It's All About the Kids: . . . And Other Tales from the Dugout

It's All About the Kids: . . . And Other Tales from the Dugout

by Coach Scooter Stevens

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Overview

Take a journey into the magical yet sometimes complicated world of youth baseball through the eyes of a volunteer coach. It's All about the Kids is a fascinating compilation of fictional stories based on actual events as retold by Scooter Stevens, a youth baseball coach for over ten years. From baseball to soccer, from basketball to football, from lacrosse to hockey, hundreds of thousands of children participate in all types of youth sports across the United States each season. Regardless of the sport the reader played as a child, coached as an adult, or had children participate in, Scooter Stevens masterfully recounts humorous, lighthearted, and sometimes unsettling stories about the ever-present dark side of youth sports. From West Palm Beach to Westlake, from Tidewater to Tacoma, It's All about the Kids will be relatable to any reader who has ever experienced youth sports!


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504968706
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/19/2015
Pages: 504
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

It's All About the Kids

... And Other Tales from the Dugout


By Scooter Stevens

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2015 Scooter Stevens
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5049-6870-6



CHAPTER 1

Scouting Report


Baseball is known as America's pastime. It is a magical game, and little did I know during my childhood that it would have such a positive influence on my life as I grew older. My first memories of playing baseball date back to when my dad would throw Wiffle balls to my sister and me inside our midwestern apartment in 1969, when I was three years old. We would wail at the ball with our plastic bats, much to the dismay of our mom, neighbors, and landlord. Each game we played was filled with so much enthusiasm and love that I could not help but become hooked on the sport of baseball.

Once, when Dad went on a business trip to St. Louis when I was three, he brought a plastic St. Louis Cardinals batting helmet back for me, and I became a lifelong baseball fan. Despite the fact that the helmet was five sizes too big and I had been born in a southern Chicago suburb and was a huge Cubs fan (yes, I know I should be a White Sox fan, being from the south side of Chicago), I wore that helmet everywhere I went for a long time. Decades later, even though I remain a huge Cubs fan, I still have a soft spot for their hated rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, because of that plastic helmet my dad bought for me.

My dad loved to give advice, and like the advice of many fathers, most of it — in retrospect — was right on target. When I was a kid, he told me that baseball was the sport I should concentrate on. He told me I was not going to be a tall man (my mom is five foot two, and my dad was about five foot eight) and that baseball was a great sport because one did not have to be a giant to play.

My dad was a remarkable guy. He was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his left lung in 1941 at the age of three, while living in a small town in Kansas. Back then, being diagnosed with cancer was a death sentence, and my grandmother carted him all over the Midwest in an attempt to have him treated. She eventually found a doctor in Kansas City who was working experimentally with radiation therapy. This doctor was able to eradicate much of the tumor via radiation, and the remainder was removed surgically. In the process, my dad lost a majority of his left bicep muscle and his left pectoral muscle, and he sported a deep scar that ran from his back under his left arm up to his collarbone. He was embarrassed by this scar, but my mom would tell him that he should be proud of it and wear it as a badge of honor. She was right.

Although my dad was not able to play competitive sports much as a child because of his surgery, he loved sports dearly and, along with my mom, became my biggest supporter during my playing days. As I grew up, my dad lived vicariously through me in a loving and supportive manner. Neither he nor my mom, who was every bit my fervent supporter, ever pushed me in sports. They wanted me to enjoy playing whatever sport I chose to play.

My organized baseball-playing experience started when I was six years old as I played peewee baseball in a suburb of a large midwestern city. Our coaches at that level consisted of local high school kids who volunteered to coach. On the first day of the season, all the kids wore the same ugly brown T-shirts and sat in the stands as the coaches handpicked their teams as if we were playing pickup games on the playground. The difference was that these teams were picked for the entire season and not just one game. High school boys coaching five-, six-, and seven-year-old kids seemed like a good idea, as the games were typically played on weekday mornings, and few working dads could coach.

However, the downsides to high school boys coaching young kids were numerous. First of all, high school boys are loaded with testosterone; secondly, many have an unrelenting competitive attitude; and thirdly, most of them enjoy the fine art of swearing — incessantly. The combination of these three factors led to some interesting memories during my first couple of seasons of competitive baseball.

One of my best memories about my first years playing baseball revolves around a family in our league with the last name of Tucker. During one of the team-selection events, one of the Tucker brothers was picked to be on my team. A coach I remember only as Coach Doyle cracked a sly smile when the Tucker kid was picked, because he never called him by his correct last name when he was in the presence of the other coaches. He always referred to him not as Tucker but as — yep, you guessed it — a word that rhymed with Tucker and started with the letter "F"!

Without fail, after Coach Doyle muttered this nickname to his fellow coaches, he would launch into what later became known as a Beavis and Butt-Head laugh with the other coaches partaking in the conversation. I was often around when they called the Tucker kid this name, but I had no clue what they were talking about. For all I knew, it was an affectionate nickname — kind of like Scooter, which was what my grandpa called me as a youngster. Many years later, I learned the truth about Coach Doyle's nickname for the oblivious Tucker kid.

