THE PARALLELS OF BASEBALL AND LIFE

“Have you ever thrown a ball 100 miles an hour? Everything hurts. Even your ass hurts. I see pictures of my face and say, ‘Holy shit’, but that’s the strain you feel when you throw. I had one of those faces you look at it, man, and say, ‘Man he’s an ass-hole.’ Could be, depends on if you pissed me off or not.” – Bob Gibson

“You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat. Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who, if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.”
Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer

In the past, I’ve written about baseball and the life lessons it holds. With the end of Peter’s baseball season coinciding with the ending of the school year, it seems appropriate to revisit again. This is his 5th year of playing and my third year as a head coach – our first in kid pitch.

Every spring I hold my breath and hope that he’ll want to play again. Basketball and soccer would appear to be sports more closely aligned with his high energy personality, but for some reason, baseball, with its combination of cerebral and physical demands, is the sport that holds the tightest grip on his heart.

We don’t play Fall baseball because I believe at his age it is important that he plays a little bit of every sport. The drawback is that when teams are selected in the Spring, ours tends to be made up of younger kids, those with limited experience, and few that have played together in the past.

As a coach, my philosophy is rooted in the fundamentals and fun. If you focus on those two ingredients, winning will follow. At the beginning of the season, I tell the boys we only have two goals – having fun and being better baseball players at the end of the year than we were at the beginning. We will accomplish the later through a series of building blocks, with improvement always taking precedence over winning.

Invariably my teams lose a lot of games at the beginning of the season but by the end of the season, we are knocking off more experienced older teams. This year was no different and when the tournament started this week, we were in a position where I felt we were competitive with any of the other teams and that anything could happen.

Tournament time seems to bring out the worst in us adults. If we are not careful, having fun slips out the window while the competitive juices establish residency. I guess it’s natural, we do play the games to win, but we need to maintain that delicate balance.

On Monday we opened the tournament against a higher seed team. It quickly became apparent that this was a game where we just weren’t going to get the calls. That’s one of the ways that baseball is reflective of life, sometimes things just don’t go your way. You just to have to navigate through it the best way possible, because no amount of complaining or getting angry is going to change it and they may worsen it. These are the times that define your life.

My boys rose to the challenge. They played hard. They didn’t complain. They didn’t get angry. They tried to adjust to the parameters. In the end,we fell short and we lost 3-2.

The tournament is double elimination so we had one game left. Before Wednesday’s game, I reflected on our season and how we approached the last game. We’d gotten caught up and had started focusing more on winning the tournament than the joy of the game. Though we were now facing elimination, I didn’t want to sacrifice the last game to the gods of competition. That was the message I delivered to the boys.

I explained to them that if we lost today, the season was over. There would be no more baseball for the rest of the summer. For some, it might be the last organized baseball game they would ever play.  We needed to savor the moment and the joy we had in each others company. Go out and have fun. Enjoy your teammates. Enjoy the competition. Enjoy the game. Treasure it. Don’t worry about losing it, instead revel in it. And that’s what they did.

Against a very good baseball team, they went out and had fun. We quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead. I have one young man who is a solid ballplayer but puts undue pressure on himself. When he makes a mistake he shuts down. He either pouts by standing unresponsive or unleashes an angry outburst. With his fathers support, we’ve worked on correcting this behavior all season and he has made great strides.

Quick aside here. His father is a single parent. We don’t talk enough or give enough credit to those males that are raising children by themselves. Parenting is hard. Doing it by yourself – male or female – is even more difficult. Here’s a salute to you single fathers.

The young man in question was the second batter of the first inning and struck out. As he walked by me, I tried to console him with encouraging words and a pat on the helmet. His response was an angry, “Don’t touch me”, followed by a slamming down of the helmet.

“You are on the bench when we take the field”, I told him, “We’ve discussed this.”

Never a fun move, but made even more difficult by the fact that his father is one of my assistant coaches. To his credit, he understood the move and approved. Creating young men who would be good sportsman who have learned how to properly channel their emotions is every bit as important as producing wins.

In his place I put a young man at second base who never plays the position. It was a lot to put on a young man but he rose to the challenge.

It was mid-inning when a pop up was hit in the direction of second base. We all held our breath while our inexperienced infielder lined up under the fly ball. We shouldn’t have worried. He caught the ball like he’d been doing it all year long. It was a play that set the tone for the rest of the game.

In the second inning, I sent my benched player out to center field. After that catch how could I make a change at second? Though he preferred the infield, the young enthusiasticlly  assumed the position on the field. Later in the game, I switched him to shortstop where he missed s grounder. But he didn’t pout and when he came up to bat he made it on base and scored a key run. Redemption complete.

The game was filled with moments like that. Players making plays they didn’t normally make and hitters hitting balls they didn’t normally make. Sure, there were plenty of mistakes, but the boys followed our meme of the year, “It’s not the mistake that matters the most, it is what you do after the mistake that truly matters.” They adjusted, they moved on, they focused on the next play.

