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

Chapter 2: Annual Jamboree – Game One – College Grove

They felt good as a team.

College Grove was the first of two games to be played in the annual jamboree. Their coach had four players that were the strength of his group. That may have been true of everyone. Terry Bennett was a good coach and understood the game. As they say, “He could take his team and beat yours, then take your team and beat his.”

Marty Jones was going to start the game against College Grove. It would not make a difference in the regular season standings but winning would make a statement about the team. The jamboree was sort of a preseason warm-up. It was also a chance for the hosting community to make some extra money from the concessions sold at the games.

Even though the games were played on Nolensville’s field, the Red team was the visitor. Lajuane Stewart would lead off. After starting with two strikes, he drew four straight balls. That was Lajuane’s offensive threat, those awful base on balls. Marty never moved his bat and followed the lead off batter with another walk. Jimmy Johnson was batting in the number three spot, reserved for the teams best bat. He rewarded the coach’s decision by hitting the fourth pitch over the center field fence. The team was ahead by three without any outs.

Tim “Rocket” Ridley was in the first power spot called clean-up. He wanted to follow Jimmy with a home run of his own but went down on three straight pitches for the first out of the season. Darrell Skinner walked after taking the pitcher into a full count, and stole second during Owen’s bat. Owen hit his third strike to second base and the fielder chose to get the lead runner at third. Frank Ogilvie struck out on four pitches, leaving Owen Brown on first base.

Moving to the bottom of the first would give the team a chance to see what they had on defense. Marty hit the first batter and struck out the second. Their lead off batter was very fast and felt very confident after stealing two bases before the strikeout. There was a set play that was given by the catcher to the infielder. The idea was to make the runner think that the ball was being thrown wild to the pitcher. If all went as planned the runner, thinking that the throw back was going into the outfield, took off for the next base. He was thrown out at home before the second batter was struck out by Marty.

Two outs were in the books before their power hitter got to the plate. Marty walked him on five pitches. The new base runner stole second base. The count was one and one on the clean-up hitter when the base runner broke for third. He broke one of those unwritten rules of good baseball, don’t make the first or third out at third base. Owen had his second assisted out when he made a perfect throw to Jimmy at third for the final out of the first inning.

Alex Langford started the top of the second with a five pitch strikeout, followed by Teddy Hannah’s walk. College Grove did not play defense very well that day and their pitcher was having a hard time being consistent around the strike zone. All nine batters made one trip to the plate that inning. Three more runs were scored spread around three strike outs.

Rocket went to the mound for the bottom of the second. He struck out the fourth, fifth, and sixth batters with eleven pitches. He was enjoying the game.

Jimmy just missed a second home run in the top of the third. Instead, he recorded out number three when the outfielder made an excellent catch at the fence. Jimmy left two runners on base.

Rocket had to depend on his defense during the bottom of the third. He struck out the first batter and then walked the next two. Their lead-off hitter got a double and their base runner scored on a close play at home.

Rocket went back to work and struck out the next batter and then threw out the lead runner at third. That was the end of the scoring. The last inning was plain vanilla. Top of the fourth saw four batters go to the plate with one strikeout recorded. College Grove’s part of the fourth found Rocket striking out the second and third batters and the defense getting the first batter, with team play by the first baseman, Darrell, fielding the ball and throwing to Marty, the second baseman.

They felt good as a team. The older players knew that they had outscored four of the league’s better players. 

Nolensville Red 6, College Grove 1

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

Chapter 1: Pre Season

The higher your expectation the greater your achievement. 

The title on the baseball score book boasted All American Athlete. The man that had possession of the score book was known as Coach. He told all the new eleven and twelve year old baseball players that they could call him Mr. Brown, Coach or Dad. Only one All American Athlete called him Dad and he did not choose to call him anything when they were practicing or playing. The rest found calling him Coach was easier to remember.

It was a new season and there were enough kids for two home teams. Everyone was happy to have that many. Nolensville was one of three communities, Nolensville, Rockvale, and College Grove, that competed with each other and the competition was fierce. Nolensville would have two teams, Nolensville Red and Nolensville Blue. Player selection was important.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin” – Mother Theresa

Coach: Coach moved to the Nashville, Tennessee area in 1969 and wasn’t familiar with Dixie Youth Baseball. His early years of playing baseball in his home town was related to Little League. It wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities that black and white children could play ball together. It was a different time and different place.

There was a league of black adult players that worked out on the old ball field in my hometown of Hamburg, Arkansas on Sunday afternoon. One of the heroes of this town had tried out for a major league team but did not make the cut. The African American team had no problem with Billy Wayne, a white person, playing with them but it just would not have flown the other way around. In fact there was no white young adult team in the town. It was fun watching them work out.

