Turn Back the Clock – Adam LaRoche

April 26, 2017
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During my high school baseball career, I was coached by my uncle and my dad. My cousin, who was in the same grade as me and my best friend, was on the team with me. Today, my cousin is the head coach of our hometown team and has always said that when I retired from the Major Leagues, I would help him coach. So this year I joined him in coaching my son’s team, following our own fathers’ lead, mentality, and influence.

 

Coaching is a lot of fun, but it’s also a completely different game. Instead of worrying about just one guy on the field, suddenly I’m responsible for 35 guys. Now I realize the stress my coaches went through. As players, we would always make fun of our coaches, teasing them about how easy they had it, but I think I now have to go back and apologize. As a coach, if you really care about your players, you are constantly thinking about their swing, their individual mechanics, and their progress, in addition to whatever’s going on in their home life. My entire perspective has changed.

 

We live in a pretty impoverished town. About 50% of the residents in our town are receiving some sort of government aid. For a lot of these kids, sports is all they have. Many of these kids come from foster homes, rough families, or single-parent families. When I coach them, I try to teach them competitive baseball but more importantly, I’m there to love on them and get to know them, paying attention not only to what’s happening on the field, but also what’s going on in their personal lives.

 

This is where sports can be incredible. Sports can give kids who have nothing a chance to be a part of something. In our town, it doesn’t matter whether they are good at the sport or not—many of them may have never played basketball, baseball, or football and yet they’re all part of the team. And even if they’re terrible and never play in a real game, they don’t quit; they stay on the team because they love being a part of something. They enjoy the responsibility of making every practice, being there for every game, and getting on the bus for the road games. This also gives many of them an opportunity to hang around guys that they may never have had a chance to be around if not for baseball.

 

If we, as coaches, can teach the older players to accept those guys who may not fit in perfectly in their group, we can help them realize that they have a chance to change lives forever. They have the power to see the guys who may not have any friends or anyone to care for them, and pull them into something that they can feel like they are a part of.

 

As a coach, I cannot have nearly the same impact that another player can. I know this because I’ve been in both positions very recently. As a player, it was much easier to impact my teammates. Now that I’m a coach, it’s important for me to teach and empower my players to influence their teammates. The seniors need to realize that what they do does not go unnoticed; they have younger guys looking up to them.

 

I loved my high school baseball days. It wasn’t only the tournaments and the wins that I loved, but the long, dirty bus trips and the rained-out days when we needed to find a parking lot to play in because the field was soaked. I loved the challenge of coming up with new tactics and games to play when a curveball was thrown at us, disrupting our routine. As I go back to that stage of the game and I see the balls in awful shape, being used until all the leather is worn off, I realize how spoiled we are in pro ball. Though these guys play with worn equipment, tattered baseballs, and rough conditions, they love every minute of the game. It’s been fun to turn back the clock and enter back into this world of baseball again.

 

—Adam LaRoche

 

Adam LaRoche is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.

 

Check out Adam’s profile on The Increase: http://theincrease.com/author/adam-laroche/

 

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