In the fourth inning, we were losing 5-3. If we didn’t score two runs, the game was over. I was nervous because we didn’t exactly have a history of explosive offense outcomes. I shouldn’t have been, not only did we score two runs, but we scored 5 runs and look an 8-5 lead. Unfortunately we couldn’t hold the lead and the other team tied it up at 8. We were going to extra innings.

Another quick aside here, in the previous inning my son Peter, had struck out as well. He responded with tears and stomping. I responded predictably by informing him he would be benched when we took the field. When we scored 5 runs that move became difficult as Peter is one of the best defenders on the team.

I went to the father of the first child and said, “I know I’m being a hypocrite and if you take exception with me, I completely understand. But I’d like to win this one and having Peter in the game gives us the best chance.”

He laughed and responded, “I was going to point that out to you, but I completely agree. Let’s do it.”

Was it the correct action? Maybe, maybe not. But I do think baseball teaches us to be flexible and I believe that you have to be willing to adjust when necessary. Everything is not black and white,

Back to the game, extra-inning rules call for each inning to start with a runner on second and one out. We were up first and were unable to push any runs across. Going to the bottom of the inning we switched to our catcher as the pitcher. He’d pitched minimal innings all year, but both our pitchers had utilized their maximum allotment of pitches and I wanted to put the best defensive team possible on the field. Our pitchers are skilled position players as well as quality pitchers.

Our catcher did exactly what he was asked to do, he threw a strike. Unfortunately, their hitter turned on it and drove a line drive to left field. Just like that, the game was over. We’d lost 9-8. But it didn’t feel like losing.

As the players left the field they were met by applause and coaches from the teams waiting to play the next game offering praise to players from both squads. This was a ball game, one embraced by both teams and evoked all the joy in the game that baseball is capable of revealing. It was a game that I don’t think many of the players will ever forget.

When I reflect on this game, I think about our approach to education. We are so relentless in our pursuit of excellence that we often drain out the inherent fun and joy in learning. When we are guided by stupid mission statements like “To be the fastest rising district in the country” we sacrifice depth for speed. We send a message that learning is something that we need to do quickly in order to progress forward quickly to the important stuff. We fail to acknowledge that learning is important on its own, devoid of any future rewards.

This last week I’ve been looking at pictures from graduation ceremonies. How many of those kids will remember their MAP scores or their TNReady scores over the teachers that opened their eyes to the magic of the world? Will they remember their GPA or a research project that made them think about something in a way they never considered before? Are we producing adults that recognize the inherint value of education and embrace the joy of learning or ones that just look at education as a means to an end?

Sometimes winning is losing and sometimes losing opens the door to future victories. I am so appreciative to the time I spend with my son on the ball field. It’s not always perfect and at times it produces bitter arguments. But it never fails to teach me lessons and it never fails to bring us closer.

There are many great leagues across the city and I encourage you to explore the one near you, home for us is Crieve Hall. I’m so honored to be a small part of their long tradition. Thanks to Lee, Dick, and everyone else for all they do. Sign your kid up. You won’t regret it.

A STRANGE WAY TO RESIGN

There seems to be a failure among politicians in Tennessee to understand what the word resignation means. This week, House Speaker Glen Casada has finally agreed to resign. But with some caveats. He’ll get around to it when he returns from vacation. At that time, he’ll get together with House leadership and figure out what’s a good day to tender his resignation. It could be at the beginning of June or somewhere down the line. I suspect he’s betting on noise dying down and perhaps if he can work enough leverage behind the scenes he won’t even have to resign.

Earlier in the year, MNPS School board member Will Pinkston took a similar position. After a weekend spent beliitling teachers and attacking MNPS employees, Pinkston wrote a scathing letter that gave April 12 as his resignation date. Apparently he was just kidding. He pulled back the date and it’s now mid-May and no word on when or if he’s going to resign. And no comment from the board chair or anyone else. Apparently this is an acceptable practice.

Both Pinkston and Casada are ruthless politicians. Both have shown a willingness to level personal attacks at opponents in order to push forward their agenda. Neither likes to be questioned and both have expressed interest in controlling who replaces them. Both have engaged in long term behavior that demonstrates their belief that rules don’t apply to them and through that behavior have brought shame to their governing bodies. Both represent a breed of politician that needs to be exterminated from Tennessee goverance, the question is, will anybody truly hold them accountable?

QUICK HITS

Many take the end of the school year as the beginning of a period of inaction when it comes to schools. Nothing could be further from the truth. What takes place over the next two weeks will determine what transpires over the next school year. Dr. Joseph and two of his main chiefs are no longer employed with MNPS. But it’s important to remember that none of this work is the reult of one individual. There are still members of his team that remain and Dr. Battle has yet to establish her own team. No where is that more apparent than in literacy where Barbera Lashley still remains in charge.

Last weekend there were rumors that she was leaving, but those rumors remain unconfirmed. There were a lot of questions about the effectiveness of last years literacy plan and MAP scores have borne out those questions. There has already been talk about next year there being an increased focus on scripted curriculum. David Williams has been named CAO and he is not known for his literacy strenghth.  Teachers are rightfully concerned about our literacy staragy for next year.

