Tag Archives: baseball

HUMILITY FROM THE BENCH

When I was growing up, I was a very shy, quiet boy who didn’t like being in the spotlight. I guess some things just don’t seem to change with time because I’m still pretty much the same to this day.

However, when I was nine-years old (about a thousand years ago), I was brave enough to start playing organized baseball in the Orangeburg city league. The team consisted of players ranging in age from nine to twelve. I felt blessed to have athletic skills that allowed me to compete on an equal footing with the older players.

Although many coaches and fellow players often told me I was a very good baseball player, I didn’t make the all-star team that year. Our coach told me I had played well enough to make the elite team, but he needed to select the older players to be on the team because it was their last year to play in the league. He told me he expected good things from me the next year. (I don’t recall jumping for joy at that moment.)

The pain I felt that day for not making the all-star team was far greater than any pain I had felt to that point in my life. I guess one could say I was devastated, but I continued practicing to get even better for the next season.

I was ten-years old when my second year of baseball started and my dad was an assistant coach for the team. Obviously, I wanted to play well and make him proud of me. The season began and I was having another good year. My hitting and fielding performances were helping the team win games, and I was happy Dad was proud of me.

It was near the middle of the season and I had performed well to that point. I guess I must have started thinking I was the best player on the team, maybe in the world, and we couldn’t win a game unless I was playing. You would probably be right saying that my self-confidence had started exceeding my abilities. That’s never a good thing, especially for a shy, quiet kid who didn’t like being in the spotlight.

Then, like a bolt of lightning struck me, I had an experience that changed my life to this day. However, I had no idea how significant the moment was at the time it was happening those many years ago. I didn’t even know what life-lesson I was learning at that time, and definitely didn’t know the word used to describe the emotion/virtue I was experiencing.

We had the second game one night and our team started warming up as the first game was nearing completion. I was feeling fine and confident, but for some strange reason I told Dad that I wasn’t feeling well. He told me to sit on the bench for a few innings to see if I started feeling better. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear him say. I was hoping it would be something more like, “Son, we need you out on the field so we can win the game. You’re our star player!” (There are probably a few more self-accolades I could bestow upon myself, but I don’t want you to experience uncontrollable laughter.)     

We only had ten of our team’s fourteen players at the game that night, so I was the lone player sitting on the bench when our team took the field. Watching my teammates run out onto the field made me feel like my little world was ending. I had never been a bench-warmer before and hadn’t practiced that position—I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.

When the first inning ended, our defense had held the other team scoreless and we had scored two runs. Our team played very well and all my teammates were laughing and having a great time—except poor little me. (I realize how pitiful that sounds, but I was only ten-years old, so give me a break. At least I wasn’t crying because Dad told me a long time ago that big boys don’t cry.)

After several innings were in the scorebook, Dad asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling great and wanted to enter the game. I was shocked when he, in a no nonsense tone, told me to stay on the bench. The game ended with me still sitting on the bench, but our team won—without me! How could that be possible? I was the best player on the team. (Yeah, right! I don’t even believe that, so I know you can’t.)   

To this day, I really don’t know why I pulled this ridiculous stunt because I was not sick at all that night. I guess I just wanted to hear the coaches and teammates begging me to play. I wanted to be the hero who helped my team win the game. I didn’t know whether I was mad at myself or everyone else after that game. I just know I had a horrible feeling inside of me for what I had done, but I didn’t actually know why at that moment.

During the ride home, Dad talked (preached might be a better description) to me about what it meant to be a member of a team and how we should always give our best for the team in all that we do. He told me it was okay to be proud of our personal accomplishments, but we should never place ourselves above others, especially when we’re part of a team—win as a team and lose as a team! His message slowly started penetrating my selfish brain—I was embarrassed more than you can imagine.

In retrospect, I feel certain Dad knew the whole time that there was nothing physically wrong with me. He was too wise and knew me too well to fall for that dumb trick. He just sensed that my head had swollen far beyond my abilities and used the bench-warming experience to teach me an important life-lesson—the importance of HUMILITY in our lives. For that, I am now grateful he did because that life-lesson has served me well for many years! Life is much better when you have both feet firmly planted on the ground of reality.

Now, it’s time to read a few Bible verses to learn what it teaches us about this thing known as HUMILITY.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Luke 14:11

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Proverbs 11:2

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  

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It’s now your time in the spotlight. I want you to consider the following points before you go rushing back to your busy day.

