Coach Dave: A Laundry List of Complaints
Coach Dave: Season One is the first of a series of books that have the potential to change the culture of youth baseball. Coach Dave is the fictitious story of the Scarlet Knights of the Southburg Baseball League. It is a collection of some of the best playing, coaching, and parenting scenarios from my 40+-year love affair with the game of baseball from my perspective of player, coach, broadcaster, and parent. I’m looking forward to Coach Dave serving as a catalyst for meaningful conversations as youth baseball players and parents read the book together.
Coach Dave and a Laundry List of Complaints
The next two weeks of practices passed quickly. The players on the Scarlet Knights were learning Coach Dave’s unorthodox coaching methods. Many of the dads, at least among one another, continued to question his coaching priorities. They agreed that competition would reveal the effectiveness of the coach’s approach to the team.
Though the coach didn’t recognize it, the tension between the circle of dads and Coach Dave had tightened. Most of the dads had accepted the coach’s invitation to attend practices, but I was now wondering if that was such a good idea. The general consensus among most of them—Dean and a couple of the others notwithstanding—was that all the focus on teamwork and character and all that was fine for Sunday school, but all these “little talks” from the coach was cutting into time that could have been better utilized by more batting and fielding practice.
I had to admit that the team seemed to be progressing slowly, but Rob’s enthusiasm indicated that he believed that the team would enjoy great success. I couldn’t bring myself to steal any of his zeal, so I kept my questions and doubts to myself. This scrimmage would reveal to Rob and me, to the other dads, to the team, and to Coach Dave just where the team stood two weeks before the season opener.
The day of big scrimmage arrived. The scrimmage was nothing more than a few innings of controlled competition against the Storm, one of the other teams from the Southburg twelve-year-old league. Each of the Scarlet Knight players would bat a couple of times and play at least two different positions, according to Rob. Four different pitchers would throw one inning each. He was hoping to be one of them.
As expected, the Storm started their best pitcher. Jud Franklin, the dads said, was one of the top pitchers in the league, but Bryce Ford was the best in the league. He was on the bump for the Scarlet Knights on this day. The dads predicted two or three runs would be enough to win the scrimmage with Bryce pitching.
The top of the first inning passed with but one surprise. Hudson Jones—whom the dads still thought was the coach’s son—was not the starting shortstop for the Scarlet Knights. The top of the first inning went quickly. Bryce Ford struck out the first two hitters, walked the number three hitter on a full count, and induced a weak popup in foul ground on the third base side for out number three.
The bottom of the first had not yet begun when Coach Dave’s grace period ended as far as the displeased dads were concerned. When L.C. stepped to the plate to lead off for the Scarlet Knights, Coach Dave remained in the dugout. Rooster and his wife moved quickly to the dugout. Ms. Hamilton offered to enter the dugout and let the boys know when their turn to bat was approaching. Rooster offered to coach first base. Both walked away indignant as their offers were rebuffed by the upstart coach.
Rooster strode red-faced to the right field foul pole and back, shaking his head the entire time. I wondered silently what the coach was trying to accomplish by putting his team at a competitive disadvantage on the field by playing without base coaches. Maybe Rob could fill me in after the game. Two weak grounders didn’t help the coach’s cause with the parents, but everyone became silent as Bryce stepped to the plate. This kid must really be something special, I thought, even as Bryce lifted a towering fly ball to the outfield that was caught by the Storm’s shaky-legged center fielder.
The mumbling among the Knights’ fans picked up steam in the top of the second when Rob took the mound to pitch. Doug Trimble uttered, “What in the world does he think he’s…” His voice trailed off as I turned in his direction. He bit his tongue and joined Rooster pacing by the fence down the right field line.
I was relieved when Rob escaped the inning with no runs scored after a hit batsman and an error gave the Storm a pair of base runners with just one out. Rob high-fived his coach and teammates, catching my eye as he entered the dugout to grab his helmet for his first at bat of the scrimmage. I smiled and gave him a quick thumbs up.
Jud Franklin continued on the mound for the Storm in the second inning. He would pitch the entire four innings of the scrimmage, giving up just one third-inning run on a double by Bryce that drove in L.C., who had walked; the brief rally had ended with Bryce being thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
Coach Dave, meanwhile, used a new pitcher each inning. When Hudson gave up two runs in the third inning, the dads mumbled accusations of favoritism and how it would eventually cost the team. Doug Trimble’s son Cody fared even worse in the last inning, giving up four runs as the Scarlet Knights lost to the Storm 6-1.
Just moments after Coach Dave’s meeting with the players had adjourned, a still-agitated Gary “Rooster” Hamilton cornered the coach a few yards away from me. He had a laundry list of issues to “discuss” with the coach, and he couldn’t get them out fast enough.
Discussion Guide for This Chapter of Coach Dave
- Contrast the strategies of the Storm’s coach as compared to the strategy that Coach Dave devised for the scrimmage.
- What do you think Coach Dave was trying to accomplish by playing the scrimmage without base coaches?
- What do you think “Rooster” was trying to accomplish by airing his complaints to Coach Dave as soon as the scrimmage was over? Talk about how that conversation might have gone.
Find out how Rooster’s conversation went with Coach Dave by getting the book.
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.