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

Chapter 16: Post Season

Part 1: Game One In The Tournament – Rockvale

Youth looks to the future and old age looks to the past.

The league would finish with a tournament. The Red team would start with Rockvale and College Grove would compete against Nolensville Blue. The first two games would be played at Rockvale on Tuesday and the two winners and the two losers would play at College Grove on Saturday.

The first game of the tournament would be in Rockvale on Tuesday night. Pitching would be critical. Coach knew that they would see a lot of Jimmy McCrary. He was Rockvale’s best and had beaten College Grove three times during the regular season. Coach wanted to win the tournament and that is how he would play the games. The team wanted another shot at College Grove.

Jimmy McCrary’s first inning set the tone for the rest of the game. He threw nine straight strikes for three strikeout. Lajuane, Owen and Marty each in their own turn.

Coach took some criticism for starting Jimmy Johnson instead of Rocket but the plan was to win two games not one. The criticism came from Coach Bennett of College Grove. He did the same thing in his opening game.

Jimmy struck out their catcher J. Williams. Rockvale’s sure handed shortstop hit a single to right center spoiling Jimmy’s chance for a no hitter. M. Williams was starting at third and recorded Jimmy’s second strikeout. Chris Burns hit an infield fly that was collected by Marty at second.

Rocket was first up for the top of the second and popped up to first. Jimmy Johnson struck out and Darryl walked. Williams was having a hard time stopping McCrary’s pitches behind the plate and Darryl took two extra bases settling at third for Teddy Hannah’s at bat. He did make a connection but it was caught by McCrary for the third out.
Jimmy was pitching strong and struck out the five, six and seven batters to end the bottom of the second. Have a seat Jimmy McCrary, Paul Burns and Shockey.

Striking out did not make any difference in Jimmy McCrary’s pitching. If anything it may have inspired him. He got the next three batter out in order, Derek, Frank and Lajuane. Jimmy’s no hitter was still possible as he finished the top of the third inning.

Rockvale’s left fielder popped up to first and their right fielder M. Johnson and catcher J. Williams both struck out. Three innings were in the book.

Owen would lead off the top of the fourth with a single that would put a stop to Jimmy McCrary’s no hitter. Marty would follow Owen with his second strikeout but his at bat allowed Owen to steal second and third, putting him sixty feet from home. Rocket was being selective at the plate and found the pitch he wanted for an RBI single. He followed Owen’s lead and stole second and third while Jimmy was in the process of striking out. Darrell didn’t give Rocket an opportunity to steal home. His first three pitches were within the strike zone but Darrell couldn’t get his bat on the ball. The top of the fourth gave Nolensville Red the lead while leaving one runner on base.

Oakley hit a fly ball to Frank in left field for out number one. Jimmy did the rest of the work by striking out M. Williams and the ever dangerous Chris Burns.

McCrary started the fifth with new resolve. He struck out Teddy but gave Derek a hitable pitch that found its way to the third baseman. The throw beat Derek to the bag by half a step for the second out. Frank recorded his second strikeout of the game. Three up and three down for the third time.

McCrary hit Jimmy’s first pitch back to Lajuane at shortstop and he threw him out at first. Jimmy lost his concentration and walked the next two batters, Paul Burns and Shockey.

With runs at a premium, the Red team chose to prevent the lead runner from scoring. Morris stuck his bat out and put the ball in play. Darrell fielded it, tagged his base and sent it home but Shockey slid in under the tag. The game was tied. Potts, the number nine batter struck out to end the fifth with one runner left on base.

McCrary was working hard and wanted to win. He was giving it his best. The Red team was back to the top of their order to start the sixth. Lajuane struck out but Owen drew a walk and stole second. He was in scoring position and only needed a base hit to score and give his team the lead. The bats were there they just needed to get the job done. Marty and Rocket both struck out and left Owen stranded at second.

Jimmy had done his job and Coach replaced him on the mound with Rocket.

There are time when a person just scratches his head and wonders what is going on. Rockvale was at the top of their order for the bottom of the sixth. All they needed was a run to win. Rocket walked the first two batters. Coach didn’t wait, Rocket went to third, Jimmy went to first and Darrell took the mound. Coach hoped that the speed change would make a difference at the plate. M. Williams hit a fielder’s choice to shortstop and Lajuane threw to Jimmy at third, getting the lead runner, for the first out. Chris Burns was up with only one out recorded in the inning. Coach knew what he could do with his bat and called for an intentional walk. That loaded the bases and certainly puts extra pressure on the pitcher. Darrell was into the moment. Coach knew that he was excited but focused. He proceeded to strike out McCrary and Paul Burns to end the bottom of the sixth. Three runners were left on base.

