May 04, 2011
This year coaching at a small private school has been a much different experience for me. Things are for lack of a better word "dumbed" down and simpler, kids don't plays summer ball, and ultimately everything is very basic. However, there are some positives. The kids are great, cultured, ambitious, and eager to learn. Many don't realize or care to become good at baseball you have to work hard at it for at least 6 months out of the year. It's almost impossible to play competitively after only picking up a glove in March and setting it down in June. That brings me to Bill.
Bill is a Chinese foreign exchange student. Hes never played baseball before and has seen very little game film. The kids are required to play a sport or do an independent study at this school and Bill ended up settling on baseball. When I mentioned it's impossible to play at a competitive level only playing 3 months out of the year, then just learning the game and playing varsity baseball is unheard of.
In the beginning of the season Bill was awful. He didn't understand most of the terminology, couldn't translate any of the instructions to live play, and I really thought he was going to get hurt in one way or another. In addition to that he didn't know the rules. But that didn't stop him from trying. One day as I was walking out to a drill with him he said to me "I watched a bunch of training videos last night and I think I know all the rules now." The next day I walked into the computer lab before practice and saw Bill on Chinese wikipedia researching baseball. He may have been bad but it wasn't for lack of effort.
We placed him in the outfield as that gets the least amount of action and nobody expected him to play anyways. Judging fly balls is a difficult task for anyone, let alone someone who has never seen one before. When Bill started he was terrible like everyone else but slowly began to improve. One thing we noticed as he was chasing after balls is he's very fast. As the old saying goes "you can't teach speed."
Leading up to our first game, Bill was an afterthought. We'd try to get him in the game if it was a blowout but at this point we didn't want him to get hurt or embarrassed. During the first game Bill was asking a ton of questions. While he generally knew the rules he had never seen it in action before. For example he knew what the definition of a strike was but he was very confused by the actual strike call. He was also perplexed as to why it was a ball if the umpire didn't say anything. Out and safe, same thing.
Slowly Bill stopped asking questions, which was obviously a good thing. At this point he's actually started a couple games in the outfield. If you would've asked me what the odds were at the beginning of the year I'd say around 10,000-1. He's done a nice job out there, has caught everything he should and certainly doesn't look out of place. It really is an amazing story. It'd be like me going to India and trying to learn cricket. Different language, a sport I know nothing about, and in a very unfamiliar setting.
Perhaps my favorite part about Bill is his excitement for the game. Pretty much every event he sees is a new occurrence. Maybe once a season (April-Sept) I'll come across something and say "I've never seen that before." Every game that happens for Bill. He also is enamored with home runs. If any of our guys hit a deep fly ball he'll start saying "Home run, home run" and if it actually leaves the park he just loses it. It's really a joy to watch.
There's really no point to this blog post other than to tell the incredible story of Bill. Having coached 100s of kids I have my favorites like any other coach and Bill is certainly up at the top of the list. New country, new language, new sport and he's handled it about as well as anyone could. We still have a month left in the season and it's going to be fun to watch his progress the rest of the way. If he ever hits a home run, watch out.
Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.