I was raised by the best parents anyone could ever ask for, but my folks were somewhat square and as traditional as they could be for the progressive late sixties and early seventies. My parents, like many who grew up in the fifties, married early, and they had me when my dad was twenty-two and my mom was twenty. My only sibling was my sister, who was two years older than I. My dad worked full-time, while Mom carted us around for several years before she went to work, doing errands in her classic 1960s beehive hairdo and listening to Andy Williams while doing housework. Yes, I said Andy Williams — not the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, not the Supremes or even Herman's Hermits, but Andy Williams. I was the only six-year-old in the neighborhood who could recite all the lyrics to "Strangers in the Night" and "Moon River."

Needless to say, I had never heard the f-bomb uttered before in my home, and it would take a few years before I heard it again and longer still before I remotely knew the meaning.

Despite my parents' milquetoast virtues, they were the best parents ever, and I thank God often that I was blessed with them.

I was thrown the ultimate curveball in 1990, when, six weeks after I married my wife, Shelly, my dad suddenly passed away of a heart attack. One of the few regrets I have in my life is that I was not able to grow older with my dad and that our children were never given the opportunity to know him. Since Shelly and I knew each other for so long before our marriage and she and my dad were close, we often tell stories about him to our kids, who enjoy hearing about him. I know he is here with all of us, but I still have an inner bitterness about his early death.

I was one of the best baseball players in my age group for the first few years I played the game. I had a penchant for hitting and playing first base in my early baseball career. In 1972, my family moved farther away from the big city to a small bedroom community ten miles away via highway — but it could have been a thousand miles away culturally. Fortunately for me, our new neighborhood was loaded with eight-year-old boys just like me.

I met my first friends in the new neighborhood (some of whom I still stay in touch with today) at a backyard baseball game I joined while riding my bike around my new 'hood. I was affectionately known just as Kid for a few weeks until they became familiar with me and remembered my name, but happening upon the baseball game eased the trauma of the move, as I had found a new home with a bunch of baseball players.

My baseball career with my buddies continued at the local town park through the minors division (ages seven through ten), the majors division (ages eleven and twelve), the thirteen-year-old league on the big sixty-ninety field, and then the senior division until I was seventeen. My baseball career was unremarkable, and although I continued to be slightly better than average in talent (I always had a solid glove, but my hitting deserted me around age ten), I became more interested in other things, such as football, basketball, hockey, and the social aspects of growing up.

We essentially had a self-contained town, and virtually everyone knew each other, so the teams each season would mysteriously be made up of kids whose families knew each other and ran in the same social circles. Even back then, politics ruled the day.

Since most of the games were played at night after the school year was over, every game concluded with one of the families on the team hosting the others for a night of socializing at their home. We all looked forward to the social aspects of the postgame gatherings, but after we turned thirteen, the frequency of these events diminished for one reason or another.

The quality of baseball was good, as we had a number of good athletes. The regular season provided excellent competition, but the all-star teams in our league were always mediocre at best when I was growing up. However, in 1999 and 2001, long after I had played, our little hometown organization made it all the way to the Little League World Series, though they lost in the US Championship game in 2001 to a team from Florida. It was fun watching these games on television, as some of the kid's parents were people Shelly and I knew growing up.

I believe I could have been a better baseball player growing up if I had committed to getting better on my own and practicing with more enthusiasm, but one of the things that negated my progression was watching one of my best friends attempt to improve by practicing so much with his dad.

My friend's name was Mark, and he and I were alike in many ways; we even looked similar. Mark was always a little taller and faster and was a better athlete in the core sports of baseball, football, and basketball. While I could tie him in knots in wrestling, thump him in Ping-Pong, or skate circles around him in hockey, he was better at the sports that mattered — in other words, those that had local organized leagues. I attributed his skill in those sports to all the work he did with his dad — work that I did not want to force upon myself. I was content with my natural abilities and preferred to spend time at the pool rather than going to the ball fields for an additional two hours of hitting and pitching every other day. Although I was not aware of it at the time, Mark's parents pushed him consistently to be the best.

During my first season in my new hometown's baseball league, Mark and I played on the same team. Mark was the stud pitcher and shortstop, and I was the first baseman. Mark's dad was the head coach, and my dad was the assistant coach. I vividly remember losing one of our early games of the season after starting out undefeated. After the game, Mark started crying after the last out and continued to cry on the field after the game. Crying after a baseball game was foreign to me, as I had not seen it done before.

On the way home from the game, as I sat in the backseat of our car, with my parents up front, I suddenly had an epiphany and thought to myself, Hey, if my best friend, our stud pitcher, Mark, cries after we lose, then I should cry too! That proved to be a big mistake. My parents asked me why I was crying, and I pitifully replied, "Because we lost." My dad hit the brakes so hard in our twenty-foot-long lime-green 1972 Chevy Impala with the black vinyl top that it sprung me forward into the back of the front seat (this was in the days before seat belt laws). Thankfully, nobody was behind us on the country road leading into our neighborhood. Dad and Mom immediately launched into a stern lecture about how all sports were supposed to be fun. They told me that it was only a game and that if I ever cried after losing again, not only would they spank my butt, but also, I would not be allowed to play again. They went on to inform me that only babies cried after they lost, and when I tried to explain that Mark, our best player, had cried, they responded, "Then he is a big crybaby." The powerful advice my parents provided that night stuck with me thereafter and helped me shape one of the foundations of my playing and subsequent coaching philosophies.