Before Coach had children he saw his first picture of a youth baseball team, in Tennessee, that was listed as Dixie Youth Baseball. He asked the father of one of the players what Dixie Youth Baseball was all about? By the early seventies integrated sports was becoming a way of life. In the middle fifties it was not an accepted practice and every effort was made to keep the groups segregated. The father informed Coach that at one point in time a group defected from Little League in an effort to keep the races separate. His team had a mixture of colors but the name Dixie Youth was still being used.

When Coach became involved with youth sports most of the teams were integrated. That’s just the way it was. Most people had forgotten or never knew why Dixie Youth was started.

Picking Teams

The boys and their parents were secretly evaluated as they signed up for summer baseball. If coaches are truthful they will confess that their selections, all things being equal, chose their players based on the appearance of their parents. So, if you were selected last on your team, don’t be discouraged about your playing ability, just take a long look at your parents. So much for selection strategies.

Most folks would tell you that Coach was in charge. Working with other parents, like him, was almost impossible. There was room for only one such personality on the team. For that reason Coach was the only person choosing players at the team selections. Not to worry, confidence may not be justified, but he felt good about his ability when it came to identifying boys who could play or wanted to learn. Certainly, making a mistake in the draft was the kiss of death.

Tim and Frank were two of the boys that signed up for baseball were cousins, and lived together. They asked to be on the same team. That was not unusual. Brothers are almost always put together. There are even cases where children that live close request the same team. Beware of coaches that suggest that parents do that because of their ability. Especially if both have exceptional talent and will be on that person’s team. These two boys had never played organized baseball before and were late for the draft. When all had been selected except these two boy and two others that were there, the other coach was given the option of selecting the two boys sight unseen or the two that were present. He made the decision that most would have made and selected the two birds in his hands. It was the beginning of a season to remember.

Let The Fun Begin

Both coaches took their new players to the practice field and started their first workout. The two cousins made a late appearance and made the roster official. Coach didn’t want to give any player the idea that a position was his by right but by ability. He wanted to see how they caught and hit the baseball. That was the objective of that first meeting.

Coach lost what he thought was his best selection of the day because of his, “I am in charge,” attitude. The boy was an all-star and his father did not want to take a chance that he would be placed at a position other than second base. What a shame that at eleven years of age he was delegated to one spot. In fairness, the boy was an excellent second baseman then and later. His father’s ego was a match for Coach’s.

The coaches for the teams realized, after the cousins arrived, that one had the arm of a winner. Both coaches smiled but one was not for joy. Tim “Rocket” Ridley would start six games and pitch relief in four more. Good pitching makes or breaks a team. You can’t win without it and have a 65% chance of winning with it.

Practice was fun, all the guys liked each other. Four of them had been team mates for the last three years and were a coach’s delight. They made all the practices and worked hard when they were there.

Lajuane Stewart: Lajuane was small and fast. His glove made him the best shortstop in the league. Lajuane didn’t hit a lot of pitches but he was on base almost every time he went up to bat. He was the first batter in the line-up for every game he played for Coach that year.

Jimmy Johnson: Jimmy was big and slow. His defensive play was excellent. His reflexes made him valuable at third and first. Jimmy also pitched. He worked relief in six games and started three. He knew more about baseball than most of the coaches and all of the parents. His grandfather was a student of the game and Jimmy listened to him. Jimmy’s grandfather could have played in the old Negro League like several of the older African Americans in the community.

Owen Brown: Owen was the only one allowed to call the coach Dad. He was always better than the credit his dad gave. He worked hard and was rewarded with the title of All-Star Catcher at the end of the season. He was a tough catcher and sharp base runner that always made the base coaches look good.

Teddy Hannah: Teddy was strong and fast. He hit from the left side and could steal a base faster than anyone playing that year. He always wore a smile under his hat. Teddy started the season batting last in the order. He quickly moved up to number three and eventually found a home in the middle of the order. His bat speed made him a feared hitter. Coach hoped that he would develop as a pitcher but Teddy only started one game.

Lajuane, Jimmy, Owen, and Teddy were the four players that had been together for the last three years. 

Marty Jones: Marty was a pick up from a different team but was not unfamiliar to the other players. He was a lefty that could hit and field the ball. He played second base, unusual if not unheard of, all season. Marty had been a successful pitcher for other teams but never made an impact for this team. His father was very involved with his other teams and had always worked him at home before the game if he was going to pitch. He confessed the problem and Coach understood. Pitching isn’t easy and those that are successful almost always have a father that works with them every day. Marty started four games and had a part in winning three of them.

Darrell Skinner: Darrell was a small boy that played a big first base. He hit for a good average and was a smart pitcher. He started one game, did relief in eight with six of those as finisher. If ever a player deserved to make an all-star team he did.

