Each November I pull my baseball uniform out of the closet, pack it in a suitcase and then proceed on a journey that will take me to multiple baseball fields in the Dominican Republic. It’s a different feeling wearing the “uni” down there. Since I was eight years old, when I would wear the uniform, it would be for competition as a player or coach. I loved it. Now, the uniform is used to let young Dominican players know that we have a common bond: we all love the game.Along with dozens of other American coaches, we attempt to share some knowledge that will help these talented young athletes become better “beisbol” players. The uniform, along with some knowledge and experience, gives the coaches from the “States” some credibility.
I think a lot about wearing a uniform. It’s been a privilege to wear it for over 55 years. Football coaches, basketball coaches and soccer coaches don’t get to wear uniforms. Some of them even feel compelled to wear a suit and tie instead! (Don’t you think it would be awesome to see John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino wear basketball uniforms while coaching their teams? LOL).
There will be a day when we all put the “uni’ on for the last time—for some it’s at age 12, for others 18 or for the truly fortunate ones, it could be in their 60’s or 70’s. At that time, the competition, playing or teaching will be over. That’s a sad thought for a person who loves the game, but I want players and coaches to never take for granted the gift that has been given to them- to participate in the greatest game of all. Next time you put on the uniform as a player, thank God for the gift of being able to play; as a coach, thank God for the opportunity to teach and influence.
Now, you don’t have to put the “uni” on to read Inside Pitch, but sometimes when I read it I have an urge to do just that! In this issue, you will hear from a former major league player, Willie Mays Aikens, who received a second chance to wear a baseball uniform. You will also learn a little more about one of the top young college coaches in the game, Dan Heefner. Also, you will see how a former World Series star, Brian Doyle, overcomes adversity. Chris Burke breaks down hitting and Hensley Muelens shares a few of the San Francisco Giants’ secrets to success. You may not be wearing the “uni” when you open up Inside Pitch, but when you finish; you may feel like lacing the cleats up tight!