1. Pause for a moment and reflect on some life-lessons your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and/or teachers taught you when you were growing up?

2. Do you think the approach my Dad used to teach me about humility was good or bad method?

3. How would you handle a similar situation?

4. Are you pleased with your current level of humility? If not, do you plan to change your ways?

Blessings to you as you allow the humility within your heart to be a light in the darkness for those around you. I pray that your HUMILITY spreads to others, for that would make the world a much better place for everyone.

Tom Tatum – Feb 2021

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ONE ROCK TOO MANY

We can find ourselves in the middle of difficult situations when we least expect it—situations that push us beyond the boundaries of a calm, peaceful existence and challenge the very fiber of our being. When faced with such situations, we learn just how strong or brave we actually are.

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to defining brave things done, life gets a bit convoluted. What some people view as an act of bravery others may view as an act of stupidity.

When it comes to acts of bravery, I could tell you the bravest thing I’ve ever done happened the moment I rushed into a burning house and saved a child trapped inside—but that never happened.

I could tell you the bravest thing I’ve ever done happened when I pulled an elderly man from a wrecked vehicle just before his car burst into flames—but that never happened either.

What I’m saying is my journey in life has been mundane to this point, but that’s not all bad. God blessed me with many situations that taught me moral values and helped build my character in ways I didn’t understand until long after they occurred.

You see, brave things are not always about saving someone’s life or going where no man has gone before. Brave things are often about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the face of difficult situations—situations that may be difficult only for them and no one else.

The following true story is a perfect example of performing brave acts:

ONE ROCK TOO MANY

I grew up with a passion for baseball. When I was ten-years old, you would find me playing baseball with neighborhood kids at the nearby vacant lot or in my backyard tossing rocks into the air and hitting them with a stick—any kind of stick became a bat as seen in the photo below.

My stick bat

Sometimes, I would venture across the street and hit rocks from a hill on a corner lot located in front of my house. There were a gazillion rocks there just waiting for me to hit them. I would pick one up, toss it into the air, and whack it down the street while pretending to be a major leaguer smashing the game-winning home run.

I remember picking up a nice-smooth rock one day and hitting it high into the air. I must have pulled it a little too far to the left because when it came down, it went right into the rear glass of a car parked on the street in front of my neighbor’s (Mr. Carr) house. There was a loud crashing noise as the rock shattered the glass into a million pieces. I immediately had a sick feeling in my belly. I knew I was in big, big trouble.

I ran home to tell my mother what happened. I never even thought about lying or trying to get away with what I had done. I owned up to the biggest mistake of my young life. Mama immediately called my dad at work to tell him about the situation. He asked to speak to me and my belly hurt even more.

I told him exactly what I had told Mama—every gut-wrenching detail of my one rock too many. Dad asked if anyone had seen it happen and I told him no. He instructed me to go back to Mr. Carr’s house immediately and tell him what I had done. Then he said the words that almost made my heart stop beating, “I’ll deal with you when I get home from work.”

I never dreamed I would have to go by myself to tell Mr. Carr that I had broken the glass and then have Daddy “deal” with me later. Fear was having a party in my head and I was the guest of honor. I could sense my life was about to end.

I got to Mr. Carr’s house and started walking up the steps to the front door. There must have been a thousand steps up to that door. At least it took me about that long to make it up to the porch level. In reality, I think there were only five steps up to the front door.

I knocked lightly on the door with hopes no one would hear. Unfortunately, the door opened and a man as large as Goliath stood in the doorway looking down at me. He was every bit of ten feet tall with a ferocious look in his eyes that would make a lion run away with its tail tucked between its legs. I knew my life was definitely about to end; I would never be able to play baseball again.

He opened the storm door slowly and asked me how he could help me. I wanted to tell him to go back into the house, but knowing that was not an option, I pointed to the car out front and started telling the tale of one rock too many. The words came out of my mouth very slowly as I told him what I had done. He said he had heard a loud noise but did not know what it was at the time.

We walked out to the car to see the results of my errant rock. The rear glass was in a million pieces and my rock was sitting on the trunk of the car. The very rock I wished I had never picked up.

