Monday, September 3, 2012

Hey, Coach! (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from an earlier blog.

I had blacked out after the collision at home plate. I woke up in my stepfather's car, sprawled across the back seat on my back. I was nauseous from the pain, and being unusual for me, the motion of the vehicle. It took all of my willpower not to vomit. I noticed my throbbing wrist was wrapped in gauze holding an ice pack in the back, splints on each side, A sling was tied at my shoulder holding my arm up so I couldn't bend my elbow.

My stepfather related the news about what happened after I lost consciousness.  The good news, the catcher dropped the ball, and apparently I somehow touched the plate with my injured hand. The bad news was the doctor who looked at my wrist the first time believed I tore some ligaments. This could be mean possible surgery for me.

I walked unaided into the ER of the hospital.  My stepfather and I sat at the registration desk. My mind was racing with thoughts that were for the most part were unpleasant. How bad was it? Will I play baseball again?  And if I could, how good will I be at it?  It is possible I may lose functionality in my hand where I can't grip anything properly?

My mom arrived. She was calm and collected as always. She sat next to me in the common area. She told me everything was going to be alright, and as always, I believed her. She brought me books to read instead of the magazines spewed everywhere, some so old they predated my birth.

Later, which seemed like eternity,  I was called into the ER. I had had an x-ray of the injured area. As I sat in my little cubicle, I saw a couple of doctors talking over the negative of my wrist through the opening of the curtain that was not completely closed. I was not feeling the pain as intensely as before. It was more of a dull ache, the wonderful medication the nurse gave me helped immensely.

Still I waited longer. My anxiety grew in intensity, despite the drugs in my system. I wanted to leave, and I was ready to run out the hospital to escape the incredible foreboding this place was instilling upon me. I got up from the bed I was sitting on, walked over to the curtain, and as I reached for it with my good hand, it suddenly burst open.

I jumped a bit, being startled from the ER doctor coming in with my parents.  Doc gently told me to sit back onto the bed. I did so, now knowing his professional judgement was now forthcoming.

The good news, nothing was broken. However, I had a third degree sprain.  The healing process and rehabilitation time for this type of injury could be up to three months.

My heart sank. My baseball season was over.

Over the next several days, a deep depression fell over me. I didn't really do much of anything. School, meals, and bed. That was it. I turned over the paper route I had over to my friend because I couldn't ride my bike, something I essentially needed to be able to do the route properly.

On the positive side, I wasn't the only person in my family that played baseball that spring. My little sister was playing with a Minor Little League which was only a 5 minute walk from our house.  Her and I would work on drills together in the back yard when neither of us had practice or a game.  Most of the time, we had conflicting schedules, so I was unable to get to see her play in an actual game.

My missing her games was about change, albeit, reluctantly.

It was 8 days after my injury.  It was on a Thursday,  I remember that because I was watching the sitcom "Cheers". (Ironically, I have a story about an experience from that show I will post another time.) My mom knocks on my bedroom door,  and after a moment enters.

We discussed how my wrist felt. We also talked about my mental well being. She spoke about baseball, which she knew little about except the fact I ate, slept, and breathed it. This segued into a problem she needed my help to solve.

The problem was my sister had a game Friday afternoon and my mom had to work later than her normal shift.  So, my stepdad, who would be home in time, could take her. That would leave me to watch my little brothers because they can't stay still during the game. (Most of  the parents of the players attended their kids game back then.).

So, I had this conundrum before me.  Do I take my sister to the her game and watch other kids play baseball, something I loved with a passion but I could no longer participate.  Or, do I stay home, babysit my brothers,  who like to annoy me, and risk doing something I would regret because of my present state of mind?

I decided on the former after much anguish.


Friday afternoon came rather quickly. My sister and I arrive home from school and finished our homework (Secretly, I hoped she skipped it or did it sub-par, it would of been a way out of it, but stepdad said it was fine.) We practiced in the yard until it was time for us to leave for the game.

We walked and talked. Many topics were explored during our chat. I half- heartily listened, giving her an occasional, "yeah", "No",  "I guess so" and "not sure" to her questions. She stopped talking after sensing my dour mood, and I welcomed this silence.

We turned the corner of the street that housed the field. I could smell the grass, hear the banter of the kids, the "ding" of the aluminum bats (I used only wooden bats, but I still liked the sound.), the "thump" of the ball hitting leather. These things lightened  my mood, and I smiled for the first time in days. This was because not only did I find baseball once again, but also of the cleverness of my mom.

Mothers really do know best.

I saw the field where the game would take place. The low-cut grass was had the greenness of a lawn that was well maintained.  The bump was smooth with no holes. The whiteness of the perfectly drawn foul lines. The cleanliness of home plate had the invitation to drop on by. It was one of the best minor league fields I ever seen.

As we got closer, a man I saw hitting balls to the kids. He noticed our arrival. His deep booming voice calling my sister over, his hand pointing to right field.  I sat on bleacher seats behind the home dugout (It was not underground, just a fence surrounding a long bench) to watch.

I noticed there were two other girls (sisters, I learned later) on the team. It was not unusual two have two girls on a team at that level, but three was a rarity. That was an indication that they were late sign-ups and placed on the team with the least amount of players.

I analyzed each player as he/she fielded the ball. I'm not going to say they were a bad team because at this level of Little League it still considered to be "instructional".  On one the flip side, there was this one kid who was excellent and I wondered why he wasn't playing Majors. He could run, had good range, great arm. Maybe he couldn't hit?

The coach hit a hot grounder between first and second that neither fielder could get his glove on. The outfield grass was low cut, so the ball had some good pace when my sister fielded it, deep in her position. The second basement went out the the shallow right, as was the proper play.  My sister makes the throw to first, which was not.

I went down to the fence I yelled at her to throw it to her cutoff man being so deep in right. Moments, later I hear that booming voice again.

"Hey, Coach"!

I turned my head to the man of the voice. The coach just smiling, waved me onto the field. After hesitation, I walked over to the gate that separated the field from the bleachers. I walk onto the grass, and a feeling of excitement came over me that I haven't felt in days.

I walked over to coach. he asked who I was and why I was here. I told him my story, showing my wrapped wrist. He then asked me questions about baseball, testing me about different situations. Nodding his head, he seemed satisfied that I had good knowledge of the game.

He then surprised me with a request.  One that involved me in baseball in a different capacity.

 If  I received permission from my parents, he liked me to help coach the team. Me! Only 13 years old. A coach!  I pondered this for awhile.

Upon reflection, I figured if I couldn't play, why not help out others who could. So I told him I would do it if my parents said it was okay.

I did get the okay. Mom thought it would good for me. It would probably would for her, as well. It kept me form moping inside the house hours on end.

It was not like I thought it would be, though. I was mostly helping with the equipment, tossing baseballs to him during drills, but mostly, I kept the score book during games. This was information my sister related to him inadvertently. That was okay though, I was involved in baseball.

For a few years after, I was both playing and coaching where schedule allowed. Sometimes, it was on the same team. As I advanced in ball, my lack of ability in playing let me coach more, and eventually, I found that the cliche: "Those who can't do, teach" was fitting for me.

Right now, I am coaching Fall League. It is for boys and girls between the ages of 8-12.  It primary purpose it to get the younger players ready for Majors. The older players have a year or two of Majors experience, and the less experienced kids get the feel of Major league rules agianst better players.

It almost didn't happen. I had to recruit some players who never played organized baseball. It was a tough go for awhile to get some of these kids ready.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

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