For the next six innings coach and I talked about all things baseball. I picked his brain about the best players he'd ever coached and about what sets players apart in his eyes. "Steve Carlton" he said, "was the best pitcher I ever managed. His slider would start in the middle and hit a righty in the jock. Only problem was he'd swing at it too." We watched a double get slapped into the right center gap and the pitcher saunter over to third base to fulfill his duty backing up the play. Coach whipped his head around and took off his cap as if to say something really serious. He said "Collin, when you back up bases, you run. Don't jog. Don't half-ass it. Get as far back as the park let's you and haul ass there. There is always someone watching you, and let's be honest, there ain't a whole lotta difference between one guy and the next. That could be the only thing you do better than the other guy. So do it."
We got to talking about Sandy Koufax. "Koufax," he said "made pitching nothing more than a physics problem." He said that the old lefty would cut out all the variables that could disturb a delivery, so that he could repeat the simplest form of a pitch every time. From his hand placemet on the ball to his foot placement on the rubber, everything was simple. Coach Bristol asked me to watch his stuff while he went out for a second. Next thing I knew he had placed a book down in front of me and said "read the first chapter." I was torn. I knew that I needed to watch the game and chart, but I was fascinated with this man's knowledge. He could obviously see the struggle going on in my head because he said "I underlined the main parts, I'll make sure the coaches aren't looking." This guy is awesome! Sure enough, I read the chapter and put the book back down saying "I gotta get this book." Coach chuckled and said "Ya, there's no way you comprehended half of it. Go out and buy it. It'd be worth it."
The seventh inning rolled around and the game was tight. Coach began to gather his things to leave. "I got a two hour drive back home. You gotta cell phone?" I pulled my phone out. "Take down my number and give me a call when the game's over. I wanna know who won." So I got his number (i'm married. these are the only numbers i get anymore) and told him of course i'd call him. He shook my hand and said "Well this was fun, Collin. Good luck. You'll be great!"
We lost 7-3. At least we agreed on one thing, though. I will be great.