I went to a family cookout recently and there were some friends that were invited by other relatives. As would have it, the word got to someone that I was a pitching coach, so a conversation started about baseball and coaching.
As we were exchanging stories, one of the guest said that during a tryout one year he casually asked one of the youngsters who he thought was the best ballplayer of all time. Without hesitation the youngsters said, “ it’s me, and your @!#* lucky to have me!”
Everyone that was listening remarked, one after the other, “ what a smart *** “, “ kid’s got a lot to learn about humility”, “ I’d cut him on the spot”, and so on.
The conversation then drifted around in between sips of beer and a hot dog or two, but the man that had the story of the “ it’s me …” never did finish his story.
I waited around the picnic bench where the man was sitting, while people got up and mingled. My curiosity got the best of me, wondering what happened to the youngster with the gear to answer a coach like that. And the old man could tell.
“You want to know what happen to the kid, don’t you”, he asked while sipping of his beer.
This is what happened. “The kid was good, no doubt about it. Not overly talented, but good enough to play some decent ball for the level.” he said.
When I asked if the young man made the cut, he shook his head while smiling and told me that he was so preoccupied with the kid’s gutsy attitude, that he really didn’t pay attention to a lot of other kids on the field, like he should have. “ I ball-parked it here and there for most of the team, but that darn kid stuck in my mind. He turned out to be a pretty good ballplayer “
When I asked him what position did he play, I was told the young man was a catcher.
Come to find out the man only coached one year, trying to fill in for a church league team. And, knowing that I was a pitching coach, he asked what would I have done.
I said…” I’d get a ball and have the young man sign it, then take a picture with the two of us”. Someday, that young man is going to be somebody … either governor or doing fifteen to life. In any event, I want proof that I knew him when!