Jimmy McCrary by rule was allowed to pitch the seventh inning because he was the starting pitcher. Coach didn’t think that he had pitched that much before and thought that he could be getting tired. Jimmy Johnson was first up and tipped his third strike back to the catcher for out number one. Darrell struck out for number two. Teddy walked on four straight pitches. Derek walked on four straight pitches. Teddy took advantage of his speed and stole second and third while Derek stole second. Teddy knew that he had the green light for home but only if it was a sure thing. There would be no signal just his intuition. While Frank was up, Teddy saw his chance. He was home before anyone on the field or in the stands knew what was happening. In fact, Coach had turned his back to the plate when Teddy took off. He turned back just in time to see Teddy slide in for the go-ahead run. Rockvale’s catcher didn’t have much of a chance.

Jimmy McCrary had thrown a two hitter and was now trailing in the game. He walked Frank and Lajuane to load the bases. Owen flied to third for the final out.
Darrell walked their first batter and he stole second. The tying run was on second with no outs. Everyone except the players felt the pressure. Darrell went to work. He wanted this victory because he loved to win. He struck out the next three batters and they were on their way to meeting College Grove one more time.

Rockvale had recorded one hit and Nolensville had recorded two hits. Jimmy McCrary’s parents would come to coach after the game and tell him that they were going to bring Jimmy to Nolensville to play for him the next season. Coach was flattered but told them he would be moving up with his son.

The real difference in a good coach and a bad coach is his players. Jimmy was a good pitcher and Coach suspected that his parents did take him to another community to play. Coach hoped that he did well wherever he went, but sometimes parents put to much stock into winning.

Youth looks to the future and old age looks to the past.

Nolensville Red 2, Rockvale 1

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

Chapter 15: League Game Twelve – Nolensville Blue

Life isn’t about saving, it’s about scattering.

Game twelve, against Nolensville Blue, was the final game of the regular season. Teddy would get his first start on the mound. Bryan Cummings would walk but decided to use his speed to steal second base. Owen made a perfect throw to Lajuane at second for the tag and out number one.

Sam Mosley would walk. Oh, those base on balls. Teddy was not giving his team the chance they needed to play defense. Lou Ray Grimes was hitting in the number three spot and didn’t want anything to do with a base on balls. Lou Ray and Teddy were buddies and each wanted to out do the other. On this particular occasion Lou Ray got the better of Teddy with a base hit that scored Sam. Nunn Arledge was batting in the clean up position but was satisfied with a walk. Coach had seen enough and made a pitching change.

Rocket took the rock but walked the first batter he faced. He then struck out Benjamin Holt for the second out. The bases were loaded for Adam Cook. His bat was struggling but he was more than capable of putting the ball out of the park. The story had gotten around about the towering homer he hit at College Grove. Rocket pitched Adam very carefully but the walk he gave up forced the runner at third home. Rocket struck out their eighth batter to end the top of the first. Three runners were left on base.

Bobby Stephenson, the Blue team coach, had a knack for getting the best out of his players. The Red team had won all four meetings between them and Bobby would love to get at least one win before the season was over. This would be his last chance.

Adam Cook would be facing the Red team tonight. Lajuane out waited Adam and drew a walk. Getting that lead off batter on base is always a boost. Owen was more aggressive at the plate and was looking for something that he could hit. Adam was throwing the ball around the plate but Owen was not able to straighten one out for a hit. After fouling two off, Adam won the battle with his first strike out of the inning. Marty hit the second pitch he saw for a base hit. The Red team had runners on the corners. Rocket was batting in the number four spot and he ripped the second pitch he saw into the outfield for a double that scored the speedy Marty Jones. They had tied the score. Jimmy Johnson was a bit more selective about the pitch he chased. He tagged a shot to right field for a single but thought he could get one more base out of it. Benjamin was playing right field and used his accurate arm to throw Jimmy out at second. His single did score Rocket from second and the Red team had the lead.

Darrell walked and Teddy flied out to center field. Coach Stephenson did a masterful job of placing his outfielders.

Rocket would face Michael Howell first at the top of the second. He accepted the challenge by striking him out and then striking out Bryan. Rocket celebrated by giving Sam a free pass. Lou Ray was hitting everything he saw. His single encouraged the third base coach to sent Sam home. Jimmy sent the ball home and Owen tagged a surprise Sam as he slid toward home plate. Three outs with one left on base.