The first thing Mr. Carr asked was why I had done that to his new car. I tried to explain that it was an accident and I didn’t mean to do it. I could tell he wanted to put me over his knee and let me have it, but he didn’t do that. It would probably have been better for me if he had.

We talked for a few more minutes but I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. I was too scared at that point. At the end of our verbal exchange, he asked if my parents were home, and if they knew what I had done. I told him Mama was home, but Daddy was still at work. Mr. Carr said he would talk to my dad when he got home.

I then returned to my house. It felt like it took three weeks for Daddy to get home. I was in “death-row” agony for hours. The waiting and waiting was horrible because I could not imagine what was going to happen next.

I saw Daddy pull into the driveway. He walked into the house and I explained everything again. It was not any easier this time. He did not say a word the whole time I was talking—he just nodded his head several times. When I finished my tale of woe, Daddy said he was going to talk to Mr. Carr and told me to stay in the house until he returned.

Dad was gone for what seemed like a month, but when he finally returned, he called me over to him. He said lets go to the backyard. I realized the time for a spanking was at hand. I figured he didn’t want Mama to hear me yelling as the paddle made home-run-contact on my rear end—multiple times!

As we were walking to the backyard, Daddy asked me what I thought my punishment should be. I wanted to tell him that I had already suffered enough and he didn’t need to punish me, but I figured he wouldn’t agree with that suggestion. So, I just said, “I don’t know.”

We walked to the tool shed in our back yard and Daddy picked up a huge bucket. He told me he was very sad that I had broken the glass in the neighbor’s car, but he was very proud of me for being brave enough to tell Mama what I had done. He said I had acted like a mature man by telling the truth in the midst of a very difficult and scary situation for a ten-year-old boy.

Unfortunately, Daddy told me that in spite of my bravery, he still had to punish me for what I had done. My punishment was to pick up every rock in the yard and put them into the big bucket he was holding. When I finished, he wanted to see all of the rocks I had collected.

I did as Dad instructed and then showed him the bucket of rocks. The final phase of my punishment was to bury all of the rocks in the corner of the backyard in a very deep hole that I had to dig.

I never knew what happened between Mr. Carr and Daddy, or what they discussed. I was just glad my “rock” ordeal was over. It was a long time before I ever picked up another rock or hit one with a stick. Thank goodness for me, rocks were actually hard to find because I had removed at least a million of them from the yard.

Yes, I eventually hit rocks again, but I always made sure there was nothing around me that I could break. I did not want to go through this nightmare ever again.

As a ten-year-old boy, I had bravely faced a bad situation and learned a valuable life-lesson that has served me well for many years. I confessed what I had done and accepted full responsibility for my actions. I didn’t try to run away and hide, nor did I try to put the blame on others. I bravely accepted my punishment. In the end, a bad situation yielded very good results.

My dad was obviously a very wise man to handle the situation the way he did. I am sure he was much more upset (mad) with me than he appeared. Fortunately, his method of punishment and the words he said to me left a permanent and lasting impression. Although a spanking would have hurt, the pain would not last as long as the lesson I learned. He was compassionate, yet firm with me. His method of handling the situation and the life-lesson I learned that day served me well in my adult life as I dealt with my own children.

Daddy was a special man of high moral character and I consider myself blessed that he was my dad.

Dad and me

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Blessings to all…

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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DARE TO DREAM

I paused to look at a statue at the entrance to a ballpark located in South Carolina and thought about the thousands of young boys around the world who bravely stand ON GREEN DIAMONDS  and DARE TO DREAM of what might be…

Cast in bronze for all to see,

a young boy dared to dream.

He stood alone on the mound

but learned he was part of a TEAM.

BASEBALL…

It’s more than a game—it’s life

being played out on a field.

A field of dreams—ON GREEN DIAMONDS,

where men become boys and boys become men,

all speaking one universal language without

uttering a single word.

Our dreams in life will only become reality if we have the courage and passion to stay the course and never give up!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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OLD PHOTOS SPARK MEMORIES OF OUR PAST

Memories of our past are important for they provide gateways that help us understand what we are today. A simple photo from years gone by can spark many memories.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos of me from my youth, but the one below brings back many fond memories of the fun I had in this backyard — enough memories to fill the pages of a book.

