What a little experience and confidence can do
Last night I had one of those experiences that puts your heart in your throat at first, but then makes you glad you’re a coach.
One of my students, a girl named Lauren, told me she pitched again since the last time I’d seen her. (More on that in a minute.) Lauren has been taking lessons for a couple of years but never had much chance to pitch in games. Most of the time it was due to joining teams where they already had established, experienced pitchers, although she missed an opportunity in middle school because she was too shy to speak up and say she pitched.
As anyone who’s coached anything knows, at some point you just have to get in there and do it. This year, on her freshman HS team, Lauren finally got that opportunity. She throws hard, but was having some control trouble in practices that I would attribute to nerves as much as anything. The other pitchers on her team had game experience, but she didn’t have much.
Anyway, I went out to watch one of her games. She was the third pitcher in when her team was blowing out their opponents. She was a little amped up, and a little nervous, and had some trouble. Most of it was throwing high. She was bringing heat — looked to me that she was the fastest on either team — but she gave up a couple of walks early before finally settling down. I was a little worried that a risk-averse coach would decided he didn’t want to take the chance on another outing. Fortunately, that wasn’t true.
She told me she’d actually pitched twice since last week. The first game she got a couple of innings in. She walked a couple to start off, but then settled in and struck out the side, so no harm no foul.
She finally got a start after that. She told me she did well. Her mom, Brenda, however corrected that statement: she pitched a no-hitter. Lauren dismissed it because the team they played didn’t hit very well, but I told her a no-hitter is an accomplishment against anyone. Usually even a bad team has one or two kids who can hit, and even if they don’t some duck snort or ground ball with eyes leaks through.
So that’s very cool. It’s a testament to Lauren and her willingness to stick with it, even in the face of adversity and a lack of opportunity. When the opportunity came, she made the most of it.
By the way, the reason my heart was in my throat was when she started to describe her outings she made it seem like she did poorly. Totally suckered me in with that. I was quite relieved to hear she did well. I fully expect with some experience and confidence in her back pocket that she’s at the start of a long and successful career.