Ahead in the Count

One and Done

written by Ted Sullivan

This is my third and final post about my downtown Manhattan little league team. The first post discussed a series of conflicts I had in my head after a tough opening day loss. The second was an update written ten days later about a coach’s greatest pleasure.

We had a great regular season, finishing 11-3 and clinching first place and the first seed in the playoffs. More importantly, the kids improved tremendously, all learned to be great teammates, and I believe they all had positive baseball experiences.

But yesterday our season ended prematurely. After a bye in the first round of the single-elimination playoffs we were knocked out by the 4th place team who we had beaten all three times we played them this season. But they played flawlessly and deserved to win. There were several tear-covered cheeks in the post game meeting as all of the kids were sad we lost — but most of all I believe they were sad to have such a fun season come to an end. This morning I sent the following email to the parents and players:

Giants Family,

The gloomy, rainy day here in New York somehow seems appropriate. I’ve always felt sad on the day after the last game of the season. It’s not because the season usually ends in a loss for most teams, but because I always missed the game and my teammates. Today is no exception.

I’ve spent over 20 years in baseball and I’ve played with and coached thousands of players on teams and in camps. Yet this season was one of my favorites for several reasons. First and foremost I credit the players –for practicing hard, for listening, for being great teammates to each other, and for steadfastly taking on the emotional ups and downs that come with the game of baseball. Secondly I credit the parents. From my experience coaching youth sports, parents are too often a liability rather than an asset to a team and to their ballplayer’s experience. Yet this season the parents were outstanding — supportive without being too involved, understanding of the our desire to have additional practices and cheering positively at all times. And lastly, I’d like to credit Coach Kelly and Coach Brad. I don’t have kids so I don’t know what it’s like to coach my own son. I’m sure it is both exceptionally rewarding and emotionally challenging. I’ve seen the coach / parent role go terribly wrong but you two are the models for how it should be done. And not surprisingly, Sean and Will had fantastic seasons and clearly loved having the two of you involved.

Finally, I hope that the kids learned something this year beyond how to swing, throw or field a ground ball. I believe that baseball is a fantastic teacher of life’s greatest lessons and much of what the coaches tried to impart on them have will be applicable in everything they do on or off the field. Here are a few nuggets that I’m sure will sound familiar to them:

* Preparation + effort > results: If you practice hard and are proud of your effort, wins and losses don’t matter.
* Be on time and hustle: the easiest part of baseball and often the most distinguishable.
* Execute the next pitch: forget about the past and eliminate from your mind the things (“external factors”) that won’t contribute to your next pitch, your next swing, etc.
* Find that fine line between being relaxed and being aggressive, when you do you will perform at your best.

Best,
Ted

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June 18, 2009 Posted by | On the Field, written by Ted Sullivan | , , , , | 5 Comments