The only time I ever cried after a game again was after the last football game I ever played for my high school during my senior year. We lost in the second round of the state playoffs 2–0 to the eventual state champions. Yes, the score was 2–0, and the only scoring came on a questionable safety in the third quarter. After the game, I was wrought with emotion, and my parents were right there crying with me, as they knew the heartbreak I was feeling after all the work my teammates and I had put forth in preparing for that season. Furthermore, they could not spank my ass for crying anymore, because I was bigger and stronger than both of them.

My football career did not continue after high school despite some interest from a couple of small colleges. I had no desire to play at a college that had fewer students than my high school had. I chose to attend a large state university located within the Big Ten conference as a student only, despite the pleas from one of my high school football coaches, the legendary Coach Vic, to attempt to walk onto the football team.

Lee Corso, of ESPN's College GameDay fame, was the head football coach at the university I was slated to attend at the time, and Coach Vic told me he would not hesitate to call Coach Corso to arrange a tryout. I respectfully declined the offer, as I realized there was no place in major college football for an undersized receiver with good hands and slightly better-than-average speed.

I chose to run track in high school rather than play baseball, as I was faster than average, and I received two varsity letters in track, which would have been three if I had not had my appendix removed and contracted mononucleosis my junior year. In hindsight, although track was a great experience, not playing baseball for my high school is one of the only things I would change if I could turn the clock back to my high school days.

During college and in the many years before my children were born, I became a softball junkie. I moved to California for work right after graduating from college, and during the three years when I lived there, I played four to five nights a week and in weekend tournaments. I was addicted. Softball took a backseat to just about everything but work, although I did develop my travel schedule around games.

My softball addiction continued when I moved to Tennessee in 1989 and when I relocated again to my current home in another southeastern state in 1992. When my kids came along, starting in 1998, I retired from playing softball. I could probably write an entire book about my experiences in softball alone. Those years of playing five nights a week and hanging out with other over-the-hill ex–high school jocks wearing ultratight Bike coaches' shorts, long striped tube socks, cleats, sliding shorts, and numerous knee and ankle braces rekindled my passion for the game of baseball. My playing days officially ended around the year 1999, and the nights of testosterone-laden, meaningless games complete with postgame beer-and-pizza frenzies were now a thing of the past. The next logical step was to move into coaching. The question was when.

CHAPTER 2

A Player Is Born


During the summer of 1998, my wife, Shelly, and I were in our new house, enjoying air-conditioned relief from the sweltering heat of another blast-furnace-like summer day in the South. We had moved to this suburb of a major southern city weeks prior after living in another area of the city for nearly six years. After living in the South for the previous ten years, we had become accustomed to the hot summers, but one thing was a little different that summer.

When we'd signed the contract to build our new house the prior summer, we hadn't known that our timing for closing and moving in could not have been any worse, as it coincided with Shelly's ninth month of pregnancy with our first child. I, like most men, cannot fathom what it must be like to attach what amounts to a large and heavy watermelon to my belly and live a normal life, not to mention going through the process of childbirth. I thank God every day that I am a man and not a woman just for that fact alone.

The clock showed somewhere between noon and twelve thirty on that Friday, when Shelly informed me through a closed door in the bathroom that she thought her water had broken. Shelly and I are both independent-minded people who, like many, probably think we are smarter than the average Joe. We therefore had decided against doing any type of prechildbirth or Lamaze classes, because (1) we thought they were a waste of time and money and (2) people had been birthing babies for centuries without these silly money-grab classes, so we figured we would use our common sense to get through it.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from It's All About the Kids by Scooter Stevens. Copyright © 2015 Scooter Stevens. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

First Pitch, ix,
Chapter 1: Scouting Report, 1,
Chapter 2: A Player Is Born, 9,
Chapter 3: Preseason, 15,
Chapter 4: Now Batting, 22,
Chapter 5: Assessments, 28,
Chapter 6: Welcome to the Diamondbacks, 35,
Chapter 7: Baptism by Fire, 54,
Chapter 8: First Draft, 72,
Chapter 9: Spring 2005, 82,
Chapter 10: Fall 2005, 118,
Chapter 11: Spring 2006, 156,
Chapter 12: 7U All-Stars Summer 2006, 183,
Chapter 13: Fall 2006, 199,
Chapter 14: Spring 2007, 219,
Chapter 15: 8U All-Stars Summer 2007, 270,
Chapter 16: First Season of Minors Fall 2007, 294,
Chapter 17: Spring 2008, 323,
Chapter 18: 9U All-Stars, 360,
Chapter 19: 9U All-Stars Southern State Tournament, 396,
Chapter 20: 9U All-Stars Southeast Regional Tournament, 452,
Extra Innings, 483,
Appendix A: The Manifesto, 487,

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