Yes, I consider myself blessed for having had many wonderful experiences during my childhood. Although those glory days have long since passed, I look forward to watching my youngest of three grandsons play the game I love so much. You know it as baseball. However, baseball is much more than just a game — it’s life being played out on a field…

I was nine-years old when the photo was taken and I had a dream — a dream of playing baseball in the majors. I pursued my dream with passion for many years, hoping to succeed — to be one of the few to beat the odds — to rise above others — to play major league baseball!

Unfortunately, my God given talents did not allow me to attain that lofty dream, or maybe, I just didn’t work hard enough to develop the talents God gave me. Either way, I fell short of my goal. However, my passion for the game lives on — watching my grandsons play the game has brought me joy that replaced my own shortcomings in life. I feel more alive now with every pitch — more alive than in those days long ago — days of experiencing the bitter disappointment of falling short, having to establish new dreams and new goals for my future.

I am grateful that I can now write about my experiences of the past — write about others who now have dreams of their own — dreams that are similar to a nine year old boy growing up in the 50’s and 60’s with the passion to make it happen in the 2010’s and beyond.

My novel, “On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream” was a joy to write because I was sharing my childhood passion with others. The story is fiction, but involves many personal experiences of my past — a young boy’s dreams to do what only a few ever have a chance to do in life. I hope you take the opportunity to read the whole story and have your heartstrings touched by the experiences of “watching” a young boy growing up pursuing his dream.

Maybe the story will even inspire you to spend a few moments reflecting on your own fond memories of long ago. Be grateful for each memory you can recall for they made you who you are today.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2019

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BASEBALL ISN’T JUST A GAME

With the Little League World Series #LLWS in full swing, the hopes and dreams of young players, coaches, parents, grandparents, and friends are on a roller-coaster ride of emotions—enjoy every minute of the journey because…

Baseball isn’t just a game. It is life being played out on a field… a field of dreams… on diamonds of green, where players pursuing their dreams try to be the best they can be on the grandest stage of all. Where men become boys and boys become men, all speaking one universal language without uttering a single word.

The coach rubs an arm, touches his nose, grabs an ear, and rubs his belt buckle, sending a secret code to the players. The steely-eyed master in the dugout has issued the silent command for all to follow. The nine players on the field know the code, and the play is on. They all understand what to do and have faith each will do his job. Individual parts functioning like a well-oiled machine… working together in harmony for the good of one thing—the team.

The pitcher stands on the mound, receives the sign, and starts his windup. What follows is like poetry in motion. To the fans, with their fingers crossed, it is action suspended in time, all waiting patiently to see what happens next.

It is a game and life coexisting in time, teaching life lessons that will be remembered by all who dare stand on the green diamonds. The lessons that will help build the character necessary to handle life’s hurdles in the future.

Let the game begin!

Excerpt from my novel,

ON GREEN DIAMONDS: Pursuing a Dream

Tatum – Author – 2018

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ANGEL AND THE SILVER DOLLAR

There are times in life when we find ourselves in situations that we can’t explain while it is happening. I experienced such a moment when I was a young boy. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was certainly surreal. It was a special moment—one I can still visualize it as if it happened yesterday. However, it occurred fifty-six years ago.

So, what brings about such moments as this? Well, it’s simple when we understand that sometimes in life there are forces far more powerful than ourselves helping us accomplish feats that are beyond our abilities. Allow me to explain the moment I experienced.

When I was a youngster, I was very shy. I never liked being the center of attention—NEVER! I just wanted to do my own thing without any fanfare from others.

At age eleven, I had the honor of being one of fourteen players selected for the 1960 Orangeburg Little League All-Star baseball team. That in itself was a major milestone for me because there were many talented twelve-year olds who also played during the regular season. I was very fortunate to have some of the coaches recognize my ability to play baseball. However, unknown to them, their confidence in me set in motion the unusual event that was about to unfold.

allstarteam1960

What I didn’t know at the time was that this was going to be a defining moment in my life—both athletically and spiritually.

I was the starting centerfielder in the first Little League All-Star game in Barnwell, SC. To say starting the game surprised me would be an understatement. Anyway, I took the field with butterflies flying around in my stomach to the point I felt as if I was going to hurl my lunch before the game started, but, thank goodness, I didn’t.

The game had gone great for our team and we had a one-run lead in the bottom of the last inning. Then, momentum swung to the other team and they had men on second and third base with one out. I stood in centerfield with a lump in my throat and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let the batter hit the ball to me.” That’s not exactly what an “all-star” player should be thinking at such a time.

