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It was probably somewhere on the front nine at the Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford when my cousin Rich finally confessed his days itinerary to me. As we sat parked, I believe on the par-5 fifth, he let it be known that after this late-morning round of golf he had a Little League game to coach.
Apparently one of his sons, either Richs namesake or one of the only other people in the world named Anthony Bosco, was playing in the championship game on the very team on which my cousin was manager. And, if I didnt know better, Id say the pressure of the approaching game was affecting my cousins golf game.
My cousin is one of the best golfers I know. His handicap in about a 5 and he probably plays more rounds than a rummy buys. But last Friday, he was not at his best. Where usually he was on the green, he was bouncing off, and when he was on, a two-putt was usually the outcome.
Of course, even with him playing nowhere near his best he still beat me, my uncle Frank and my other cousin Brian with ease, despite the number of strokes he was giving away.
Little League, you see, was on the brain.
This is that time of year when intramural Little League seasons finish up play and district tournaments begin. It is a time when little kids all over the country are playing baseball in competition for the right to be called champion and parents all over the country are sweating it out along with them.
Somewhere during our round of golf my cousin dispensed of the greatest pieces of wisdom I have ever heard. His team, the Mets, were seeded fourth heading into the four-team playoffs and were slated to face the No. 1 team, which finished with the best record in the league.
Prior to his team taking the field, Rich told me, he relayed to his kids this little nugget: As long as theyre making us play the game, we might as well win it.
This, I thought, was sheer brilliance and the mere thought of my cousin preaching this advice to a bunch of 9- and 10-year-olds kept me in stitches the rest of the day. I dont know if I can blame my poor play on my constant giggles, but if the final tally on my scorecard was any indication, it sure didnt help.
The kicker was his team did win, a squeaker, 1-0.
My best friend Greg is another story. Hes my age, which is in the neighborhood of 30, but knew absolutely nothing about baseball growing up. So when he decided he was going to coach his sons tee-ball team earlier this year, needless to say, he knew of only one place to turn.
I got the call about three months ago. Greg was obviously embarrassed by his ignorance about our nations pastime, but needed some info. He wanted to learn the game along with his son and I, as godfather, obliged readily. But his first question completely took me off-guard.
When you get a hit and run to first base, which way do you run, left or right? or something to that effect, asked Greg. I was getting ready to go into a long-winded definition of the infield fly rule and my buddy come up with this most fundamental of questions.
He wasnt done either, so determined was he to acquire the knowledge and look good for his son, the irrepressible Cole.
Where does the shortstop stand? Which is right field? Which is left field? and on and on.
I tried not to laugh, but could not help myself. Realizing the dire straits he was in and that spelling out the rules of baseball would take all night long I directed him to a web site for novice Little League coaches (they are out there, by the way), which must have worked, because he has not asked me a baseball-related question since.
As coaches, my friend and cousin have the advantage of being hands-on with their kids, unlike so many other parents who simply do not have the time or prefer to watch from the stands. Of course this also means they have to deal with the parents.
They had no horror stories to tell me, thankfully. In fact, both said most of the parents of their players were helpful, but I have heard some horror stories over the years about overzealous parents who think their child the star and ride coaches to no end.
This is an unfortunate situation and one that does little good in the end. But it is a real problem, something that almost every Little League coach and child must endure at some point.
I have had some of those parents call me over the years, claiming everything from racial prejudice to just plain stupidity on the part of a coach who thought their little Johnny best served the team in a non-starting capacity. And just about every time, all I can do is wince, nod and hope a well-adjusted life is in their childs future.
My friend and my cousin both have sacrificed their time to do something for their kids, something I think is a real testament to their desire to spend time with and nurture their children.
And that is worth a bad round of golf, especially when my cousins team, the Mets, went on to beat their opponents, the Yankees (of course) 5-2, in the championship game.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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