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Excerpt from the book: Gods, Gloves, Pop-ups, and Ponies: a look at the character found playing youth baseball.
“Mr. Faulk was what you would call a yelling coach. Rarely did you receive baseball instruction from Mr.Faulk in conversational tones; it was always at full volume. Even though Mr. Faulk was a continuous yeller, I never really felt as though he was personally upset with me. I certainly was not the only one singled out for his high-volume instructions, any and all were subject to his high-decibelcommunications. And even though more
than one kid was sprayed with the spittle of Mr. Faulk’s disapproval, we all felt in the end that he really did care for us. Mr. Faulk was just a yeller. When we won he yelled, when we lost he yelled. When we did just what he wanted us to do he yelled and when we screwed up he yelled. He just had to yell, it was just his way.” Popupsandponies.storenvy.com
GREAT TOPIC! I was lucky enough to have two
Coach Freddy *** Never knew his last name as I was playing what should have been tee ball but back then TEE BALL WAS NOT THOUGHT OF. Back in 1973/4 and we had him up until we started playing real baseball stealing and taking a leads That is when I was taught the games inside the games. Dennis Edinger was ONE OF THE BEST and he taught me a lot. Thanks guys. One thing I will never forget it was the first year we could run on the 3rd strike if the C dropped the ball. I would run EVER TIME that I struck out even if the base was occupied. Dennis called me over after the one game and asked me WHY when you know you are out if first base is occupied? I told him "It's the least I could do after striking out, just maybe if I could get the C to throw it down it's a live ball"! He looked at me and said "OK your learning.
Coach Folli, my assistant coach at Binghamton by far had the largest impact on me.
An excerpt from my book is below:
Coach Folli’s job was to help out wherever his services were needed. If that meant throwing extra batting practice he did it. If that meant being the bench coach he did it. If that meant hitting fungos he did it. At the start of my sophomore year I didn’t know who Edward Folli the volunteer baseball coach was, or why he was willing to work for literally nothing. Soon the answer became clear; his love and passion for baseball.
Coach Folli was recently retired from his teaching and coaching job at the local high school and unable to give up his first true love, threw batting practice for the Binghamton Mets in the summer. However, come spring the itch became too much and when presented with the opportunity to help coach our team he jumped at the opportunity.
Coach Folli would quickly become one of the top coaches that I ever had the chance to play under, even despite his moderate role on the team as an assistant-assistant coach. There were very few coaches I ever got to play for that made a real difference in my life, both on the field and off. Biff Schumitz, one of my hometown coaches before high school ball was of a similar fashion, but after playing for various coaches afterwards I doubted if I would ever find someone like him again.
The admiration the entire team felt for Coach Folli was amazing. We obviously respected our other coaches enormously and knew how much they wanted to win, but with Folli it was amazing to see how seemingly effortlessly he earned every ounce of our reverence.
A head coach sometimes has the unfortunate duty to be the “bad cop”. Thus there was a huge need that Folli filled by providing positive energy to the team. The man loved baseball and his affection for the game was contagious. The passion and care he gave to me and the other players on the field was invaluable. Like many of the greats, I assumed he never fully realized the impact he had on me. Nonetheless, by example he showed me the importance of having a good attitude and of treating every day on the field as a blessing. When I was feeling down and crushed by the weight of the world, he was there to lift me up.
Some players responded better to a military style coaching approach. I on the other hand was responded much better to someone like a Folli whose encouraging attitude rubbed off on me with ease. He instilled the confidence in me that I had trouble finding. He showed me how to enjoy the game when I hated everything about it. There was never a panic attack or temper tantrum. He was just honest and respectful. And he knew a ton about the game.
In many ways I hated that his influence on the day to day operations of the team, such as lineup decisions and practice agendas, was limited. However, this did allow him more time to simply coach and say things that a head coach could not always say. By being partially removed from the evaluation process, he was thus able to be more of a player’s coach. Because he was not in the control room moving all of the pieces around, he could spend his time focusing on the details and see for example that I was in need of some extra attention.
After two midweek games were canceled due to snow (no longer shocking to me), we headed a few hundred miles south to play conference foe UMBC, where thankfully the snow had already melted. Here, after such a seesaw type season things suddenly turned around for me. After sitting in games one and two I sank a bit lower. I wasn’t sure how much more my foundation could take without cracking. As I stared out to left field between games, Coach Folli must have seen something in my eyes. He took me to a private area behind the dugout and began by very calmly saying, “Ken, you need to keep your head up and know you are a good player.” I stared at him blankly, not sure what to say. “Players like you don’t deserve to rot on the bench. I know what you are going through and I am fighting for players like you and Klee to make a larger impact on this team.” I said thank you and walked over to my bag to get a snack before the start of the second game. I was completely taken aback by his words of wisdom.
Warming up I began to reflect on what Folli had said and for the first time since opening weekend a sense of hope crept into my numbed body. I knew there wasn’t a guarantee that anything would change, but the fact that he came over to me and talked with me made all the difference in the world. I felt optimism, and only then realized how much of it had faded over the previous few weeks.
The ability to feel light and free at the plate is a challenge that when struggling feels as far away as Mars. With just a few small words from Coach Folli however my mindset had seemed to completely change. Perhaps coach’s words happened before an inevitable hot streak, but nonetheless I all of a sudden felt locked in like I was Albert Pujols in the World Series. I had gotten into a habit of keeping my hands moving in small circles to avoid being too static when the pitch came in. Before I was fighting to find the right rhythm. Now, my hands atomically picked up the perfect beat.
Even with a lefty in the game, I found ways to hit balls on the barrel all day long. I did what I had visualized all year. I was relaxed and got good fastballs to hit. I kept it simple and as a result I had the best weekend of the short season.
"Going with the Pitch"- from the upcoming Version II release
Hey Ken, thank you for your excerpt it really hit home for me. I can't tell you how many times I have taken a kid to a private spot and given him the kind of talk you received. Invariably I would get that same blank stare as the player processed the hard truth or baseball affirming invitation I was offering. Sometimes it would take years before I would hear back from a player of a parent telling me that the time I spent with him was hugely impactful. So I keep being the coach and person that feels right to me, being true to my players and myself. Unless a coach is honest and up-front with his players he is not being helpful to the player or the team. This doesn't mean being honest without forethought, it just means that there will come a time when certain players will need that quiet conversation and for some it will mean all the difference.