This past spring, I was asked to run the PACC’s Summer Rec program. I was slightly hesitant, because I didn’t want to take away from what I’m doing here on LakesAreaSports.com. But most of me was very excited for the challenge.
In hindsight, I’d say I was correct in my assumption that it may take away from my writing. But I’d also say that the duties of the 2 jobs will merge quite nicely as I move forward.
As the process evolved throughout the spring, I came to realize that I’d need to fill in one of the vacant Babe Ruth coaching positions. I’ve coached many levels of baseball and basketball before, so that wasn’t a problem. But, I was taking on new duties with other Summer Rec activities, and I wanted to be covering other games and events.
Also, I had been a head coach at various levels, mostly in basketball, but I hadn’t been in charge of a baseball team at that age level (14-15) before.
Nevertheless, I took on the challenge. And I’m so glad I did.
I was able to get to know a large group of ball players, since we had 2 teams at the 14-15 year-old level, and we had joint practices. But I was head coach of the ‘Gold’ team for our games.
In reality, I was more of a co-head coach, as I had a fantastic game assistant in Jeremy Kovash. I’ve known Jeremy a long time. He’s one of the 1st guys I met in Perham when I moved here in 2000 and he was coaching the Perham Legion team. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him, but that respect grew 10-fold this summer. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches in a lot of sports, but this was one of the best experiences I’ve had working with another coach. I learned as much about coaching baseball this summer as the kids on our team learned about playing. The team owes a lot to him, and so do I.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of great coaches stepped up to help the summer baseball program. Joe Johnson was the coach of the 14-15 ‘Black’ team, and did a fantastic job. Coaches James Mulcahy and Kyle Van Dyke were a big part of Babe Ruth practices all summer. Coach Mulcahy is the head coach for the Perham Legion team, and Van Dyke leads the VFW team. Johnson, Mulcahy and Van Dyke are all part of the PHS baseball program as well.
Chris Lund did a great job leading the Babe Ruth 13 team, and Chad Burkman and Marty Benke volunteered to coach the Perham Dodgers Little League team.
All of these guys have tremendous baseball knowledge, and I know our team’s got better under their guidance this summer.
The Gold team I had the privilege of working with was a great group of kids who were very fun to coach. It doesn’t hurt that they were all good athletes with willingness to learn and get better.
After a nice winning streak in the middle of our season, the Gold team finished with a 16-6 regular season record, and a 3rd place finish in the 12-team Timberline League. In the league playoffs, Gold beat Perham ‘Black’ in a close 1st round game, and then knocked off the two teams who swept doubleheaders from us in the regular season, New York Mills, and Wadena. Guaranteed a spot in the district tournament, Gold lost a pair of games to Wadena in the league championship, to finish 2nd in the playoff tournament.
Gold started the District II Tournament with a pair of wins over Walker and Bagley. One-win from State, Gold lost to Wadena, then were knocked out by New York Mills to finish 3rd in the district with a 21-10 season record.
Wadena beat Mills for the District title. Both teams advance to the In-Tact State Tournament this weekend in Cold Spring and Avon.
I was disappointed not to go to State in my hometown (Cold Spring) with these guys, but I was more bummed that my summer of baseball was basically over.
I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the last year. Professionally, and especially personally. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned not to take things for granted. I’ve learned sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone. And I’ve learned to enjoy the moment. All lessons I would have been well served to learn a little better before reaching my 40’s.
In times of change, in times of transition, you look for the good things in your life. Things that create lasting, positive memories. You grab on to those things that make you happy, and you hold on to them.
This summer, and this team, was one of the good things in my life, and they will leave an imprint on my memory that I will hold on to forever. I enjoyed every moment of coaching them and watching them play. They created many positive memories for me, at an important, transitional time in my life, in way’s they couldn’t have known. I’d like to thank each and every one of them.
As I’ve coached and watched literally thousand’s of games over the years, I’ve learned every team, and every season is unique. Maybe I understand that now better than I did with other team’s I’ve worked with, which allowed me to really appreciate each kid I worked with this summer, and it allowed me to really enjoy this team.
I can only hope they enjoyed my presence and my influence as much as I enjoyed theirs. One of my favorite books is, "The Boys of Summer", by Roger Kahn. I'll always think of these guys as my Boys of Summer.