Adam returned to the mound to face Derek Pack and Frank Ogilvie. He hit Derek and then walked Frank on four straight pitches. At this age it sometimes upsets the pitcher if he hit another player. That is especially true if they know each other. Coach Stephenson chose to put Bryan on the mound. Lajuane tripled in Derek and Frank, Owen doubled in Lajuane, Marty doubled in Owen, Rocket doubled in Marty and Jimmy singled in Rocket.

Bryan was throwing strikes but everyone was getting the bat on the ball. Darrell nailed a single, Jimmy singled, Teddy singled loading the bases. Derek hit into a fielder’s choice. The shortstop, Nunn Arledge, forced Jimmy out at home. Frank also hit into a fielder’s that forced Darrell out at home with a throw from the pitcher to the plate. The bases were still loaded when Lajuane made his second appearance to the plate. He popped his first pitch to Lou Ray at first base for the final out of the inning.

Coach was sure that Rocket was playing to his competition. Nunn got on base with an error and Vest walked on six pitches. Benjamin struck out and Adam walked. Rocket struck out the next batter on three pitches. Rocket was proving Coach’s suspicion. Michael walked and forced in a run. The bases were loaded for Bryan. He doubled to right field and scored all three runners on base. Bryan had speed and felt sure about turning that double into a triple. Teddy was covering right field and brought the ball home to prevent a run. Owen took advantage of the strong throw from Teddy with a throw to Jimmy on third for the tag on Bryan and the final out of the inning. The Blue team had pulled within three runs of the Red team.

Nunn would move to the mound for the bottom of the third. He got Owen on three pitches but Marty would single to center. Rocket would double to center and Jimmy would single to right and score Marty. Nunn would get Darrell on three strikes. Teddy got his second single of the game and scored Rocket. Derek flied out to first, finishing the inning.

Rocket would face Chris Wence to start the fourth. One strikeout. Lou Ray singled for the third time in the game. Nunn doubled but Lou Ray was held at third. Vest struck out and Benjamin walked. Adam was up with bases loaded. He could bring the game into reach with one swing of the bat. Rocket was more than up for the challenge and recorded the third strikeout of the inning, leaving all three base runners standing on the bags.

Nunn would come back for the bottom of the fourth. Brad Alexander would work a walk out of Nunn and steal second. Lajuane would walk and Owen would hit into a fielder’s choice that would force Brad out at third. Lajuane got picked off trying to steal second. Marty tripled Owen home and Rocket singled but get tagged going to second before Marty could score.

Jimmy needed defensive help to get through the fifth. He walked batter number eight and struck out Michael, batter number nine. Bryan’s single scored batter number eight, Jeremy Johnson. Chris walked. Lou Ray hit into a fielder’s choice to third that forced Bryan out. With two outs Nunn hit to second for the force out of Lou Ray.

Nolensville Blue 7, Nolensville Red 12

Bobby Stephenson: Coach Stephenson may have lost the battle but not the war. He would take advantage of many more seasons in which he would out score the Red team’s coach. If the victories were all counted between these two coaches you could almost count on Coach Stephenson leading in victories. Bobby had a heart attack several years ago that took his life. Even when death is expected it is unexpected. His leaving left a hole that will never be filled.

Life isn’t about saving, it’s about scattering.

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

Chapter 14: League Game Eleven – Rockvale

See the ball, hit the ball.

Game eleven would be in Rockvale on Friday. Nolensville Red would see Chris Burns again. Within five years Chris would lose his father to cancer. The community would miss Bud Burns. When he left, his value was understood.

Coach changed his lineup hoping that the move would motivate the boys. Chris got off to a good start for Rockvale. He struck out the lead off batter. However, he walked Owen, Marty and Rocket before hitting Darrell and walking Jimmy. All five of them would score. Teddy struck out on three pitches. He was in a rut but Coach would give him credit for his effort. Derek would single and score. Frank, Lajuane and Owen would walk. Frank would score on a passed ball by Rockvale’s catcher. Marty would hit into a fielder’s choice and Owen would be forced at second to end a night mare for Chris.

Rocket would take the mound for the Red team. His control was good but Rockvale went to the plate with confidence that Coach had not seen before. Maybe it was because they had beaten College Grove three of four times and the Red team had lost to College Grove three of four time in the regular part of the season. There is no substitute for confidence and it can be infectious. Williams would lead off with a double and Oakley would single. Both hits would be in the gaps in the outfield. Mike Williams would walk and Chris Burns would double as would Jimmy McCrary. The first four batters would score. Rocket’s control didn’t seem to be a problem because he struck out batters six, seven and eight to end the inning.

Rocket led off the second inning with a home run. Darrell grounded to third and was thrown out at first. Jimmy and Teddy struck out to end their at bat. The left fielder for Rockvale started their at bat with a double, another ball hit to a gap in the outfield. Jimmy Williams walked and Oakley’s triple found another gap in the outfield.

