I let the ball go, knew it was wide right and then BANG on the tempered glass of the gym office. It was my worst throw of the day and it came too close to nailing one of the coaches. Somehow it didn’t break the tempered glass of the office.
“Simers!” Coach yelled. “I was just talking you up.”
I heard that phrase a lot over the next three years of practice and games. Mr. Beadle believed in me. Enough to make me believe in myself. And I often let him down. I once dropped a foul ball off the third base line and he asked me what happened. He had turned away because he just expected me to catch it. The ball got caught in the wind and I didn’t get underneath it. It was hard to explain to Coach. He told me how to play it next time and I never dropped another ball like that.
Another time I took a hot grounder at third base and short hopped the throw to the first baseman. “Throw the damn ball!” he yelled from the dugout. I was pissed, pissed at myself for the throw, pissed at Coach Beadle for yelling from the dugout, pissed at the world. I hoped the next ball would come to me. Let me make up for the god damned throw, I’m going to break our first baseman’s hand with the next one, I thought. And the next play the ball bounced right to me. I scooped it up and threw it as hard as I could. The ball popped loudly in the first baseman’s glove for the last out of the inning. We jogged off the field and Coach Beadle called to me again, “I was ready to holler at you and then you make a throw like that.”
I often needed a kick in the ass and Coach Beadle was there to give me one much of the time. He met my grandpa on the day I hit my first over the fence home run. My grandpa had been sick and couldn’t stick around for much of the game, but he got to see that and Coach Beadle helped make it happen.
He wasn’t always the coach we wanted, but his players, the ones I played with at least, really loved playing for him most of the time. He was a smart baseball mind, but more importantly he was a genuinely good guy.
He tried to get me thrown out of a game one time for saying fuck after a strikeout. I said that’s fucking bullshit, to be fair, and the umpire sent a warning to the dugout that he didn’t want to hear that word again. “Throw him out of the game,” Coach shouted to the umpire. “I’m not going to throw him out, I just don’t want to hear that anymore.”
I was benched for the last inning of the game and had to run singles, doubles, triples and a home run after the game. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is not fun at all. You run hard or you run it all again and it’s exhausting. I mostly learned my lesson from that. Later on that year I got thrown out of a game for saying that’s terrible while walking back to the dugout. The umpire later said I swore at him for the reason I was thrown out. He was full of shit, but there was no arguing it. I met with our athletic director and Coach Beadle to talk about what happened. Our AD didn’t believe me at all, even after I asked him to talk to any fans at the game or any teammates in the dugout. I don’t know if Coach really believed me; he knew my mouth and my occasional temper and a few games before he had me run for swearing during a game, but he never looked at me like our AD did. He never looked at me like I was some punk kid trying to cover his ass. Belief or not he looked at me with respect.
And that was a great thing about Coach Beadle. He respected his players and students. He made me want to be a better ball player for him and myself and my teammates. He gave me confidence in myself that I didn’t have before my sophomore year of high school. He put trust in me that I would play hard and play smart and I tried to do that.
We lost Coach Beadle about two weeks ago. I’d been putting off writing this since I heard. It’s tough to think about a man dying that meant a lot to my growth through high school. It happens to us all at some point, unless you are a highlander and even then you have to avoid getting your head cut off, but it doesn’t make it less sad. And it’s okay to be sad. It’s been a long time since I wrote down any old baseball memories and it takes me back to a good time in my life, being on that old ball field, smelling the leather of my Nakona baseball glove, kicking dirt over spit and sunflower seeds, hollering out two down to the outfield, trying to find the sweet spot for my cup to nestle. Being 15, 16, 17 is not often a good time in life. Adolescence is a confusing time and often tricky to navigate, but for me, I had baseball. And I can still hear Coach Beadle yelling out “Simers!” when I fuck something up. Just like in the games I always hope for the next ball to come to me because I’m going to throw is as hard as I can so I can jog back to whatever dugout will have me, just to see him shake his head and say good job. Not much beat that look from Coach Beadle. We’re going to miss you Coach.