There is a literacy coach training scheduled for June 3 – 5. If there no change addressed prior to that training, its hard to foresee different out comes for next year. It would behove district officials to write next years story before it’s written for them.

Dennis Queen is still the executive director of Charter Schools. Queen is a long term associate of both Dr. Joseph and former MNPS administrator Mo Carrasco. What’s his current status? Word on the street is that Queen’s value comes from his willingness to allow his office to be used in Pinkston’s private war on charter schools. Since Pinkston hasn’t resigned, its safe to say that Queen’s status probably won’t change either.

A major component of Dr. Joseph’s legacy will be the hightened level of racial hostility that he has left behind. A major challenge of the current leadership team will be navigating those waters in a manner that doen’t sweep legitimate concerns under the proverbial rug while defusing the increased tension levels. There have already been instances were district leaders have been insensitive in their choice of words in relation to the current climate. It does nobody any good if we come at the subject of race in a defensive mode. Leaders have to lead in this areana. The district has to do a better job.

There is a school board meeting this week and the agenda shows that once again TNTP is back at the trough. This time they are looking for a contract worth upwards of 900K. The last couple have been for around $450K to provide professional development for literacy coaches. TNTP is an organization that was orginally founded by super reformer Michelle Rhee. They’ve always been a kind of junior league TFA that produces position papers that identify alleged problems but seldom solutions.

Last year, TNTP produced a fancy document called The Opportunity Gap. Once again it was pretty, but full of holes and no real solutions. Even Chalkbeat, a normally ed reform friendly publication, found fault in the report. Unfortunately these concerns, were not the concerns of MNPS’s Executive Director of Priority Schools Lisa Coons because Coons has turned to them almost exclusively as the go to folks for teacher PD with priority schools.

In looking at the last RFP paper work, (MNPS RFP 19-43 Literacy Coaching Initiative) the RFP calls for those putting in a contract bid to be familiar with both CKLA and the Student Achievement Partners Instructional Practice Guide. And who is heavily involved with both of these criteria? Why TNTP of course. They helped develop the instructional Practice guide along with Student Achievement Partners. TNTP is also heavily invested in CKLA. You know who also likes TNTP? SCORE likes TNTP. It’s all looking a little…

One more item of interest. On the score sheet for those submitting an RFP it is noted that TNTP’s  “Proposal does not meet the entirety of the program length and depth of schools needed in the scope of the RFP.”(RFP 19-43 Evaluation Scoring) In other words they were awarded the contract despite not demonstrating the ability meet the length and depth of the contract. I suspect that’s why we are here again with another contract needing approval.

I’m not quite sure why with the number of university’s in Nashville we are turning to a private organization to supply teacher professional development. Maybe somebody will ask that question before the contract is approved at the next board meeting.

Communications finnally got around to telling more of Dr. Battles story this week and I’m grateful. I had no idea she was a star athelete in High School, but I’m not surprised. Nor did I know she was a Homecoming Queen. Dad Gone Wild will be sitting down with Dr. Battle next week and we’ll take a deeper look at her history and how it impacts the future of MNPS. Look for that in the coming weeks.

I’m betting there is a part of Dr. Narcisse that is very grateful that he didn’t get the Rochester job.

The first reading of the budget at Metro Council is this Tuesday. Be there or be square.

Steven Cavendish has written an exceptional piece for the Nashville Scene that explores how Nashville designation as the “It” city is contributing to it’s demise. I urge you to read it and let influence how you vote in the upcoming elections. Nashville needs leaders that will put citizen’s needs ahead of tourist’s needs.

That is a wrap. Thank you for your support. Make sure you check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page where we try to accentuate the positive. If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Thanks for your support if you feel so inclined, please head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Thanks to this week’s newest donors. Make sure you answer the poll questions, have a great weekend and we’ll see you Monday.

 

 

One thought

  1. I read the article in the Scene and is was actually well written and thoughtful piece on the truth of the situation here in Nashville. This city’s prime industry is hospitality, an industry that requires lowly educated, trained and a transient workforce. It has low wages, few benefits and little security. The Chamber here seems to think low wages is a selling point and in turn the State Legislature or as I call them Big Daddy overturn any attempts by cities to self regulate and establish wage raises, housing rules or any other type of laws or order that council try to enact. A council that too has a serious of issues of its own making. The realization that once allowed a sense of governance by having a single body to do so is now facing a crisis of its own. The city of Nashville versus the country of Davidson are two distinct entities that need to realize they have to work independently if not in tandem to fully manage the growth. This is why transit fails, infrastructure and the schools are well what they are, horrible.

    I wrote my comments on that article on the site about what I call shiny keys. Those keys are cash. The reality is some of the tax incentives are so short sighted but long on affects that at this point you cannot walk away for fear all of this will come to an end. That sense of entitlement is really one of desperation and fear that when NOT if the money train comes to an end that those who have not had a chance to get a ride on it will be left at the station. So its burn baby burn and this city is now burning. Good thing when the next flood comes it can wash it away. Another real problem like all the rest shoved under the rug.

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