Unfortunately, for me, God didn’t respond to my innocent-childlike prayer the way I had hoped He would. On the very next pitch, the batter hit a hard line-drive straight toward me—the most difficult trajectory and direction for an outfielder to catch the ball.

I ran toward the ball and caught it just above my shoelaces for out number two. The runner on third base tagged up and headed toward home plate. If he scored, it would tie the game. If my throw was off-target, the runner on second base could also score and we would lose the game. Without hesitation, I reared back and fired the ball toward the catcher. It was a perfect strike, and the runner was out by two strides. It was a double play, and the game was over. We won the game!

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I had never thrown a runner out at home plate from centerfield in my life. The fans went wild and cheered louder than I had ever heard before. As I ran off the field, my teammates gathered around me and celebrated the moment—the victory and the throw! Though there were not thousands of fans in the stands that night, it sure sounded like it to me. To say the least, I was happy for what happened, but I also wanted to hide.

I was shocked by what I had just accomplished. The moment was truly surreal. I thought, “Did I really do that? Was I dreaming? How did that ball leave my hand and hit the catcher’s mitt for a perfect strike from centerfield?”

That’s when I paused and said, “Lord, You didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted, but thank You for blessing me with an angel to guide my throw to home plate.”

After the game, the father of our pitcher came over to me and congratulated me for my unbelievable throw. He said, “That was a great throw, Tatum! An awesome play like that deserves a reward. This is for you.” That’s when he placed a silver dollar in my hand—the only money I ever received for playing baseball.

silverdollarcoin

I’m sure you can imagine the joy I felt that night, but I knew I didn’t make that throw on my own. An angel assisted me on the field that night, and yet, I received a silver-dollar reward for “our” effort.

It is the special moments in life that make you smile, and this moment has put a smile on my face for over fifty years. Have I ever told my grandchildren this story? Sure, I have! Many times, and I smile every time I tell the story. In fact, I’m smiling right now!

Here’s the amazing finale to the story. I tried throwing a ball in similar situations at practice more than a hundred times and never made that play again. Without any pressure of a real-game situation, I couldn’t repeat the “magical” throw.

I’m sure the Lord has more important concerns than helping a young boy throw a ball to home plate, but I also know I could never have made that throw on my own. Then again, what if…

Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

So, what do you think happened that night? Did I suddenly have powers far beyond my abilities or did an angel assist me? No one could be that lucky.

I’m sure you have also had similar moments in your life. Would you care to share one of your special moments when you accomplished something beyond your capabilities?

Blessings to you and yours, and have a great day!

Tom Tatum – Author – 2017

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AND THE EDITOR SAID…

I received the following comment from the editor who worked on my manuscript ON GREEN DIAMONDS: PURSUING A DREAM. The editor did not have to send the comments to me, nor did he/she receive additional compensation for doing so. Yes, the editor also made some helpful suggestions that enhanced the story, which were incorporated into the published novel. Nice to work with someone who appreciates the content of a story and is willing to share their thoughts! Feeling blessed!

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Editor

“The manuscript was a joy to read and it warmed the heart. The straightforward way of telling the story was great, and it was pretty much on point—some stories go into tangents, but this one never does, so the narrative felt solid throughout. It was well written and easy to read, qualities which are always a plus. Thank you for sharing this story. I enjoyed it very much. All the best!”

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ON GREEN DIAMONDS FRONT

Unfortunately, due to my publisher’s internal policies, I cannot reveal the name of the editor who shared the comments without getting him/her reprimanded. However, the manuscript is now a published novel and is available for purchase from the majority of online bookstores. Get a copy and see if the editor got it right. The book comes in paperback, hardback, and eBook formats.

As always, I thank you for your support—enjoy the story. Please don’t forget to share your honest comments!

Blessings,

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

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YOUTH DADDY-BALL AND ME

There was a time in life about one-hundred years ago when I played youth baseball. In those days, the term “Daddy-Ball” didn’t exist—at least I never heard it used. Yes, dads actually coached teams their own children played on way back then, just as they do now. However, it seems things are a bit different today or maybe my childhood view of the world was blind compared to the way I see things as a grandfather. BTW – this article also applies to grandparents who are involved in youth sports!

