Time Out: April 17, 2013

Almost 40 years of coaching high school sports have seen the most unlikely scenarios. None matched the late inning decision-making at Wednesday’s baseball game between Margaretville and Roxbury.

It was the top of the sixth inning with Roxbury at bat when Margaretville physical education teacher Tracy Reither approached the bench with a sense of urgency in her step. Tracy reported that the spring music concert was about to begin and the band director needed two of the guys on my baseball team.

At the time, Margaretville had an 11-3 lead in the game. Our Blue Devils roster has only 11 players. One got a late start to the season and lacked the number of practices needed to play. Another had already substituted into the game. That meant only one guy was on the bench and if I reentered him into the contest, he would be required to take the place of the player who had earlier replaced him, sending that guy to the bench.

Following the rules
Baseball is a sport governed by rules, rules, and more rules. I must confess a lifetime association with the game has not taught me all of them. I did know you need nine position players to start a game. I also knew that after the game had started, if one player was forced to leave a game for some reason, a team could continue with eight men on the field. Should that number be reduced by one to seven players, I also knew the game would be declared over and the shorthanded team would lose by forfeit.

When the top half of the inning ended and our guys huddled I asked perhaps the most unusual question I’ve ever asked a sports team. “Which one of you two is more valuable to the music program?” I asked Cooper Reither and Dan Conroy. Reither plays the drums and Conroy the sax. It was decided we would send the drummer and finish the game with eight players, and Conroy manning third base.

Making it special
Nobody ever said coaching high-school sports is glamorous. The hours are long, the duties are longer, and often more criticism than appreciation is directed your way. But, this dilemma was a first. Joe Torre never lost Bernie Williams to a guitar-playing gig.

Actually Wednesday’s scenario is exactly what has always attracted me to small-town schooling. Schooling in our Delaware County schools is not compartmentalized and specialized as it is in larger districts. Yes, we don’t have the Advanced Placement courses and the same academic options that upper crust students in large districts might enjoy, but our kids can do everything. Sports, drama, music, yearbooks…the extracurricular opportunities abound and are available to everybody. It’s great that baseball players play instruments in the band, in fact, I wish more did.

Extracurricular participation is a part of a students profile and makes a statement about your energy, initiative, and ability to work collaboratively as part of a team. Parents are amiss if they don’t encourage and support their child’s efforts to take advantage of these opportunities. When kids do, conflicts are bound to arise. That’s when teamwork really matters.