I Got Ejected Last Night

I got ejected last night for the first time in 13 years.

What I should have said to the umpire was:

I’m sorry Jack, can I have time please?  Hey thanks.  What did you see there?  From where I was in the dugout I had the batter crossing the plate landing in the left-handed batter’s box as he bunted through the ball. My catcher couldn’t make the throw to second as the runner was stealing second.  You didn’t have the same?  I gotcha, maybe you were screened on the play, would you mind asking your partner if he saw something different?  He might have had a better angle on the play.  Thank you, Jack.  

What I did say doesn’t matter.

In life it is very rare that we get the chance to say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, but we should prepare in advance for various scenarios.

The best technique I have come across comes from best selling author Dan Pink.  In just over two minutes, he details a powerful technique for preparing for the worst case scenario, even as we hope for the best.

Pink’s technique might not have saved me last night, but over time it’s a valuable asset to add to the tool box.


Ruin a Moment: Kirk Gibson

We live in the age of information, but that does not always make life better. Sometimes less is still more. We as coaches are trying to help kids improve, and with that mission comes the pressure to provide to our players the latest and most accurate information available. Where does it stop though?  I love the teaching tools available on the internet, but I am afraid that if we aren’t careful, we risk far more than paralysis by analysis; we siphon the joy out of the game.

Let’s pause when we work with young players to make sure the language we choose makes the game simpler, not more complex.

If we don’t, we risk turning a moment as pure as this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U157X0jy5iw

into this:  written transcript below (my apologies to Mr. Scully)

The tying run is at second base with two out.

With a proper two-out lead and an aggressive secondary, Mike Davis should be able to score on a base hit to left field.  Stan Javier after all, who came on to pinch run because of his 6.6 speed only has a 40 arm in left field. Remember, he defied Sabermetricians everywhere by stealing second base with a left handed hitter at the plate, that he used a drop step and not a crossover not to be overlooked.  He needs to be mindful of dirtball reads.

The count 3-2. Just a note, this does not mean Gibson should shorten his swing, gone are the days of choke and poke.  He is paid to hit home runs and this is time he must stay in his lane and hope to ambush Eckersley’s slider.

Gibson steps in trusting the process staying true to his routine.

Calls time, remembers to breathe and make sure his mind is right.

Gibson steps waaaaay out of the box, surprised the homeplate umpire Doug Harvey doesn’t make him keep one foot in, kids on their iPhones are leaving the game of baseball in droves after all.

Sax taking a mental at bat on deck, but the game right now is at the plate.

The 3-2 Pitch . . . Gibson shifts his eyes from the bill of Eckersley’s cap to a square somewhere over his right shoulder . . . gets his foot down early . . . Thank God he’s trying to swing up and hit the ball in the air, achieves the proper launch angle of 26 degrees and whammo . . .

She is gone!  Exit velocity an impressive 94.3 mph!

(crowd goes wild)

In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.  Gibson has wasted the ultimate opportunity to flip his bat!

To Win: Take it Seriously

There are countless explanations for winning. Here’s one that often goes unspoken: taking the game seriously.

I was reminded of this truism last night after a family dinner out.

A torrential rain storm held us inside a little longer before our dash to the car, when my two kids spotted that classic toy claw/grabber/crane game. The prizes, I later learned, were called knobby balls, different-colored squishy orbs dotted with “spikes.” Amazon describes them as having a cool, bumpy, and tacky texture so as you can imagine, a lot was at stake.

My son Joey took his shot first, $.50 cents seeming like just the right price for good clean fun between rain swells.  In a blur of zeal and premature celebration, his mission failed when the crane’s grip gave way on its journey from the back right corner to the front left prize shoot.

Next up was my three-year-old daughter Charlee. It’s safe to say that she did not have a plan, and although her forage turned up empty, it was a pure joy to watch.

It was my turn.  My son cheered me on.  My daughter clapped and yelled.  They urged me to attack the game.  Instead I held the coins in my left hand while I surveyed the landscape. Only now do I realize the scope of my uncoolness in retelling this story.  I have always wanted to be the impulsive guy.  The leap before you look guy.  The fire the quarters into the slot and figure it out along the way guy. I have always wanted to be cool.  Being cool from a distance, appears to be a mysterious mixture of not caring and looking like you don’t care. In other words, someone other than me.  Before I inserted the money, I examined the topography, assessing which ball’s bumpy tacky texture was most exposed, identifying which ball would allow its circumference to be engulfed completely by the claw.  I looked head on and from the side.  This didn’t do wonders for my children’s momentum, but this wasn’t enjoy the process, this was seek and conquer.

The game clock allowed a generous 30 seconds to select your coordinates (perhaps its creator was uncool as well).  In that time I was able to locate the yellow target I had scouted before, and adjust the claw ever so slightly to get its plunge angle just right.  By the time I hit the dive button, the results were a forgone conclusion.  The ball was coming home with us.

The claw’s journey back was mostly uneventful, save for the aggressive last upward surge that has crushed the dreams of many a child.  But the crane arrived with ball in tow above the slot and dropped its bounty home.  Joey leaped and fist pumped.