Coach had to stop the bleeding. Rocket clearly had seen better days. Darrell would take the rock and see what he could accomplish. Mike Williams would single but Chris would get on base with a fielder’s choice that forced Mike out at second. The pitching change helped. Darrell struck out Jimmy McCrary and Paul Burns to finish the inning. Rockvale’s first three batters scored to bring them within one run of the Red team.

Paul Burns would start the third inning by facing Derek. He hit the ball out in front of the plate but could not beat the catcher’s throw to first. Paul came back with strikeouts by Frank and Lajuane. This was the only inning that the Red team would not score.

Rockvale made the bottom of the third their most successful inning. Darrell struck out Shockey but hit Johnson. That brought the top of Rockvale’s order up. Jimmy Williams and Oakley tripled into gaps in the outfield. Darrell walked Mike Williams and Coach made another move. He had been working with Teddy and hoped that the pressure would not be to much for him. Teddy was another left hander and had a strong arm. He just needed experience. Rockvale had taken the lead by four runs. Their spirits were high. Rockvale was doing what they needed to do: see the ball, hit the ball.

Chris singled and Jimmy McCrary walked on six pitches. Paul Burns hit into a pitcher’s best friend, the double play. Owen picked up the ball that Paul hit out in front of the plate and threw to Marty covering second base for out two. Marty relayed the ball to first to complete the double play.

All the Red team needed was four runs to keep the game going. Character will show, win or lose.Paul was back after his excellent third inning. He got Owen to ground out to the second baseman for out number one. Marty would walk and Rocket would bring him home with his second home run of the game. They had half of the runs they needed to keep the game alive.

Darrell walked and Jimmy hit a home run to get the runs that the team needed. The game was tied. Teddy was feeling good about himself and halted a nine at bat strikeout streak. His single was a good start. Derek hit to the first baseman for out number two. While he was in the process of batting, Teddy was stealing bases. There were times when Coach wanted to give Teddy a big hug.

Brad Alexander had taken Frank’s place in the lineup and drew a walk. Teddy was carefully watching for a chance to break for home. Coach told him that he had to make the decision without being told. He had speed to burn and surprise was the secret ingredient. He saw his chance and took it. The Red team had the lead. Coach Burns made his move by bringing in Jimmy McCrary to pitch to Lajuane. He walked but not before Brad had advance to third. Runners were now on the corners with Owen getting his second bat of the inning. He had the dubious honor of making two outs in the same inning.

Rockvale came to bat needing one run to extend the game and two to win. They wanted it badly but the bottom of their order was up. The Red team needed strikes and Jimmy Johnson was that man. Jimmy was into the moment. Shockey was the seventh batter in the order and hit a ground ball back to Jimmy and he made the pickup and threw him out at first. The number eight batter was up and Jimmy knew that he would have to throw strikes. The count went to two and two and Jimmy blew the fifth pitch past Morris for out number two. Sometimes the third out is the hardest out to get.

Rockvale’s number nine batter was up. Potts was the batter and he was taking the place of Johnson. Potts had been a starter but had never hit the ball against the Red teams pitching. Jimmy’s first pitch was a strike but his second pitch was a ball. Jimmy was ready for the challenge because he knew that Potts could not hit his best stuff even if he tried. His next two pitches were strikes that ended the game and Rockvale’s chance at winning.

See the ball, hit the ball.

Nolensville Red 13, Rockvale 12

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

Chapter 13: League Game Ten – College Grove

Life is about how we handle imperfections.

The Red team will travel to College Grove for game ten. Rocket could legally pitch again on Monday but Coach just didn’t feel that it was fair to him. The others pitchers would have the opportunity to show their stuff.

Rest didn’t seem important for Mike House. He used fourteen pitches to strike out Lajuane, Marty and Teddy.

Marty went to the mound for his team. Terry Bennett had shuffled his batting order. Keith was still batting at the top of the order and drew a walk. Holt struck out and Mike singled to right center and scored Keith. Lakeith hit a fielder’s choice to Lajuane who stepped on second to force Mike out. Martin walked and Williams singled to score Lakeith. Toby, who had been moved down in the order popped up to Rocked at second for the last out.

Darrell hit a fly ball to center that was caught by Holt and Owen got on base with a single. Rocket had a fielder’s choice that forced Owen out at second. Jimmy was another casualty of Mike’s curve ball for the last out of the inning.

Jimmy took possession of the pitcher’s mound and Marty took Rockets place at second while he went to third. Jimmy faced four batters, striking out three and walked one.

