Apple Pie. Cheeseburgers. The Fourth of July. America. Baseball.
Baseball is the iconic game that has ended wars, cured diseases, given us Babe Ruth, and made it okay to eat sunflower seeds while playing a sport. For those who love the game of baseball for its slow seduction, endless games, home run derbies and steroid scandals, there is nothing better than spending a day at the ballpark. Players know that the only way to excel is to be committed to taking hundreds of swings in the cage, and fielding thousands of grounders (even after you catch one in the groin).
There are countless levels in baseball. It’s like a video game, and it gets harder to succeed every time you advance. Little League is level 1: all are welcome regardless of skill or potential. High school gets more competitive. This is for pretty serious gamers. College is for the advanced gamer who has a headset, multiple gaming systems, and forgets to eat because he is too busy breaching barriers and lighting rings. The best baseball players, though, skip college and go straight to the pros. These guys are like the obsessed gamers who do thumb and wrist exercises, and who go to Las Vegas with the goal of winning gold at the Digital World Gaming Expo. Playing pro ball is a long shot. So is becoming a gaming champ…but at least video games have cheat codes.
Whether you are an eight-year old with allergies who is scared of the ball when it’s thrown to you, or if you are an eighteen-year old phenom with all five tools, you will be have to get used to listening to the sometimes cruel feedback of those baseball experts who came before you. Some of them are bitter old dudes who can’t let go of their glory days. Others are veterans of the game who want to impart their knowledge on the next generation of ball player. That, fellow baseball loving Americans, is the manager.
He's Lasorda getting up there.
If you are passionate about the game, have an obsession for its minutiae, and have a desire to be the Yoda of bunts, hit-and-runs, and squeeze plays, then you are destined to be the skipper, manager, head coach (or any other name you might hear to describe the position). As with most pro sports teams, there are coaching staffs made up former players with particular areas of expertise. There’s Jay “Knuckler” Johnson, pitching coach; Charlie “Bum Knees” Christiano, catching coach; Biff “Big Stick” Baumgartner, hitting coach, etc. As manager, it will be your job to fill your staff with the best combo of personalities and skill sets to make sure that your players aren’t wasting their time spent in cleats and jockstraps (for those bouncing grounders).
The manager’s main job is to win games and keep his players out of trouble. Easier said than done. Can you say Black Sox Scandal, steroids, or Pete Rose? (maybe there are cheat codes after all) Even if everyone on your team plays by the rules, they are human beings with emotions. Emotions that can cause drama. That’s right - drama is not just for middle schoolers anymore! You must be adept at keeping your players happy, focused, and productive. Since you will be dealing with players from all over the world, most of whom were the studliest (sure, it’s a word) ball players in their respective towns, you will need to figure out how each individual responds to adversity. You may want to talk to this guy, Sir John of The Brain.
When you’re not worrying about which pitcher got caught cheating on his wife, your center fielder’s escapades on Twitter, your shortstop’s 11-game hitting slump, or your catcher’s broken thumb, it is up to you to make the lineup EVERY night, or day, depending on when the game starts.
As the manager, you will have to draw on your days as a player to make sure you can relate to your players, but you can’t be too nice. You might have to instill a curfew when necessary and remind the boys not to wear sweatpants when traveling on the team plane. Teaching the skills of the game may even have to wait at times. As with any high status job, the main reason you got into the gig may elude you. But don’t fret, you will get to teach the basics every spring when a bunch of wide-eyed rookies look to become the next Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols. You will play the roles of both fairy godmother and dream crusher when you, along with the General Manager, decide on the final roster.
Whether you are managing the New York Yankees or the Batavia Muckdogs, your job is basically the same. The only difference is that the Yankees pay way more, fly first class, eat gourmet meals, and get superstar treatment. On the other hand, The Muckdogs travel by bus, will pay you in tips from the beer stand, feed you leftover hot dogs from “Free Weenie Night,” and allow you to live in anonymity. Seems fair.
Hot diggity dogs.
You are The Decider. You call the shots. You are the boss. What you say goes…unless the umpire thinks otherwise. But hey, you can always walk out on the field, kick some dirt, throw some bases, and make a Youtube worthy scene on your way to the locker room after your ejection. And that may even inspire your team win one for the gipper (that’s you).