Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coaching a memorable experience

April 30, 2008

My family has a combined total of 50 years or more coaching youth sports, and now we have the fourth generation getting into the act. My grandson Lance, a student at Kansas State University, is coaching his intramural slow-pitch team and is very enthusiastic about doing it, except for one thing. I talked to him recently and he said, "Grandpa I like coaching, but I don't like making up the lineup card. We have 15 players and some have never played baseball or softball. But we play for fun and they are all schoolmates and several work at the same place."

I can remember back in my teenage years before there was such a thing as little league baseball.

Several of my friends and I got together at Heath Wood Park in Kansas City, Kan., and more or less formed a team. I got my Dad to coach, and that was at the time that the Kansas City Blues were playing in the American Association. Their manager was Dutch Zwelling. Our players nicknamed my Dad "Dutch," and until his death at age 80 some of those players still called him Dutch. We would arrange games with other parks and my Dad would transport the whole team in his 1928 Chevrolet. I will never understand why we never got stopped by the police. My Dad was an easygoing person who never argued with an umpire or his players. Fast-pitch softball had emerged on the scene and many players started playing softball. We put together a team and Dutch was the coach. At about that time the American Legion formed leagues and held tournaments. We put together a pretty solid team lead by Ray Evans, who later was an All-American football player and basketball player at the University of Kansas.

We had several Ward High School athletes, including Tom Lynch, Ray "Bouncer" Kaminsky and Duke Doolittle. Duke was one of the top young catchers in the area. We lucked out with pitchers with Bernard Hollenbeck and his cousin Ray Routh, and Ken Thompson, a standout at Wyandotte High School. We won the state tournament and regional tournament to qualify for nationals in St. Louis.

Prior to the tournament, a coaches meeting was held to make pairings for the tournament. The team from Florida was pitted against a team from Michigan that consisted of all black players and the Florida team refused to play them. My dad stood up and said he would have no problem playing the Michigan team if they wanted to switch opponents with the Florida team. We placed third in the tournament. At the trophy presentation after the tournament, my dad was presented the "Sportsmanship Trophy" which stood 10 inches taller than the championship trophy. This was a well-deserved honor for Dutch.

I coached several years in the Navy, and after moving to Bonner Springs I coached youth sports in Bonner. I also coached The Dairy Queen men's slow-pitch team that was the first team from Bonner to win the Fall Classic at Miller Woods. I said I coached this team, but actually I think they got me for the purpose of making out the lineup. I know how you feel, Lance. The D.Q. team did not need any coaching as we were stacked with all quality players.

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