Archives For baseball

Girls of Summer Series

Friday night was the kind of night that every baseball fan dreams about. After a brief bout of showers about 20 minutes prior to the 7:05 p.m. first pitch, the clouds parted and it was as if God declared, “Let there be light…and a gentle breeze…and a crack of the bat…and soft serve ice cream…and, finally, toss in a good-hearted heckler to top things off.”

Werner Park and the Omaha Storm Chasers did not disappoint. Despite the home team falling to the visiting New Orleans Baby Cakes 13-2, my daughter and I got to experience everything I hoped we would.

 

Heidi and Jaycee

To start the night off, former MLB catcher and first basemen, Mike Sweeney, signed autographs and gave an interview that was broadcast for fans to watch on the stadium’s big screen during pregame warmups. Two things he said that really resonated with me:

First, he quoted Pope Benedict XVI by saying,

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

What a wonderful statement for children and adults alike to hear from a Hall of Famer!

Secondly, he spoke about an unwritten rule that he has for the Little League players he coaches. If one of his players gets plunked by a pitch in a game, that player’s mom or dad needs to buy him ice cream. If that same player doesn’t cry after getting plunked, that ice cream better have toppings. If the parents don’t oblige by that rule within 24 hours, they aren’t allowed to come to the next game. (Incidentally, I have a rule that my softball girls will earn a pack of gum anytime they get hit by a pitch and don’t fuss about it. Glad to know I’m on the right track!)

Autograph signing

Mike Sweeney bobble head

Sweeney played his first 13 seasons in the Majors with the Kansas City Royals, so it was really cool to see him make a return visit to Werner Park, home of the club’s Triple-A Affiliate.

Speaking of Werner Park, what a place to be with a nine-year old kid! I could go on and on about all of the amenities the place has to offer, but let me just summarize everything by saying…I MADE IT 8.5 INNINGS BEFORE MY DAUGHTER WAS READY TO LEAVE!

Below are some highlights from the Centris Family Fun Zone, a special area of the park specially built for young fans.

Rock Wall

 

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Needless to say, we’re looking forward to catching another game on May 25 versus Round Rock. And because the next game will be a Friday night home game, all fans will be able to watch the skies light up as part of a post-game fireworks show.

The Omaha Storm Chasers approached me and other mom bloggers to provide sponsored content to raise awareness of their organization. I would like to thank Marketing & Promotions Coordinator, Andrew Asbury, for giving me this opportunity.

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I am on my second summer coaching my daughter and her teammates in fast pitch softball. Although summer is the season when the actual league and tournament games occur, there are several months of off-season practice that go into this commitment as well.

After spending so much concentrated time together, I can say with utmost certainty that I am learning as much about how to play the game as they are – because I am experiencing it all over again through the eyes of 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds.

A sport (or really any endeavor) that involves 3/4 of the year HAS to be enjoyable for kids and adults alike in order to stick with it.

Parents tend to view the duration of their kid’s playing days as a sign of success – the longer their son or daughter competes from the time they are toddlers until the time they are young adults, the better.

For an athlete, the length of their playing days has everything to do with talent, drive, and (I’d argue most importantly) an innate love of the game. The older one becomes, the higher levels of competition they’ll inevitably face, the bigger the stage gets on which they’ll play, the harder it will be to mentally and physically stay in the game.

I’d argue then that the greatest sign of success is an athlete playing the game they love for as long as they can.

My family and I live in Nebraska in a suburb that is adjacent to Omaha, the state’s largest city. While Omaha doesn’t boast a professional baseball team, it does host the Omaha Storm Chasers – a minor league team and Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

These players who don the blue and gold jerseys are hardworking men who are pursuing their passion every time they step foot on the field. I’d imagine that game time is one of their most favorite times.

My daughter and her teammates are just starting to understand that the time you invest in practice really can pay off in games, little by little. There is no fanfare in taking batting practice or hitting off the tee indoors when it’s freezing outside. It’s rarely fun to take grounders or work on cut-off throws when the peak of summer temps are weighing you down.

