I've always hated when the baseball season comes to an end. Honestly, its my least favorite day of the year. Especially after you play on an awesome team.
And I don't mean awesome by the overall record of the season. I mean awesome by the personalities that broke through, the obstacles that were overcome, and the progress that was made. Both as players and as people.
As many of you know, I coach for the Zoned Redhawks - a travel baseball organization that is run through Zoned Sports Academy. Zoned has been a big part of my baseball story, providing me a place to train during the off seasons of my professional baseball career. During those winters, I would also work part time as a baseball instructor, giving private baseball lessons and helping coach classes and workshops. It was the perfect part time job for any ball player climbing the minor league ladder.
Shortly after I retired from my 14 seasons of professional baseball, I returned to Zoned Sports Academy as a coach, with the intention of giving private lessons and assisting with classes and workshops.
I had zero interest in coaching a travel baseball team. Seriously, when I say zero interest, I mean zero interest. I'm not 100% sure as to why I felt so strongly about that. Maybe it was because I never really had a desire to do it. Maybe it had something to do with all of the nightmare stories about travel baseball parents. Maybe it was because I had just got done traveling and playing baseball my entire life.
Even though I told myself I wouldn't do it, I found myself coaching my first Zoned RedHawks team in 2015. And to my surprise, I really did enjoy myself. The traveling wasn't bad, the kids worked hard and gave great effort and I quickly learned how much of an impact you can have on a young ball player. And just like that, I had become a travel baseball coach. The next few years would take my teams to Florida and Georgia, watching our players develop into college scholarship and Major League Baseball draft worthy talents. I was coaching real baseball players and it was awesome.
Just like my playing days, there were teams that stuck out a little more than others. Teams that just had that special something.
Well, this season, my 14u Zoned RedHawks were one of those special teams. And I never saw it coming. To be honest, I was convinced that I would remember this group for another reason; LOSING. Man, was I wrong.
I can proudly say that my 14u RedHawks team had an incredible season. Incredible for so many reasons. They finished better than they started. They pulled off a championship and lost a heartbreaker in the finals. We were on the right side of the score a bunch and on the wrong side of the score more times than I'd like remember. This group of young men impressed each other and disappointed each other. When it was all said and done, this team was there for one another.
As a coach, you have a responsibility to teach your players the fundamentals of the game, so they can best compete out on the field. At least thats what most coaches do. You see, most coaches focus on just the game. The "wins and losses", the stats and analytics. Most coaches get caught up in the numbers. Sometimes I wonder if I don't focus on that stuff enough.
I actually have a hard time calling myself a baseball coach because that is not why I do it. Believe it or not, coaching the game of baseball is just an added bonus. Helping them become better young men is why I coach. That is the real reward.
This 14u RedHawks team came such along way this summer. We went from a team that was expected to lose, to a team that was shocked if it didn't win.
They committed to playing a "Hard 7" and running a "Hard 90" every game.
They helped keep each other up during the times tough times and learned to be accountable for their actions; both good and bad. This team grew into something special as the season progressed. And it was the perfect time to do just that, as they are getting ready to head in one of the most important 4 year periods of their lives; High School.
As this group of young men head into their High School years this upcoming fall, I truly hope they remember the lessons learned this season and use them as new challenges present themselves. After watching them play, I have no doubt that they are all ready to take on the hallways of those high schools with class and confidence.
I've always hated the last day of the season for one simple reason. I hated it because I would miss my teammates. Although my playing days are long gone and my title on this team was Head Coach, these little homies were my teammates. I am proud to have had the opportunity to line up each weekend with these young men.
I WILL MISS THEM!
Looking back, I couldn't have been luckier to coach this team. These boys were awesome and I couldn't have asked for a better group of parents to spend a season with. This was just a really special group. I want to wish each of them much health and success as they walk the halls of their high schools in the fall. Remember boys, Chest out...Chin Up!
I always told them that life is a lot like baseball. All you have to do is stay true to who you are. Find that RYTHYM, show your CONFIDENCE. And when the timing is just right, LOAD and EXPLODE.
HEART - HUSTLE - (RED)HAWKS