I damn near cried. The game had ended in defeat, our team beaten by better players. Yet we had played hard, and there was no shame in losing. The tears that welled behind my eyes were not due to the loss. I did not choke up because the season was over. It was that kid, the one that rarely played, who got to me.
Trevor is 13 years old. He weighs less than a buck, and for most of the season he wasn’t hitting his weight. Barely five feet tall, he looked to be all arms and legs, loosely connected and seeming to stick out at random at the most inopportune times. For example, he could field a ground ball in the outfield, and when he was ready to throw the ball back into second base; his left arm would suddenly, and without warning, go sideways causing the ball to fly to some other part of the baseball field.
But he tried so hard. He wanted nothing more than to get better. Everyday he showed up with a wonderful smile, asking me “How’s it goin,’ Coach?” He never failed to make me smile. Trevor will be a baseball player someday soon. He will grow into those arms and legs, and he will make them go where they are supposed to go. He wants to be a pitcher someday, and I will not bet against him.
Trevor was always one of the first kids to show up for practice or a game. I am quite sure that he was always the last one to leave. He hated to leave, and I would have to make him go home by having him carry the bucket of baseballs to my pick-up. His parents were patient in their waiting, knowing how much he loved being on the team.
He obviously wasn’t the best player on our team, and even though he did get his opportunities to play, it wasn’t enough for either of us. I wished I could have played him more, but part of being a coach is looking out for all of the kids, and not just one. He is old enough now that competition is becoming part of the game, not only against the opposing team, but with his teammates for playing time. Trevor will soon pass up many of this 13 year-old team’s better players. He will get bigger and stronger, and because he wants it so badly, he will keep improving. Some of the ones who are better today will not work as hard as Trevor. Trevor will soar, I am sure of it.
Baseball is a game. We play baseball, and if we play, it should be fun. I don’t remember a day this spring that being at the field wasn’t fun. It is the kids like Trevor that make it so.
After the last game, and while the kids were packing up their gear, Trevor quietly walked up to me carrying a small sack. “I’ve got something for you, Coach.” He said. “Open it up.” Inside the sack was a card titled, ‘10 things I Hate About You Coach.’ Of course, it laid out all of the things that coaches were supposed to teach their players. Written on the inside was a note from Trevor. His simple words thanking me for my time and how he was going to work hard before next season touched me to the core.
So, why do I coach
For lots of reason I think
I love to teach as I love to learn
Coaching gives me both
But yesterday it came pouring into me
In the form of innocent heartfelt thanks
From a 13 year-old boy
A young man who wasn’t the best
Who only wanted to be better
Who gave his all everyday
With a smile and a laugh
A young man who hated to leave
Squeezing out the last minute of practice or a game
Like one squeezes the last drop of juice from a lemon
He drew a tear from me after the final game
With a card and a simple gift
Thanking me for being part of his life
But I know
I should be the one giving thanks
That’s why I coach