In today’s world, the term Daddy-Ball tends to have a negative connotation. Why is this? Well, in some cases when a parent coaches the team their child plays on, they place their blood-kin in “star” positions whether or not the child’s skills justify such assignments. It’s hard for any parent not to do this when they tend to live their lives vicariously through their children. They want their precious ones vaulted into the bright lights of stardom. Their child bats at the top of the lineup, pitches, and/or plays shortstop—those highly coveted positions on the field. This situation also applies to any sport or activity. Sometimes the child actually deserves the “prime” position, but in many cases, they don’t. Hence, the downside of Daddy-Ball becomes evident by the buzz in the stands from parents of children who are on the outside looking in.

A downside of Daddy-Ball occurs when capable children don’t receive the playing opportunities the “chosen” ones do. They play the less-glamorous positions in youth sports or sit the bench; they don’t have the opportunities to develop their skills to be the best they can be. I’ve seen this scenario play out many times with my grandchildren in the past ten years. If you disagree, I invite you to visit a ballpark catering to youth sports and observe the action for yourself.

However, Daddy-Ball doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. Thank goodness, it’s not. Many dads out there enjoy giving ALL kids the opportunity to shine. The following true story describes how my father handled Daddy-Ball long before the term existed.

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My dad coached the baseball team I played on when I was ten-years old. However, he was always harder on me than he was the rest of my teammates—he didn’t cut me any slack. In fact, he was downright tough on me—the way it should be for kids playing today. Tough love is not easy for any parent to practice, but it is necessary sometimes. In fact, it’s actually a good thing for many reasons.

VFW TeamDadSon2

Putting my humble nature aside for a moment, I thought I was a decent player. I was a pitcher—that coveted position on youth baseball teams. Unfortunately, I allowed my “average” physical prowess to warp my mind before a game one night. It was my turn to be the starting pitcher, but I opened my big mouth and told Dad I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to pitch. However, that was not true—I felt fine and really did want to pitch. Yes, I had a lot of growing up to do. I was an immature kid who wanted to hear praises for my nonexistent superb-pitching skills—to hear that the team needed me to pitch in order for us to win the game. I was selfish, foolish even, and deserved what came my way.

What followed was the best thing that could have happened to me. After making my statement, my dad didn’t say a word to me—no begging, no praising, nothing! He announced the lineup for the game by calling out the batting order, citing the names and positions for the players. To the dismay of my selfish-little mind, he didn’t say my name. In fact, Dad had drawn a line through my name on the scorecard and replaced it with another boy. It was a boy who had never pitched before.

M Pitching BW1

After the first inning, I questioned Dad why I was not pitching and he unsympathetically answered, “Son, we need our best pitcher on the mound tonight. You aren’t the man for the job because you feel bad. At least that’s what you told me, so I did as you asked. Your position is to sit on the bench and cheer for the team. Support the pitcher on his first outing. You ought to be able to that regardless of how bad you feel.”

I thought, “That didn’t go as planned. I should have kept my big mouth shut about feeling bad!

Dad sat my wise-rear-end attitude on the bench—for the entire game! I didn’t play at all that night, but our team still won without me. The new pitcher did a wonderful job on the mound. I guess there’s nothing like having a little salt rubbed in an open wound to help amplify a life-lesson—a self-inflicted wound at that. Welcome to the real world Little Tommy—it’s tough out there!

BenchWarmerHat1

I’m not sure what Dad would have said to me had the team lost that game, but I feel sure this story would have a slightly different conclusion and a few additional lessons-learned. I grew up that night and learned some valuable life-lessons that have served me well. Dad’s silent method of making me think hard about what I had done was a perfect example of good Daddy-Ball and parenting. He knew I didn’t feel bad, but he got his point across in a subtle yet effective manner. Here’s what I learned the hard way.

  • Never say you feel bad when you don’t—life will pass you by in a flash.
  • Suck it up and be a bulldog when things don’t go your way.
  • Don’t be selfish—the world of “me-me” does not exist, nor should it.
  • There is always someone waiting to fill your shoes—you are not the only fish in the sea, so always give your best.
  • All kids on a team deserve an opportunity in the spotlight of prime positions.
  • Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
  • If you think you’re good/great at what you do, don’t seek praise; it will come your way if truly deserved.
  • Be ready to serve in any “position” you’re called upon to do, and that includes sitting on the bench to give others a chance.
  • You never know what you can do until you give it your best.

