Don’t get too excited by the title of this column. I know some of you were probably ready to help me pack, load up, and ready to chip in for gas for the U-Haul. Unfortunately for you, I am only retiring from coaching youth sports. For me, frankly, this is a really big deal — a huge part of my life, and a big part of who I am.
I first started coaching coach-pitch in Newburgh, Indiana, for my brother (miss you buddy) Brandon’s team in 1982. That season was remarkable, primarily because there was a pint-sized kid running all over the field grabbing every ball and making good accurate throws to first base (where no one could catch it). When I would pitch underhand, while others struggled mightily, this kid was hitting rockets all over the diamond. That youngster was Jamey Carroll, who played 12 seasons in the major league (he was released from the Washington Nationals earlier this year). I doubt if he is giving me any of the credit. His older brother Jason and father Larry taught him well. Brother Wes said it was the constant playing in the neighborhood and practicing with his older brothers’ team for two years. As coach of the University of Evansville baseball team, I will take his word for it, when he calls it “learning awareness.”
Another fun coaching stretch was returning to Newburgh Elementary School (Go Wildcats!) and helping as an assistant basketball coach for then fourth graders. The coach was a sixth grade teacher and was just getting his feet wet officiating CBA Basketball across the country. Watching him progress in his career was fun and in 1988, Ted Bernhardt began a nearly 20-year NBA officiating career. Many will associate him with the infamous Dennis Rodman head-butting incident. While fun to remember these two, the best memories will be the hundreds of kids who I have had the opportunity to meet along the way.
Coaching kids is the perfect opportunity to teach children life lessons through sports and even remind yourself of a few things along the way. I have seen kids, parents, officials, and myself at their best and worst of times, and met outstanding young men of great character.
With my youngest son turning 13 this summer, it is now time. My oldest son, Max, is spending his summer helping to manage the baseball grounds and concessions. In my opinion, there just isn’t any better family atmosphere than a Little League park or grade school gym. I am more than ready for the view from the bleachers with a bag of popcorn and still silently saying “get back on defense” or “watch the ball all the way in.” I honestly don’t know that I will ever be able to do anything as impactful as hanging out with a bunch of good kids and I know I will miss saying “c’mon boneheads, let’s get some runs.” But … it is now time.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker