Coach Dave Season Two: Watch Party
Coach Dave Season Two: Watch Party
As soon as I entered the private room at Pasquali’s, I could sense the tension. This was my first all-stars wait party in Southburg, and I was hesitant to go. What good could come from the dads—and even some of the moms—of every twelve-year-old in the league gathering in one place, waiting on the coach to arrive to read the list? Sure, many would celebrate. But what about the parents of the players who didn’t make the team? I showed up anyway, uncertain into which group I would fall.
“Hey, Brad! Didn’t know if you were going to make it.” Bruce Garrison met me with an animated handshake.
“I’m here,” I replied. “I’m still not so sure this is a good idea, though. I’m curious—everybody knows that every player can’t make the all-star team, right?”
“Oh, we know. I don’t look for Jimmy to make it this year. This is tradition, though, like hanging out on the courthouse lawn on the night of an election. You’re going to have some winners and some losers, but most of the parents come out just to be a part of the party.”
“So, how does the all-star selection process work?”
Bruce was a great ambassador for the town of Southburg. Since my family had moved to the town a few months earlier and I had met Bruce at work, he had been my personal tour guide as we carpooled back and forth to work. He was an amateur town historian, a curator of the nuances of living in this quiet suburban community. Always sure to add his opinions to the facts, Bruce had provided a wealth of information to help my family and me settle into Southburg. We had enjoyed watching our sons Jimmy and Rob play for Coach Dave Rivers’ Scarlet Knights during the spring and summer.
“There are twelve spots on the team, “Bruce began. “The tournament champion gets a minimum of three spots, and the runner-up gets at least two. All the coaches will meet together at 5:30 to nominate and haggle over who should be on the team. Their vote counts for the first eight players. After those are in place, the all-star coach will meet with the commissioner to add four more players. They will also name two alternates in case one of the boys gets hurt or drops out for whatever reason.
“The coach also tells the commissioner who he wants as his assistant coaches. That’s usually a formality. It’s almost always his assistant coach and the head coach of the runner-up team, but this year could be interesting….”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Coach Dave didn’t have an assistant coach, remember? Not an adult anyway. Plus, Fletcher Brandt and Coach Dave working together? Come on, they’re not exactly peas and carrots.”
“I hadn’t thought about that. That’s a collision of baseball philosophies, for sure.”
Fletcher Brandt had coached the rival Yankees in the regular season. To many of the dads on the Scarlet Knights, Brandt represented what was wrong with youth baseball. From all accounts the most important part of his life was winning twelve-year-old baseball games. His infamous little black notebook containing scouting reports on all the Southburg teams and players several years’ back was the object of much scorn. However, no one could argue with his success.
“Anyway, the coaches usually don’t take very long to decide on the first eight players. They should be coming here in the next 45 minutes or so. Sometimes, the coach and the commissioner take a while to sort out all the others. You want to make sure you have plenty of pitching and at least a couple of catchers and some kids who can play different positions. That should help some of our boys to make the team. Bryce Ford should be the first player on the roster, and several others will make it, too. Wyatt Logan, David Wayne Hamilton, Little Carlos, Cody Trimble, Bo Nelson, Hudson Jones…and don’t forget Rob Baker.”
“Rob is pretty nervous, I can tell you that. He thinks he might have a chance to make the team, but he’s a first-year player here and the other coaches don’t know him very well. He’s pretty versatile, though, like you say.”
“We should know in the next hour-and-a-half or so. Once the list is finalized, the coach and the commissioner will come here and read the list. They tell the other coaches not to reveal the first eight, but they usually leak it by the time the commish gets here. He knows that, so he reads those eight names right after he names the assistant coaches to allow for a little drama when the last four players and the alternates are named.”
“I bet the coach has some interesting conversations with parents of the kids who don’t make the team. Does the league provide security?” I was only half joking.
Bruce laughed for a moment but realized that my chuckle in return was still a nervous one. “There’s no need for security. I know how intense it got out there on the fields at times, but we Southburgians can be quite civil,” he said with a reassuring smile.
Slightly relieved by Bruce’s optimism, I made my way to the Scarlet Knight table. I was surprised by some of the parents in attendance. Their sons had no chance of making the all-star team, but there they were eating pizza, laughing, and conversing with all the others at the table.
“Hey! It’s Brad Baker, joining us for his first Southburg All-Star watch party!” shouted a fiery little guy named Carlos Rosales. His son was Little Carlos, or L.C. This was his second such party, so he took the initiative to make Charlie Jones, the other first-timer, and me feel welcome. I greeted them along with Dean Ford, Hunter Logan, Doug Trimble, Tim Walker, Jerry Wilson, and the most boisterous Scarlet Knight booster, Gary “Rooster” Hamilton. Two women sat at the table with the dads. One I recognized as Dean Ford’s wife; my wife, Kate, had often sat and cheered with her during the season. The other woman looked tired and out of place. I had seen her before but couldn’t quite remember who she was or her connection to the team.
“Brad,” said Dean Ford, “you remember my wife, Hope. You may not have met Amy Forsythe.”
“Of course,” I responded. “Kevin’s mom.”
A faint smile broke through her fatigued exterior at the mention of her son’s name. I remembered Kevin’s mom from a couple of the games she had been able to attend. Dean had told the dads at the beginning of the season that she was a single mom who worked a couple of jobs. She was not able to attend many of her son’s games, but the Fords made sure that he was transported where he needed to go for all things baseball. Coach Dave had found a most unlikely role for Kevin—as his first base coach.
“Your son may very well have a future as a coach, ma’am. He did a great job this season.”
“Thank you. He thinks the world of Coach Dave and all you guys,” she answered, motioning around the table.
Privately, I wondered why Kevin’s mom was there. This whole watch party idea seemed more bizarre by the minute. All these adults were waiting anxiously for a list of twelve-year-olds on an all-star team, but there was not a single kid in the room. I felt as though I was missing something.
Haven’t read Season One yet? Now is a great time!
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.