Every Coach’s Dream, Chapter 4

Every Coach’s Dream, A True Story about Dixie Youth Baseball in Three Small Towns, by Harold A Brown

Chapter 4: League Game One – Nolensville Blue

The challenge for him came from within.

The first league game of the season was a repeat of the second game in the jamboree. The big difference was the starting pitcher for Nolensville Blue. 

Nunn Arledge: Nunn Arledge had potential. Often the worst thing a person can say about another is that they have potential. Well, maybe it depends on when and how it is suggested. If you have a player on your team and that is the only good thing that comes to mind, that could indicate something negative. Nunn Arledge was not like that. He had skill and desire. It was all there for the development. Confidence, control, consistency, the three things needed for a good pitcher. Nunn’s coach and his father would help him in all three of those areas. Nunn was pitching for Nolensville Blue, the home team.

Nolensville Red was going to start Marty, a left hander, as the visiting team. It was a Monday night and the game was scheduled under the lights.

Lajuane started the top of the first inning with a walk on five pitches. Marty took the first pitch over the infield and into the gap in left center field. Michael Howell was the left fielder and also possessed the weakest arm of their three outfielders. Lajuane and Marty had speed to burn, and by the time the ball got back to the infield, Marty had a RBI to go with his double.

Jimmy helped Nunn out by taking the first pitch for a strike and fouling the second. The third pitch was more than Jimmy could handle. Nunn had his first of eight strikeouts for the evening. Rocket made him work harder and in the process allowed Marty to steal third and home.

Darrell wanted to be a base runner and showed less patience at the plate. He was on his way to striking out three of his four trips to the plate. He was a delight as a player, working just as hard in practice as he did in games. Marty was blessed with good defense in the bottom of the first. He walked the first two batters but the lead runner broke that unwritten rule of baseball by making the first out at third when Owen, the catcher, threw him out. The catcher’s job is to work with the pitcher and throw out runners that show little to no respect for your throwing ability. Owen was earning their respect with each throw that he made.

Their third hitter stroked a nice single to right field but didn’t take into account Teddy’s bullet arm. He made the second out trying to squeeze that single into a double.

Their clean up hitter walked and Coach made a pitching change. Jimmy went to the mound and finished the inning by striking out their pitcher. When Jimmy was good, he was fun to watch. The score was two runs for the Red team and one for the Blue team.

Owen led off the top of the second inning. With the count full he missed the final pitch for out number one.

Frank Ogilvie: Frank had never played organized baseball before but had the strength and speed to play. 

With a full count Frank’s sixth pitch was a ball four. He stole second base after Alex’s second pitch. The runner isn’t allowed to leave the base until the pitched ball reaches the front of the plate. Frank was alert and made the plays that he was suppose to make. It was clear that what Frank lacked in baseball experience he made up in intelligence. 

Alex walked on five pitches. Teddy was the number nine hitter in the line up. He would become a better hitter but wasn’t there yet. Frank and Alex were both able to pick up bases before Teddy tipped a third strike back to the catcher for out number two. Lajuane was up next with two outs and two runners on base. He got one of his rare hits that trickled down the thirdbase line so slow that it didn’t allow the other runners an opportunity to score. Marty drove the ball to second on his second pitch but Brian Cummings, their second baseman, was able to make the throw to first before Marty could get there for out number three. No runs scored and two runners were left on base. The Red team’s only inning of the game without a score.

Jimmy struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the second and walked Benjamin Holt, a player who was about two feet tall, on six pitches. He then struck out the next batter on three pitches to end the inning.

Jimmy Johnson: For Jimmy it became clear that the challenge for him came from within. He chose not to be a the best student he could be, but excelled at football, baseball and basketball.

This game was looking like a classic match between the hometown teams. The top of the third started with the score still a respectable two for the Red team and one for the Blue Nunn started the top of the third with two strikes. The only problem for him was that the first one was to Jimmy for a double and the second was a RBI triple to Rocket. Their catcher did a good job of keeping the ball in front of him and Rocket was not allowed to steal home while Nunn got the next three batters on strikes.