If you are a parent reading this, you see the problem. Two kids, one ball.  While my son was fist pumping, my daughter was lower-lip pouting.  My wife started to explain that one ball could be shared between the two of them, a practical solution that pleased most of me, but tonight I had to erase that notion. This game had become more serious than sensibility.

“Take the kids and run to the car,” I said, handing her the keys. She eyed me and nodded, knowing what was coming. “I’ll be back with another ball.”

I knew what winning looked like, and I knew what winning required. I plotted and planned just as before, and with a determination fueled by a vision of my daughter’s smile, I apprehended the green ball.

In the midst of an amazing summer, it’s difficult for me to remember a moment I enjoyed more than what my wife would later call “an exaggerated look of fake dejection” before surprising my daughter with the ball.

If you are thinking this is a hero’s story, I don’t blame you.  But it’s easy to lose sight of the how in the glow of my two kids.  The why was obvious.  But it’s often the how that tells the story.   I took the game more seriously than the dad who failed before me.  He had the cool. I had the plan.  He had more fun during, I had more fun after.

It’s often uncool to take things more seriously than others.  It’s a game after all, the world will tell us.

A game for certain. I am just not sure that I can convince my kids that I was uncool last night.



Day Two

Day two is more difficult than day one.

Day one has the better agent.  It’s celebrated as glamorous, as starting something special. It’s New Year’s Day.  It’s the start of a workout.  It’s putting ourselves out there.  It’s going public.  It’s becoming vulnerable.

Day one is an audition.  We have reached the threshold.  We can no longer hold back. Something has to be done.  We vow to change, and we do.

Then the world kicks our ass.  The results are not what we imagined. Six-pack abs do not appear.  No one throws us a parade for our brilliance.

But some people show up for day two anyway.

Day two is soreness.  It’s silence.  But it’s how we let ourselves and the world know that we are serious.  If we ever hope to get to consistency, day two is the vital day.

Everyone is excited to begin on January 1st. What does January 2nd look like?

We have collected countless day ones in our lives; many sit dusty on our shelves. It’s time to pick one up, dust it off, and turn it into a day two.




On Stealing Home Between His Legs

On Stealing Home Between His Legs

This morning I tweeted:

   I might start a blog that begins with a breakdown of this play.

So I am going to try something new.  Instead of veiling a sincere thought as a joke, I am actually going to create the thing. Channeling my inner Art Williams you could say.

Here is the 7-second play that sparked this blog.

My 7-second take: the play is awesome.

Here are 604 additional words on the play:

You and I have been around baseball for a long time.  We are fond of saying every time you go the ballpark you see something you’ve never seen before, but what we often mean is I’ve seen it all. And make no mistake, many of us have seen this play before in one form or another, yet this clip has collected over 4,000 retweets and 6,000 likes.  People other than Mike Rooney are surprised and delighted by it.


Because even though many baseball “purists” hate change, seeing this coach defy the status quo is thrilling. To call this play is to think about a different way to score a run.  To call this play is to take a chance that this might not work. To call this play means to explain its merits to skeptical kids.  To call this play is to practice this play, right down to the catchy signal from the third base coach. To call this play is to allow yourself and your players to have fun with the game.  In other words, to call this play is hard.  And some people don’t go for that.

I cannot let the play get off unscathed though.

A perfect summer-baseball storm allowed this to happen.

  • The left-handed pitcher facing away from the runner and the excited third-base coach (sadly not pictured).
  • The pitcher in the full windup, his journey from start to finish timed most accurately with a sun dial.
  • The high fastball tailing away just as our little league coach Mr. Lofland promised, because as everyone knows Tommy has that natural lefty tail on his ball.
  • The batter remembering the take sign so as not to decapitate the runner a’la so many Tom and Jerry cartoons.

These ingredients yield you no less than a successful play, a coach who feels like a genius, a giddy fan base, and a viral vine on the internet.


I’m going to need a better prep step out of the short stop. Great kid, I just need you here.

Bless the second baseman‘s heart.  He sees it coming.  He jogs it in to the infield grass. He even puts the right hand on the hip to show obligatory frustration.  Too little, too late I’m afraid, but points earned nonetheless.

The batter.  The dude sells it.  Notice the bat waggle before the pitch arrives.  This kid has swag, but my guess is that he adds a little extra on that pre-pitch routine for the occasion. He takes the appropriate stride to open the legs. He stands tall.  He lets the magic happen. He almost earns a perfect ten here.  But life is not fair, and penalties must be assessed.  No tag is applied.  Why does he look at the umpire so hopefully?  You’ve practiced this play dozens of times a day for years to arrive at this moment. You are about to go viral young man. You know he’s safe. No umpire is going to take this away from you and the proud father screaming “yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”  Speaking of. . .

The yell. This man is flat-out tickled.  As junior is sliding head first into Bleacher Report folklore, this man has made peace with whatever fee he has paid for his son to play summer baseball.  Tonight he will have a cold beverage of his choice smiling at what a great job (insert coach’s first name here) has done with the boys.  The lack of shade and proper bathroom facilities for spectators will no longer matter.  Bring your own chair?  A small price to pay, he’ll think.  Today my boy slid through someone’s legs to score a run.