinals…and supposedly the most intelligent fans in baseball.

Gulp.

Baseball at the high school level in St. Louis is quite the deal, but not as I initially imagined. When I played high school ball back in the day (pitcher, infield) in rural Illinois, there was little overlap of the seasons and most of us played three of them (fall and spring baseball, basketball in the winter). These days in metropolitan St. Louis, kids play two sports in the same season (right now it’s basketball at school and baseball or soccer as part of a “select league” run by former pro/semi-pro/college athletes) and all summer long (again, in these “select leagues”).

While I’ve not had any first-hand experience with these “select teams” just yet (some examples: Gamers, Pirates), I’ve listened a bit and have been able to piece together a few things about them: they’re fairly competitive, incredibly time-intensive, way expensive ($2,500+ for over 100 hours of instruction), and supposedly the best shot a kid has to get recruited/drafted to play college or pro ball, as coaches and scouts tend to prefer this “one-stop-shopping” to watching prep games that might only feature one all-star.

Of course, hearing the boys talk about the possibilities is one thing; listening to parents dream about them is another – in many ways, the kids are more realistic than the adults in evaluating themselves and their chances to make it past high school ball. As I’ve yet to see many of them in action (we’ve had three days’ worth of optional “open gyms” for individual tee work and soft-toss, but the official start of the season isn’t until March 1st), it will be interesting to see who’s more accurate – the kids or the parents.

As Monday is MLK Day and schools are out, Westminster’s varsity baseball coach and I are attending the I-70 Clinic, an annual gathering of high school and college baseball coaches from around the Midwest held at Greenville College and hosted by their baseball team. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m looking forward to going and seeing what I can learn about coaching high schoolers in a game I’ve played and always loved. I’m also hoping to pick up some tips on coaching amateur baseball in a professional baseball town.

Play ball.

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