Tim “Rocket” Ridley: Rocket’s arm was alive and his bat was solid. Rocket was in reference to his arm but could just as easily have noted his speed. He wanted to play and his energy was contageous. Coach thought he was the most valuable player in the league. He started six games on the mound and took relief in four. When someone else was pitching he took their place in the field. He was the lead-off batter in the All-Star game.

Frank Ogilvie: Frank was Rocket’s cousin. They were a fine pair. Frank played left field and had a strong arm plus a willing spirit. He just wanted to play. Frank didn’t always hit the ball but when he did, oh my!

Alex Lankford: Alex was in a world all his own. He had a “me attitude” in a team sport.

Brad Alexander: Brad had the want-to but needed more playing time. He was blessed with excellent balance. Brad showed his lack of satisfaction with Coach during one of the games by giving him the finger. Coach had his back turned to the dugout and it appeared that he had not seen the gesture so an adult told him what had happened. Coach replied, “If I let him or the others know that I saw what he did, I will have to dismiss him from the team and I don’t want to do that.” Coach liked Brad and when his parents spoke to him about Brad’s behavior he told them why he could not acknowledge their son’s anger.

Derek Pack: Derek joined the team later. He was two or three years younger than the other players. He certainly had the talent to play with the older guys but didn’t always show confidence on the field. He made an impact on the team because of his consistency and team first attitude. The older players took to him like a baby brother. When one of our players dropped out, Derek took up the slack, never letting the team down. Derek and his father were a package deal.

Jerry Pack: Jerry, Derek’s father, loved the game and wanted to win more than most. He was good with the boys and had no desire to be in charge. Jerry spent his time coaching first base. Coach was glad to have his help and the players all enjoyed his attitude. One of the players asked Coach Pack why he always wore the same clothes to the game. He replied, “I do it for luck, as long as we are winning I do not wash them.” The team thought that was funny and asked him about his underware. He confessed that he did wear clean underware to every game. Jerry would become more involved in Dixie Youth and went on to serve several years as district director.

Coach liked to win. His experience with losing didn’t make him a fan. He expected total effort from the team. Everyone wasn’t equal but their commitment should be. The higher your expectation the greater your achievement.

What is contained in this series of posts is, by chapter, the book “Every Coach’s Dream, A True Story about Dixie Youth Baseball in Three Small Towns”, my Dad wrote about one of his favorite baseball coaching experiences. All memories are fragile, but mostly I agree this is a true story. 

The story itself takes place over the course of a summer. The characters are the author, Coach, and the ball players on his team, the teams, coaches, and players we played against, and a few cameos. 

I am sharing this book because I believe my Dad would not have written it if he hadn’t wanted it shared and read. It’s not perfect, but neither was the author, nor his subject matter. It is however timely since my own son has just started his very first season of little kid baseball, tee ball. 

The story is about a Dixie Youth baseball team playing the sport in three small middle Tennessee towns during the summer of 1987.

This post will be immedietly followed by Chapter 1. A new chapter is scheduled to publish each week until you have the entire book, 16 chapters, so subscribe and get the next chapter each Friday morning.

I hope you will enjoy. 

Sincerely, 

Owen W Brown

To the Kids

September 24, 2017

Hanna Elaine Brown is almost a year old. She is less than a month away from no longer being a baby. She will always be our baby but technically once you are one year old you are a toddler. Parenthood. The things you learn.

Henrik Walker Brown turned four in June. The transition my wife and I have gone through, from just the two of us, to a family of three, to a family of four. Life has a different speed, it has more gears. What did we do with all of that free time before kids? The answer? TV. Lots and lots of TV. It’s an easy trade when we think about it. Tee ball for TV. We are both better people. Less selfish in many ways. More selfish in some ways, but in better areas. 

Fall is here. Winter approaches. The temps will continue to drop. Next week we will not top 100 degrees for the first time since probably early June. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas are all right around the corner. Pause and reflect. Take time to be grateful. Sounds very Oprah of me, but in my current status in life I even sort of like Oprah for the first time. Parenthood. The things you learn. 

To the kids. Might sounds a little backwards, but not to me. Thank you for making me and your Momma who we are today. Thank you for the people you will make us into still to come. Forcing us to grow, to learn, to be the people we want you to become. Because you will not do what we say. You will do what we do. 

Love, 
Papa 

Kombucha Part II

October 28, 2016

When you have your basic kombucha routine going, consider taking your practice to the next level.

Secondary Fermentation

  1. Start with one 16 ounce mason style jar
  2. Puree your favorite fruit, enough to cover the bottom of the jar a half inch high
  3. Pour puree into jar
  4. Top the jar off with fresh kombucha
  5. Place the lid on the jar
  6. Let the jar sit, out of sunlight, 48 hours
  7. Refrigerate for a week (or more, will last a long time in the fridge)
  8. When you are ready to enjoy, scrape the fruit off the top, and drink