Beekeepers and Blowouts

Along with three friends, I am coaching a Little League team of seven, eight, and nine year olds. All four of us are in our early twenties. Needless to say, we are the only coaches in the league without kids of our own. Our goal? Utter domination. Throughout the season I will keep Pitchers & Poets readers updated on the goings on surrounding the team.

My previous Killer Bees update was more philosophical. The following is quite simply, a recap of our last few games:

We have played three games now. The first was an exhibition for the league’s Jamboree. The Jamboree was supposed to be a big party and a double-header, but gray skies and frigid weather cut things to one game. The weather also forced the league to do without the pomp and circumstance of roster introductions, and the Mariner Moose to cancel his appearance at the field, much to the chagrin of the Killer Bees roster.

For our Jamboree game, we faced a team that will heretofore be known as the Beekeepers for three reasons: 1. They are much larger than the Killer Bees. 2. They easily control the Killer Bees. 3. They are very mean to the Killer Bees. The game went fine defensively and on the mound. But we were beaten soundly (I don’t really pay close attention to the score). Our Zach Greinke struggled with his control, but our Roy Oswalt impressed. The game was never a major blowout, but our batters (including our Frank Thomas) struck out looking an alarming number of times. The Beekepers also —portentiously– ran wild on the base paths.

Two great interactions from before this game:

Young John Kruk screaming to friends on another team (not the Beekeepers): “MUFFINS MUFFINS MUFFINS MUFFINS”
Coach (and author): “Hey John Kruk, why are you yelling muffins?”
Young John Kruk: “Because it’s annoying them.”
Coach: “It’s annoying me, too.”
Young John Kruk: (Silence)

Young Corie Koskie: “Drop and give me 10 pushups!”
Young Eric Bruntlett: “No, you drop and give me 20 pushups”
Young Corie Koskie: “No, you drop and give INFINITY PUSHUPS”
Young Eric Bruntlett*: “Infinity is not a number, it’s an idea. You can’t even do infinity pushups.”

Due to spring break, our regular season opener was against a patchwork team that included a few callups from AAA (a younger coach pitch division). Young Brad Radke started for us and was lights out in his two innings. The bats woke up too, possibly due to pregame wiffle ball batting practice. Another highlight from young John Kruk, spoken before the game: “Hey coach, doesn’t that cloud look like Yoda?” We went on to win easily, with strong hitting and pitching performances from players about whom we had some doubts.

At one point in the 5th inning of this game, a player on our team who I’ll call Young Craig Biggio was taking his defensive turn on the bench. We had just allowed the opposing team its first run of the game. At this, Young Biggio rose to the front of the dugout and screamed out to his teammates – showing a remarkable sense of perspective – “Hey guys, don’t worry, it’s only 17-1. We can still win!”

Game two of the regular season was a rematch with the dreaded Beekeepers. We lost by a score in the double digits. Here is how the Beekeepers scored their runs: base on balls, steal of second, steal of third, overthrow by our catcher to third, run comes home. This was a fine strategy until the lead opened to be about ten to nothing. Aside from hitting and pitching very well, which the Beekeepers players certainly deserve credit for, they piled on by taking bases on every wild pitch. There was even a delayed steal at one point.

They just kept running. And it became absurd. At one point, the father of young Eric Bruntlett ours came over to the coaches and thanked us for not “tainting the souls of these children” like the opposing coaches. Finally, late in the game, we were able to get a few base runners on and apply some pressure of our own, scoring our only two runs this way.

The game, however, was slightly revelatory. It marked the return of a player I’ll call Junior Joe Mauer. Junior Mauer is not a catcher because he is a lefty. However, much like The Joe Mauer, he is America. He pitches. He hits. He has a good attitude. He just turned nine. Junior  Mauer’s return from vacation on the East Coast could very well mark a turning point in the Killer Bees’ season.

More importantly, by watching some opposing coaches run up the score, we learned something about who we did not want to be as a coaching staff. We do not want to make this primarily about winning – not at this age at least. It’s important the kids know that there are consequences. It’s important that they are competitive. But at this age, it’s far more important that they improve, that they swing the bat hard, and get in front of the ball, and play fundamentally aggressive baseball.

We’ve been in two of them, but we are definitely not here to teach the kids about blowouts.

*Stanford graduate.

Along with three friends, I am coaching a Little League team of seven, eight, and nine year olds. All four of us are in our early twenties. Needless to say, we are the only coaches in the league without kids of our own. Our goal? Utter domination. Throughout the season I will keep Pitchers & Poets readers updated on the goings on surrounding the team.

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6 Responses to Beekeepers and Blowouts

  1. Brad says:

    Does Young Eric Bruntlett have a beard?

  2. Ember Nickel says:

    That is one precocious seven, eight, or nine year old.

  3. I was never allowed to play whiffleball while the season was on. Coach said it would screw up my swing.

    And I find it idiotic that coaches run up the score in kiddie leagues. They have no soul, those guys.

  4. Ember Nickel says:

    What looks like “running up the score” at one level may not be at another. The disparity can be pretty dramatic among kids…if this is the first time kids are pitching, this goes doubly. I forget who described Little League as the land of the 16-12 no-hitters, but it’s pretty accurate.

  5. Eric says:

    That is an excellent point, Ember. The disparity can be huge, and consistency is basically nonexistent (excpet in the case of Young Radke). I accused the coaches of “running up the score,” but really they were just letting their kids play. And when I think about it more, it’s hard to begrudge them for not pulling the reins in on a bunch of 7-8-9 year olds who just want to have fun.

  6. Ember Nickel says:

    In general, it’s hard to deliberately cap down on that kind of disparity. If they actually had a coherent running game, though, I can imagine the coach telling them to relax that a little (just as in the bigs!). Still, it’s just one game.