Lou Ray Grimes started the bottom of the third with a single for the Blue team and then stole second base. A base runner often thinks, and is usually correct, that a catcher’s throw back to the pitcher will give them an opening to steal the next base. With no outs, Lou Ray decided not to make his break on the return pitch back to the mound. Owen wouldn’t give Lou Ray an opening to take third. Jimmy knew that with the count two ball and two strikes, his job was to throw his best pitch. You never want to take the batter to a full count. The batter at the plate struck out on five pitches. With Lou Ray on second base the Blue team sent up their most productive batter. Chris Wince hit the second pitch back to Jimmy on the mound. He showed everyone that he knew what the game was about and got the lead runner at third because he broke for the bag without thinking. He should have stayed on the bag until Jimmy committed the throw to first. Chris was safe at first on a fielder’s choice. Instead of having a runner on third with two out they now had a runner on first with two outs. 

Stealing bases at this age is just a matter of patience and understanding of the technique. When the pitched ball reaches the front of the plate the runner takes his three step lead toward the next base. If there is a dropped or passed ball then he goes. Chris made his break and stole second. Jimmy, for the second time that inning, got the batter on five pitches. 

Jimmy’s Grandfather: Jimmy’s grandfather attended almost all of his games. He was such a humble man and a joy to talk to. He would take his place somewhere around the field and make mental notes about what was good and what was bad about how the game was played. When his grandfather died three years later there was a huge void in Jimmy’s life. Coach’s too.

Often one success leads to another. Derek, the youngest and smallest player on the team, was taking Alex’s place in the batting order. He had all the tools a ball player needed. He was also afraid of making a mistake and hurting his team. Coach hated to see batters get hit by a pitched ball. Maybe it was because at that age he had experienced more than his share of free bases because of that. Derek got hit. Nunn threw hard so Coach knew it hurt. Derek stole second and Teddy got a RBI single. Lajuane had a rare strike out but not before the sixth pitch. Teddy stole second during Lajuane’s at bat and Marty got a RBI single on his first pitch. Jimmy got a single and Rocket walked as did Darrell. With the bases loaded Owen hit a shot into the outfield that scored two runs and left two runners on base.

Brad Alexander struck out and Derek walked. He was on base for the second time this inning. Teddy was on a streak. His second time at the plate found the bases loaded and ripe for the picking. The number nine hitter was in his groove. The second good pitch he saw was lined to the fence. Three runs scored and Teddy was on his way to breaking that rule about making the first or third out at third base. The throw just beat him to third base and that ended the top of the fourth inning. Eleven runners went to the plate and scored eight runs. The youngest and smallest scored two of those.

Jimmy was tired and Coach let him walk the first two batters before he replaced him with the little lefty, Darrell Skinner. With the first two runners already on base, Darrell struck out his first batter. Holt, his second batter, got his bat on the ball and drove in one of the base runners but got thrown out at third because of his greed. The next batter walked. Darrell was getting over his nerves and started depending on his team’s defense. Lou Ray got the final RBI of the inning on a triple but got thrown out at home on a relay from the first baseman, Jimmy, to the catcher. Darrell got the team out of the inning but not before they scored three runs.

At this age a time limit is placed on the games, six innings or one hour and forty-five minutes, which ever comes first. The time limit was checked at the bottom of an inning, the moment the third out was made. If the clock showed a second was left, you had to start another inning. Time could be a friend or foe.

Nunn was through for the evening. Holt would take his place and give the first batter, Lajuane, a base on balls. He stole second. Marty moved him to third on a ground ball to first. With one out and one on, Jimmy had a RBI single and Rocket had a sacrifice to move Jimmy to second base. With two outs, Darrell, the pitcher struck out.

The bottom of the fifth was twelve Red and four Blue. Darrell proved to be best under pressure. He knew that with an eight run lead, all he had to do was throw strikes and let the players behind him make plays. His first pitch was sent back to the shortstop and he made the throw to first for the first out. Darrell got the next batter on three pitches. Nunn, the starting pitcher, hit to Marty at second and he got the assist with a good throw to first for the final out. Success is based on backbone not wishbone.

The team would see Nunn often during the season and that probably made them better. He was a big strong boy that just needed to work on his concentration, control, and confidence. Train to succeed, practice for success.

The real challenge comes from within. How many different ways can it be said? 

Nolensville Red twelve, Nolensville Blue four.

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