I think every young athlete should be given the chance to watch an older athlete in order to dream about possibilities ahead. To remind them that hard work CAN pay off.

In order to help celebrate the franchise’s 50th season, I am looking forward to spending two nights with my daughter at the Omaha Storm Chasers’ family-friendly stadium, Werner Park. Tonight will be game 1, followed by game 2 on May 25. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with my budding ball player.

I hope you enjoy reading about the memories we’ll be sharing together.

The Omaha Storm Chasers approached me and other mom bloggers to provide sponsored content to raise awareness of their organization. I would like to thank Marketing & Promotions Coordinator, Andrew Asbury, for giving me this opportunity.

Sharing Wisdom Series

A friend of mine shared a video recently that I’ve since seen circulated on several online platforms featuring St. Louis University High School baseball coach and Coach Baseball Right Founder, Steve Nicollerat. Once I watched (and shared) the video myself, I knew I had to reach out to Steve to introduce myself.

Here’s the 2:24 min video that every parent of a developing athlete should watch.

In it, Steve implores parents (many of whom appear to be dads) of youth baseball players to not allow our current sports culture to dictate what is right and wrong in terms of the total number of games that need to be played or to be pressured into early sports specialization.

Having two boys of my own as well as a daughter who all enjoy playing the game of baseball and softball, respectively (along with several other sports), I believe so strongly in Steve’s message. I see this window of time when they are actively engaged in sports as very narrow in the grand scheme of their lives and I’ll be damned if I don’t do everything in my power to help them enjoy every minute of their experiences.

I asked Steve if he’d be willing to help me kick off a new series, Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives, and he generously obliged. In the coming weeks, I will continue to share insights and guidance from many coaches whom I personally respect.

If you like what you read, please visit each of these coaches’ online platforms (if applicable…some are old school and prefer to maintain communications offline) to learn more about their individual philosophies. Reach out to me with questions or thoughts in the comment section below or by contacting me directly.

Without further ado, I bring you the first installment of Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives…

Q1: What is the single greatest attribute a young athlete must possess in order to be viewed as a “difference maker” by a coach?

Steve’s Response: I look for kids who can listen to instruction, be open to new ideas, and are not satisfied with being average. Too many or our kids are ok with being ok. Those kids really won’t do much for your program. The more a player invests himself in something, the more disappointed he is when things are not going well. That disappointment can turn into motivation. Too many kids never get to that level of investment.

Q2: How should a kid who wants to compete on a high school team mentally prepare or conduct himself in order to make that jump to the next level?

Steve’s Response: Being open to the idea that the number of games played does not make him better. The player needs to learn the game from his experiences and the experiences of players around him.

Just being present at the game, and playing in the game is not that important. Getting better from understanding what is happening around you is crucial.  It is the idea that players can spend their time or invest their time. Understanding the difference is big.

Q3: Tell me about one kid (you can name the athlete or choose not to) who left an enormous influence on you/your program and describe why that is.

Steve’s Response: I have had many young men impact me and our program. They all seem to be very balanced, handle success and failure well, and make others around them better.

They seem to put the concerns of others ahead of their own. They seem to know they are part of something bigger than themselves. They tend to challenge everybody around them to be a better player and person, not by saying anything, but by how they conduct themselves. They are very humble in their success. They are very solid away from the game.

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Editor’s note: Notice how this coach attributes the overall success of his program to the combined contributions of many dedicated athletes as opposed to singling out any one young man in particular? It is my belief that this approach (valuing teamwork over individualism) will lay a foundation for how these athletes view their relationships with others both during and beyond their playing days.

Want to learn more about Steve Nicollerat? Check out CoachBaseballRight.com and read his bio here.

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Steve Nicollerat, St. Louis University High School Baseball Coach and Founder of Coach Baseball Right

The Sharing Wisdom: A Series of Coaching Perspectives is written by Heidi Woodard.