This would be Mike’s third and last inning. He was doing an excellent job on the mound. Derek would lead off with a pop to first and Frank would do the same. Lajuane would walk and Marty would strike out. The Red team just couldn’t hit his curve.Coach wanted a repeat of Jimmy’s last inning. They were still in this ball game.

Jimmy must have been thinking about the soft drink and hamburger he was going to have after the game because he certainly wasn’t thinking about the game. He faced seven batters before Coach pulled him in favor of Darrell. Mike would double, no surprise, he was hitting everything. Lakeith would walk on four pitches. Williams would single to score Mike and Lakeith. Jimmy walked the next two batters and struck out Harris on five pitches. At this point Coach had Jimmy swap places with Darrell so he could pitch to Keith, the lead off batter. Darrell got him to pop up to Jimmy at first to end the inning.

They were still in the game despite the lack of concentration by some. The Red team cut the College Grove lead in half in the fourth. They were within striking distance. Teddy struck out to start the inning. Darrell walked as did Owen. Darrell stole two bases and Owen stole one. Rocket walked. Darrell stole home and Owen stole third and scored on a passed ball. Jimmy walked and stole second. Rocket was thrown out trying to steal third. Derek struck out, putting his team back on defense.

Holt flied out to third and Mike had a rare strike out. Lakeith singled to center and Martin walked. Williams single and brought in Lakeith and Martin. They had gotten back the two runs just scored by the Red team.

Toby and Hazelwood walked then Harris struck out. Frank started the fifth with a grounder to short and was thrown out at first. Coach was glad to see him hit the ball even if it was a someone. Lajuane walked and Marty and Teddy struck out.

Darrell struck the first two batter out to start the bottom of the fifth. Mike singled and Lakeith triple to score Mike. Martin grounded to short and Lajuane threw to first for the third out. The Red team needed five runs to extend the game.

Remember, Lakeith did most everything well in sports but his control on the mound could be erratic. He was still on the mound and the Red team had a chance. Darrell struck out and the odds went down. Owen, Rocket and Jimmy walked to load the bases. The odds just went up. Derek single to score Owen and Rocket. Frank single to score Jimmy and Derek. The Red team was feeling good about the way things were headed. Lajuane walked. The two strongest bats were up with two base runners on and they only needed one of them to score for the tie. Marty struck out for the fourth time in the game. Teddy, the number three man in the order, also struck out for the fourth time in this game.

It was over. The Red team had lost two games to College Grove by one run. The accepted rule is that if you win by one the coach gets the credit. Logic would tell you that if you lose by one run the coach gets credit for the loss. Coach was willing to accept full responsibility for the results.

Life is about how we handle imperfections.

Nolensville Red 6, College Grove 7

In the Year 2017

January 1, 2018

I don’t do New Year resolutions. Not anymore. I make decisions, and those are best made and kept to when the spirit moves you.

I do however find virtue in reflection and expressing gratitude. Here it goes.

The year started out on work leave with Hanna Elaine, born October 21, 2016. With Linda on point with the baby, Henrik and I had lots of bonding time. Threenager moments are a real thing but my memories will gloss over those.

Work was a whirlwind. Third new boss and big boss in about as many years. A progression at work and an upcoming move from our home of 12 years in Maricopa (Phoenix), Arizona to Charlotte, North Carolina. Equal parts terrifying and exciting. Career-wise it is the answer to my question of “so what’s next”.

There were a few trips with one kid or the other to the emergency room. Terrifying in the moment, and for some time after, but someday to be looked back on in pure thanks, the kids survived. Two new food allergies for Henrik, and a very sad heart wrenching delay in visiting Grandparents and family in Sweden while we confirmed Henrik is safe to fly.

Published my Dad’s book and shared it here. Planning a team reunion, hopefully in 2018. Thanks Dad.

Mom visited and we met Chris for the first time. No wonder Mom is so happy! Crystelle and Sol also visited and met Hanna. Family!

Joanie and Meghan visited for Halloween. Great visit! Nobody does a holiday like the Cicchi’s. Oh yeah, we were over at their place in California for Easter too. Did I mention the Cicchi kids are amazing human beings?

Henrik discovered a love for team sports, playing and practicing tee ball, and solo sport riding his new big boy bicycle. Hanna is learning more and more new words each day and on the verge of walking by herself. Both kids are learning so much so fast.

Thank you to my Crossfit Maricopa family for being awesome all year. Scott and Kelly Bradley and their entire coaching staff are legit.

Change scientifically speaking is a natural law. Therefore by law, and by the seat of our pants into 2018 we go!

Owen, Linda, Henrik and Hanna