How A Little League Coach Cost Me Millions



When I was seven years old my family moved from Elkin, North Carolina to Spartanburg, South Carolina. My dad got transferred with his job and we lived there for 2 ½ years before we moved back to North Carolina. My mom, being the good mom she is, did everything in her power to help me meet new friends. We were there less than a week when she signed me up for a local Little League baseball team.


To say I was nervous on the first day of practice would be an understatement. The field was beautiful and smelled of freshly cut grass. The sky was so blue that it hurt your eyes to look at it. It was pristine. But I was a total stranger surrounded by boys I had never met and coaches that had an obstinate glimmer in their eye. It really did not help that I had never played baseball before and they had already been practicing for two weeks.


I met the coach and he just grunted. It was the kind of unspoken communication between a man and a boy that says, “I’m going to see what you are made of grasshopper.” He immediately put me at home plate to see if I could hit the ball. No introduction. No how-do-you-do. No good luck wishes. He spat a stream of tobacco juice and mumbled, “Let’s see what this one’s got.” All activity stopped and everyone stared at me while I walked the walk of shame to the batter’s box.


I am pretty sure that you should not be allowed to pitch in Little League if you have a full beard. He was supposed to be 10 years old but if he was, he must have been genetically engineered in a 70‘s era Russian lab with shadowy lights and bad intentions. The man-child grinned at me like he knew something I did not. Then he muscled a pitch past me like a Soviet missile. It came up and in on me so I flinched a little. OK, it was more like I hit the dirt like a Russian sniper shot me. It was way too close. His beard probably got in his eyes.


I will never forget what the coach said next. His eyes bulged and brown tobacco spittle sprayed as he bellowed, “If he flinches again, hit him!” Hit him? Seriously? I was only seven. My life flashed before my eyes. Granted, it did not take very long, but it was long enough for me to conclude that I did not want to get killed by a genetic freak.


I never played baseball again.


Would my life have been better if I played little league baseball? I doubt it. At that point in my life, I was more interested in climbing trees than getting maimed by a science experiment. I don’t believe in participation trophies or passing the buck. Would I have been able to play in the Major Leagues and earn millions of dollars in front of adoring fans? Maybe. And then again, maybe a unicorn will show up at my house tonight with a pot of gold. Maybe I’ll grow a foot taller and become the starting center for the Atlanta Hawks. Maybe I’ll meet an Alabama football fan that isn’t so annoying that I have to pray for the strength not to punch him in his remaining tooth. 


But my point is that your words have power. They can build up, inspire, and give confidence or they can tear down, cause fear, and crush someone’s dreams. Your words are like tools to shape and give hope or like weapons that can destroy.


The Apostle Paul wrote, Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29) As a spouse, your words matter. What you say is more important than what anyone else says. As a parent, your words are either helpful or harmful. As a boss, you either build your team or disrupt your team. As a follower of Christ, what you say matters. You can either encourage or discourage.


Choose your words wisely. Be aware of those around you and guard what you say carefully. Even for the gas station attendant or the waitress who serves your lunch, your words matter. They matter to others and they matter to God. Remember God’s love to you through Jesus and let your words flow from there. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your attitude and at the way others treat you.


If you happen to see the mutant that threw that pitch at me, then let me know. I have a few words for him. Maybe I’ll just send him a Facebook message instead.