++++

In retrospect, my dad helped me more that night than I thought at the time—he taught me about life in the real world. For that, I am truly blessed. So, if you are a parent-coach, don’t forget the other players on your team. They deserve a chance to learn and grow their skills too. They may actually be better than your blood-kin. If not, at least you gave them a chance to rise to the occasion, and you may have helped a future shining star take the first step to the Hall of Fame.

As a coach, parent, or grandparent, we should praise a child when he/she does well, teach them how to face adversity, and be there to help when they fall down. However, be careful not to praise children for mediocre performances for you may create a little monster if you do. Learning from one’s mistakes is a good teacher since we will not always succeed in everything we do.

1 Peter 5:6-7 (KJV)

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you.

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Coach Berates Child

 

Bob Pitching 2015Parents typically want their children to be the best they can be. They understand that team sports can provide good opportunities for children to not only develop their physical skills, but also learn important life-lessons that will serve them well as adults. The teams children play on usually have well-meaning volunteers who spend a considerable amount of time “coaching” the children, so it is reasonable to say that coaches influence children in many ways.

Regardless of which team sport they play, children experience things like teamwork, dedication, responsibility, commitment, sacrifice, good/bad character, winning, losing, etc. Parents sign their children up to play a sport and want the coaches to provide them with good, quality leadership. Parents trust the coaches will teach, motivate, and exhibit good character for their children. That’s what coaches are supposed to do. Right?

Well, the good news is that the vast majority of volunteer coaches try to do these things, and most of them even do it well. When they succeed, it makes for a win-win situation for all involved—child, parent, and coach. The child learns, parents are pleased, and coaches have a positive influence on young lives.

Unfortunately, some coaches should never try or be allowed to coach young children. They simply don’t have what it takes for various reasons. These reasons range from lack of knowledge regarding a particular sport to not possessing the character traits that are favorable to work with children in a positive manner. Coaches can’t teach what they don’t know and poor character can be detrimental to young, impressionable minds.

The following is a true story of the experiences a nine-year-old boy had with his coaches. Since I know the child and his parents, I will refer to the boy by the fictitious name, Bob Smith. I witnessed Bob’s experiences as a spectator and was not one of his coaches.

Bob had just completed playing machine-pitch baseball last spring (2014). He loved baseball and did better than most of the other players on the team. The coaches treated all of the players fairly and gave helpful instructions. Bob’s good performance led to an invitation to play on a team at the next level during the summer. He and his parents were excited, and rightfully so. It would be the first time Bob would be facing “live” pitching from someone his age.

As the season progressed, things appeared to be going fine. Bob met some new friends and experienced “real” baseball. He seemed to be enjoying himself, and his parents were loyal supporters of the team. Like all of his teammates, Bob had some good games and some bad, but overall, he had played well.

Unfortunately, things took an unexpected turn. Near the end of the season, I witnessed one of the three coaches for the team berating Bob unmercifully on the field after a game, and in front of his teammates. I believe in discipline, but what this coach did went way beyond what I consider appropriate. I’m talking about ranting, yelling, shaking fingers in Bob’s face, and much more. It was a public display unbecoming any coach associated with nine-year-old kids. I’ll admit that Bob had a tough game, but so did several other boys, including said coach’s son. However, Bob was the only player who received a verbal assault. The coach was definitely way out of line.

Bob was devastated as evidenced by the tears streaming down his cheeks. His parents were livid, and I could have chewed nails. It was the worse display of coaching I have ever witnessed, and believe me; I’ve seen many pathetic coaches in my days as a player and coach. Bob’s love for baseball vaporized in an instant because of one coach’s poor judgment and an obvious lack of good people skills. Bob didn’t want to finish the season, nor did he ever want to play baseball again.

It was none of my business, but I suggested to Mr. and Mrs. Smith that they talk to the head coach about the incident, and file a formal complaint with the league’s commissioner. I also felt it would be in Bob’s best interest if he completed the season since there were only two games remaining. I didn’t want the label “quitter” to define his response to an unfortunate situation.

After discussing the situation with the head coach, the Smiths decided they wanted Bob to complete the season, but demanded the “demon” coach have nothing to do with their son, which I thought was a fair demand. The last two games were tough on all concerned, but one person got what he deserved—the ill-mannered “coach” could no longer coach in the youth league!

