Let me tell you about the last conversation I had with my incredible pitching coach.
It was near the end of the 1954 season, and I had gone to the game at Yankee Stadium one night. The Yankees had won that game—not that it mattered, because they hadn’t been able to catch up with the pennant-winning Cleveland Indians—and as I left the ballpark I was trying to decide whether to take the subway home or walk when Ed Lopat caught up with me. He wanted to talk, and so we headed back to Gate 4, leaned against the railing outside the box office, and talked for more than two hours. Lopat, who had been my pitching coach for almost four years, had some distressing news—a premonition that he might not be with the team much longer, that a trade was probably brewing in the front office and that he would probably have to move on.
You can be sure I was very upset by this. We had had a wonderful pitching relationship, which had started several years earlier when in response to a question I had had about the slider he had taken the time to show me how to throw a good one, and over the next couple of years he had taken me in hand, worked with me and helped me become a better pitcher than I had been before. And now it was about to come to a stop. Then he said some of the most encouraging and reassuring words I would ever hear from him.
He said: “I don’t like the idea either. I don’t want it to end any more than you do. We’ve worked together for the past three-plus years, and we’ve had a wonderful pitching relationship—comparing notes, bouncing ideas off each other, learning from each other, and sharing some laughs. But there comes a time when things have to end, and I’ll probably have to move on. I think I told you that I’ve had this premonition that I might not be with the team much longer, and I’ve had to come to terms with it. But it doesn’t have to end here for you. You can take what we’ve worked on, and you can build on it. You can expand it.” He then added, "You’ll have a lot of good, productive seasons and many wonderful memories to look back on."
I have never forgotten those words. After so many decades I still remember them. And now I share them with you in the hope and expectation that you will, indeed, take this last year of high school and high school baseball, build on the experience, expand it and take it to college or university with you and continue playing this great game of baseball—and have fun doing it. 8) :baseballpitcher: