“Maturity is the ability to think, speak and act your feelings within the bounds of dignity.” – Samuel Ullman
On Saturday night, the summer baseball season for the Kentucky Bucs came to an end in Indianapolis. Regrettably, I was unable to make the trip and spend the final games of the season with a group of individuals I hold near and dear to my heart. By all accounts, the scene after the game was emotional, as season enders usually are. Several of these individuals played their last ever game as a high schooler. A few more of them played their last ever game of organized competitive baseball.
Those moments are always difficult. We spend month teaching these kids to shake off mistakes and to have a short memory in baseball because tomorrow the sun comes up and you get to play again. So, what do you tell kids who will wake up with the sun tomorrow and not get to play another game as Kentucky Bucs?
Thank you. I am proud of you, and I love you.
Three years ago, I was asked if I would be willing to join as an assistant coach on this team. I was hesitant and really only committed to what would be convenient for me. I showed up on Day 1, coached first base, and soon knew that convenient for me would be a lot more often than I anticipated.
While we on the coaching staff are committed to teaching our players how to play baseball at a high level, the Kentucky Bucs do things differently. We teach boys how to become men through the platform of baseball. So, when I tell my players I am proud of them, it is because they have become men.
Nowhere has this become more clear than the handful of players who leave us this year after three years on this team. Admittedly, I have begun to approach coaching differently over the past few seasons. One of our coaches has even termed it Old Noah vs. New Noah. I guess these kids got to be my guinea pigs for the past three years.
I expect (no, I demand) plenty from our players. I want to win as much as everyone else, yet you will not hear me speak of winning. I seek out failure and relish those moments as the teachable ones.
That core group has heard from me more than they would care to admit the utmost importance of playing for one another and being a great teammate, the value in competing and fighting on every single pitch, and the commitment to bringing your best every single day regardless of how you feel or what is going on around you.
We received this group high in talent, but even higher in emotion (some good, some really bad). We coached them, we taught them, we put our arms around them and cared for them as our own (some were our own). But, we demanded from them, we got frustrated with them, and we held them accountable even when they definitely did not want to be.
Above all, we developed those relationships, and we loved them. At times, they made it extremely difficult. We (or, at least, I) did not always like them, but they always knew we loved them.
What I learned is that maturity is a process. The moment you think it has all been figured out, they let you know your job is never quite complete. But, day-by-day, week-by-week, year-by-year, you get to watch these kids grow up. You get to watch them take the reins and make their own decisions, their own actions, their own behaviors. You get to see them go places you always saw for them, and always hoped they would see for themselves.
I am not sure how other programs or organizations do their thing, but I can tell you this. I don’t care. We are not trying to be them, we are not trying to be better than them, and we do not want to be. We are the Kentucky Bucs, and we want to be as good as we can be. We are concerned with making your boys the best version of men with dignity, honor, and character that we can, while teaching them some baseball along the way. We strive to teach them to make the right decisions, not to win, but because they are right.
I am proud, honored, and humbled to say that I have seen it happen in ways I only dreamt were possible. It was not easy, and for all the process is still ongoing. But being able to see a group of boys mature into outstanding men of character is why we ask them to be Bucs in the first place and why we keep coming back to coach every summer.
Fellas, thank you for another great season. Thank you for allowing me to speak into your lives. Thank you for competing and fighting every day. Thank you for accepting our lessons and learning from all our mistakes. Thank you for making me proud to be your coach and friend. Thank you for being Bucs!
Bring your best today!