Editor’s note: The Gazette occasionally runs columns submitted by readers. One such column appears here.
The summer after my freshman year in high school, I played in a Merrimac Babe Ruth league for a coach who would generously be called “fiery.’’ This guy was all in, all the time, and he demanded that we play exactly as instructed. There was no equivocation — we were to compete in a certain way and we could never, ever dog it.
We loved playing for him.
There were several players on that team who were characters. These kids were slightly wild, unencumbered by boundaries and untethered to authority. They were into certain adult-type pursuits and didn’t mind telling anyone who’d listen — even the coach. He just shook his head and laughed.
We respected the coach because early in the season we saw how far he would go to motivate. It was during a second-inning speech when we were down a few runs to a terrible team. Coach had seen enough, so he called us together and began to drop one bit of profanity after another. His angry words fired us up because he was correct. We were getting torched by a bunch of stiffs. I don’t recall the final score, but we came back and won easily. Some of us still laughed about that speech during high school games three years later.
He was constantly strategizing, asking questions. During one of the rides to a game, a panel discussion took place about the legality and fairness of running over a catcher at home plate. Our coach explained, very intensely, that this was a good baseball play. It was allowable under the rules and, if you get a shot to score a run, take it. “The catcher is going to try and block the plate and tag you out,’’ he said, grinning. “So don’t let him.’’ His eyes added, “And make sure you take the catcher out.’’