Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Coaching We Shall Go

It’s that time of year again … youth softball season. Once again, I let my brother-in-law rope me into helping him with an 8-10 year-old team. This is our second shot at this coaching gig. We did fairly well for being first-timers last season, but this season may be a little different.

I can’t really put my finger on it, but there is something different about this group. I want to say we have better fielders and a stronger defense all around, but our offense is seriously lacking. This could be a problem as we played great defense in our first game, but still lost 4-1.

Things will definitely be interesting, however, as we have a very eclectic group of young ladies. Our most boisterous player is experiencing softball for the first time and couldn’t understand why a runner is not allowed to run from second base to first base when the ball is hit. Throw in the fact that she just turned 10 years old but stands only 3-foot-2 and refers to me as Coach Paddie, which only vaguely resembles my real name, and there we have one of our more interesting players. And she really is only about 3-foot-2. My 7-year-old daughter is taller than she is.

Then we have our intellectual. She will be one of my favorites on the team because she analyzes everything. When she makes a mistake in the field, she can tell you exactly what that mistake was down to the minute detail and outlines a contingency plan for approaching the situation the next time it occurs. Then she stands in the field and corrects her teammates’ grammar as they yell at each other or opposing players … not simple stuff, but obscure grammatical rules that most high school students don’t understand. Of course, she is still a girl and gets emotional when things continually don’t go as she has planned.

We also have a pink child who reminds me somewhat of my daughter, except that she is in serious need of ADD medication. She will be a decent player in the field (can’t swing a bat, although she brings her personal pink bat with her to practice and the games), if we can just get her to focus long enough to … “look at the pretty butterflies!” I call her “Pinky” all the time, but I don’t think she knows why. Everything she has is pink. Our uniforms are navy blue, but she has pink cleats, pink wristbands, a pink bat and pink batter’s helmet.

Then, of course, there is the obligatory youngster who is in need of physical activity more than the rest of the team, yet doesn’t move during practice. This could explain the growing need for physical activity. She doesn’t take instruction well and doesn’t understand the need to actually act like she is a part of the team. When she is through with batting practice, she wants to go home and can’t figure out why we make her stay. She has a lazy attitude to go with her lazy metabolism which adds up to one thing – a youngster who the coaches try to hide in right field where nothing ever happens.

And like every team, we have the one girl who is just the nicest kid and tries hard to do everything you ask her to do, but “bless her heart,” she just doesn’t have an athletic bone in her body. (Have I ever explained that you are allowed to say anything about anybody as long as you preface it with “bless her heart?”). The poor girl is just slow … and weak … and scared of the ball … and she can’t catch … or throw ... or hit … but she is a nice kid and never gives us any problems.

Needless to say, our season should be quite interesting. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to put the right pieces in the right places and squeak out a win or two.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Adding to the clan

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I invested in a toy, mainly for me. You read about it a couple of posts ago – Shaggy/Mater, the family truck. Mater’s been good to us so far. He’s taken me where I needed to go and has hauled some light stuff that I just didn’t want to fit in the back of the Jeep. I’ve learned how to properly wake him up in the morning to make sure we can get out of the driveway without incident. If you wake him up too quickly, he tends to be cantankerous and shows it by shutting down in the middle of the intersection near the house. You’ve got to wake him up gingerly and scratch him behind the ears for a few minutes, then he’ll be ready to go for the rest of the day.

The only problem is that Mater is a gas hog. As you well know, gas prices have skyrocketed and hit an all-time high. This doesn’t mix well with a vehicle that tops out at 11 miles per gallon on the highway. I, of course, had to buy a truck that has the biggest engine Ford was putting in its commercial vehicles at the time. Fuel conservation apparently wasn’t such a big thing in 1986.

Suffice it to say, Mater is a good vehicle and we don’t plan on getting rid of him any time soon. We will still drive Mater quite a bit and use him to haul things around, but in an effort to do my part to conserve fuel and finances, meet ….. “Lightning.”

Lightning is a simple, stripped down, nothing fancy two-wheeled mode of transportation with a 1 human-power engine. Lightning goes 0-to-60 only in a 60-mile per hour wind on a downhill grade. Lightning probably tops out around 20 miles per hour, but averages closer to 10. Fuel economy, however, is unbeatable.

Of course, with the style of bicycle, I feel like I should be tooling around leisurely on a cobblestone path in a small European village. The handlebars are high enough that I can sit up straight and it is a simple, single-speed machine on a lightweight, aluminum frame. No frills. If I was still single and trying to pick up chicks, I wouldn’t be caught dead on a bicycle like this. But … I don’t have to impress anybody, so I’ll just hop on my silent hog and ride.

Not only is it fuel efficient, but it is good exercise and can be moderately therapeutic. I highly recommend it. Lightning and I made our first trip to the office together today where co-workers marveled at the shiny new vehicle parked in the breakroom. They kicked the wide, white-walled tires, buffed the paint and admired the ergonomically designed seat.

Yup, Lightning made quite and impression. It's safe to say he and I will be spending a lot of time together over the next few months as we traipse back and forth from home to work, to the post office, the store and maybe even out to eat every once in awhile.

Mater's a little jealous because Lightning actually gets to stay in the garage, but he'll get over it. Afterall, he knows that this is what's best for all of us involved. Mater will get to exercise his muscles on occasion and Lightning will become a valuable member of the family. Afterall, a little exercise might do me some good as well.

See you on the bike path.

... And with the wind at your back, may all your rides be downhill.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Other Duties as Assigned

We’ve all been there … reading the job description for a position we have applied for, or perusing our contracts from year-to-year before we sign them. Within these documents, there is always a list of job duties that one must perform, and at the end of every list there is always the disclaimer “other duties as assigned.”

What does that mean? Are we occasionally supposed to bring a cup of coffee to our vice president? Are we supposed to help students with their homework? Are we supposed to vacuum our own offices after the Christmas party that got a little out of hand – you just can’t trust a bunch of Baptist with free will and a rum cake.

Today it meant that I got to play gardener. Not just go-out-and-pull-some-weeds-and-water-the-flowers gardener, but instead, go-out-and-trim-a-tree gardener.

There’s really no point to this story. But that is what I did this morning because I really have nothing else to work on. But, the tree is trimmed and I can now walk under it without having to duck.

So there …

Monday, May 07, 2007

Deleting post

Deleted the previous post. There are some people around who read my stuff and I don't want to get in trouble or cause any undue tention among people I know.