Coach Newquist

It’s probably the goatee.

Somewhere around the year 1998, an alternative version of myself never started watching the Mets again. Never got hooked on the Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees in 2000. Never started playing baseball games again on his Xbox 360, never started throwing baseballs on the quad at the college where he works, never went to an IronPigs game, never assistant coached his daughter’s softball team and never, at the end of a wandering path, found himself coaching his son’s baseball team.

That alternative me — after checking his kids’ homework — is probably playing Halo 4 or Titanfall right now instead of updating his baseball roster (or, given that I’m writing this, thinking about doing it) having just finished my first baseball practice as a coach.

Of course, he doesn’t have the goatee.

I do. That makes me the strange one, relative to the geeky baseline we share. I never played baseball in high school, though my friends and I did play a Calvinball-like homebrew version. That alternative me and I are both Mets fans (after the ’86 World Series, how could we not?) he hasn’t been to a baseball game since the 1980s. No dobut he’d find my late-life love of baseball downright weird.

It’s understandable. I certainly never though I’d be the one called Coach Ken, but I think that other me would have a slightly less interesting life.

The best thing about coaching baseball and softball is the people you meet. As geeks it’s easy for us to turtle up and avoid anyone who doesn’t share our interests. It’s safe, and it keeps you from having to have strained, awkward conversations with people you don’t know about a subject you’re not an expert in (truly geek krpytonite).

Being a coach gets you out of that comfort zone. You meet lots of people from different walks of life. Nurses, Realtors, cooks, stay-at-home moms and dads, teachers, professors, engineers, writers, and yes, even a geek or two. The same goes for the kids — they’ve got their friends maybe even their proto-cliches, but baseball and softball introduces a whole bunch of kids from all kinds of backgrounds.

Thankfully, everyone really wants to play ball.

My son’s baseball team is the Easton Nationals (all of our teams are named for Major League Baseball teams). I’m splitting responsibilities with another parent. My friend Eric’s taking the lead on the drills, while I’m organizing the games and practices. I’m helping out with drills too, though I realized today that I really need to get in a game or two of catch before our next practice; I’m definitely rusty.

Our first practice went well. Most of our team is new to baseball, so we explained the bases, the different positions, and the layout of the field. We did some simple fielding exercises and started talking about batting stances.

It was a good first practice. We’ve got a few parents interested in helping, and once the city cleans up the field we should be in pretty good shape.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming season … and yeah, I’m keeping the goatee.

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