At the end of an undefeated season, my nephew’s baseball coach of three years, Coach Frank, pulled me aside last June. He expressed his concerns that Courtney hadn’t progressed much over the past year. My boy was making good contact; but he wasn’t shifting his bat when he swung and the ball would drop in the infield. During the summer season, he didn’t pitch often because he was attempting to place the ball as opposed to throwing it over his shoulder and putting his body into it.
Courtney had a decent summer season in 2015 and began to show signs of his potential. Playing with a competitive travel team is much different than little league. I told my boy going into that summer that he would no longer be playing against just the best in his neighborhood; but the best in all of their respective communities.
He participated in winter workouts. I didn’t attend many of them but I would take Courtney in the back yard and practice pitching with him. We wouldn’t go inside until he could throw three outs worth of strikes over home plate. He still placed his pitches a little; nonetheless, he was getting better.
When the spring season started, my guy rose to the occasion. Playing in a new division, he led his team to the championship series. At the top of the sixth inning, the Baldwin Red Sox were down by one run. The opposing team loved to cheer very loudly and one of the mothers would pull out an air horn when they scored. The Rockies spent most of the game losing and as soon as they were in the lead it got obnoxious.
With all of the passion in the world, I told the boys to shut that team up. I wanted the Rockies to hear me. At the top of the last inning, my nephew hit an RBI that put our team in the lead. I looked at one of our other coaches and told them to let Courtney pitch. He had been lights out all season and we don’t want to have to play a second game. My nephew took the mound and struck out the side: three outs in nine pitches for the win.
We celebrated for all of four days and it was time to get ready for summer travel ball. Courtney had a decent summer. Towards the end of the season, I showed him how to throw a second pitch, a split-finger fastball—a fastball that drops as soon as it reaches the plate. His arm got vicious.
By the end of the summer, I would warm up with him by throwing the ball as hard as I could without injuring my shoulder. He could hang without dropping the ball or being scared of it. As I previously wrote, when he practiced with the 12 year old team, he outplayed everyone.
Slowly but surely, everyone who watched my nephew play baseball noticed his talent. Anyone who saw him recognized that he was hands-down the most talented player on the team.
My nephew started the summer season as the number five batter in the lineup. He had a little of a slump and dropped to number six towards the end of the season. For those who do not know, the three, four, and five batters are the heart of your lineup. The third batter has the highest batting average, the fourth is the slugger, and the fifth is the other power hitter. Batters six through nine are the lesser hitters; but six is still a decent hitter.
When the fall season started, Courtney continued to progress. By October, my nephew became the number three batter in the lineup. He ended the season with a .750 batting average, .775 on base percentage, and didn’t strike out all season. He twice was one hit short of completing a cycle, ending the season this Sunday with a two-run homer.
I told my nephew last year that while he loves basketball, baseball should and would be his thing. He didn’t believe me and didn’t want to listen. As of now, all he wants to do is play baseball. He always has a glove on and when he has free time, he’s playing MLB the Show. As of now, he can throw three pitches well enough to utilize them in a game.
…He’s come a very long way from that conversation I had with Coach Frank sixteen months ago and I’m very proud of him.