The best news of all is that Bob decided to play baseball again in the spring of 2015, but on a different team with different coaches. His struggle to overcome the bad experience with a baseball coach during the summer of 2014 is one no child his age should ever have to endure. The photo shows Bob pitching in a recent game and he is doing well. He has had fun so far and the coaches have motivated the players—as good coaches are supposed to do. However, Bob’s love for the game has diminished and the sparkle in his eyes no longer exists, all because of one man—a volunteer coach.

If you are a parent of a child who wants to play sports, get to know the character of the coaches. If you are satisfied, let your child play, but let the coaches do the coaching on the field. If you’re not satisfied, take appropriate action, but just make sure you’re not being overly protective when you do.

If you are coaching young children, don’t be the type of coach who destroys their self-confidence. Teach them well and give all of them a fair chance, but let them have fun in the process. They will face the realities of life in a few years when they realize not everyone makes the team and there are no trophies awarded for merely participating.

A sport is not just a game—its life being played out on a field, a field of dreams, where kids become adults and adults become kids—all sharing A Time In Life.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced similar situations? Please share your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. You may help someone avoid a bad situation.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

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Finding Dad

FirstGameNoDadWPFond memories often invoke some sad ones too. My dad came to every baseball game I played from little league through American Legion. He and my mom were obviously the most loyal fans I had watching me. Mom was more of a spectator while Dad taught me everything I learned about the game. Just his presence at the ballpark was a stabilizing mental factor for me, serving as an anchor for my performance during the games.

Each time I took the mound, I looked around the fence line to see if Dad was there to watch me play. I knew he would be, but it was tough finding him sometimes because he never sat in the stands. He liked to walk around the field, perching himself in different locations, and never stayed in any one spot very long. He’d always tell me to concentrate on my game and forget about him being there or where he was.

I never listened to him though. I would look around the field every inning until I found his new location. Seeing him standing quietly by the fence gave me the self-confidence I needed to perform at my very best. It was as if we were playing a little game of hide-n-seek within the baseball game itself.

The first time I pitched without Dad watching me occurred at my first college game. It was very difficult for me. Even though I knew he wasn’t going to be there, I still searched every foot of the fence line around the field in hopes of finding him. You see, a heart attack had taken Dad away from us three months earlier at the young age of forty-five—the very number I chose to grace my uniform. The thought he would never be there to see me play baseball again was a tough reality I had to accept.

I was scared, nervous, and had more anxiety than ever before. The butterflies in my gut were about to push me to the point of feeling as though I was paralyzed from the neck down. I sat in the dugout before the game wondering how I was going to pitch that first time without Dad being there. I wanted to play—heck, I needed to play our little hide-n-seek game within the real game, but he was nowhere to be found. I felt all alone on the green diamond for the first time in my life. I finally collected myself and found enough courage to force myself to run from the dugout out to the mound for the first inning. It was the longest run in my baseball career.

It was time for me to suck it up and do exactly what Dad had taught me to do—BELIEVE IN MYSELF! With my back facing home plate, I removed my cap and looked up at a puffy, white cloud in the sky. I prayed, not for God to help me, but for Him to let Dad somehow be with me that day. I tossed the rosin bag to the ground and then faced the batter. My whole body was shaking as I toed the rubber for my first pitch in a game without Dad being there to give me that much needed confidence.

I took several deep breaths as the catcher signaled for a fastball with his index finger pointing straight down. Visions of Dad doing the same thing a million times flashed before me, causing a warm feeling to spread throughout my body. I felt an inner peace, and my self-confidence quickly grew stronger. I realized I had found Dad’s new location and felt his presence in that puffy cloud high above the field.

My anxiety seemed to vanish as I hurled my first pitch of the game and heard the umpire yell Dad’s favorite word, “Stttriiikkkeee!” It was exactly the sound I needed to hear at that critical moment in my life. From then on, I knew exactly where to find my Dad at the ballpark—he was always looking down at me with a big smile on his face, and that was all I needed.

Dad, thanks for all the things you did for me, but most of all, thank you for all the things you did WITH me…

If you are a player, I hope your parents are there supporting you the way mine did. If you are a parent, be there and cheer for your child, but let the coaches do the coaching. Your presence means more to them than you can possibly imagine.

Topic from the novel, On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream.

Tom Tatum – Author – 2015

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