The 2023 spring season at Balcones Youth Sports was my fourth time coaching a team, and John’s seventh time playing on a team. As the head coach, I chose the Marlins as our team name and drafted a solid squad and even wheeled and dealed and made a big trade on draft day. Well, it isn’t so much a draft as much as it is the head coaches getting together and trying to make six very even teams. And that was certainly accomplished as all of our games were very competitive.

Surprisingly, it was a very rainy spring here. But the craziest part was how it rained exactly right on schedule every single week. We practiced on Mondays and every Monday was bright and sunny. We practiced as scheduled every time. But every week on Friday, a storm moved in and put the Saturday schedules up in the air. Literally each of the last five Fridays we got significant rain and in every case it messed with the game schedules due to the fields being too wet.

As it was, we managed to play 7 regular season games and finished 4-2-1 to earn the #2 seed for the playoffs.

1 – W vs Phillies, 9-5 (1-0)
2 – L @ Rangers, 5-10 (1-1)
3 – W @ Braves, 11-7 (2-1)
4 – T vs Giants, 9-9 (2-1-1)
5 – W @ Red Sox, 8-7 (3-1-1)
6 – W @ Phillies, 9-8 (4-1-1)
7 – L @ Rangers, 4-3 (4-2-1)
8 – vs Braves (rainout)

First Round – BYE
Semifinals – L vs Braves, 4-3 (4-3-1)
Consolation – W vs Phillies, 9-8 (5-3-1)

We managed to cause controversy almost every game! And in many of the cases, the rulings worked in our favor.

In Game 3 vs the Braves, we were trailing 7-6 after 3 innings. The rule says a new inning shall not start after 1 hour, 30 minutes. But there was still a minute left on the clock, so I sent the team back on the field and forced the two teams to play another inning, where we rallied for 5 runs and a victory. That was thought to be a little iffy on my part as the Braves were already lining up to shake hands. But to add to the drama, we had two players have to leave that inning due to soccer. So we simply skipped their spots in the lineup as directed by the umpire, allowing our best hitter to bat a second time that inning. It didn’t wind up affecting the outcome, but needless to say, Braves parents weren’t too happy about it. After a long discussion with the league powers that be, we were allowed to claim the win.

In Game 4 vs the Giants, a parent on our side operating the scoreboard may have forgotten to tally a run for the Giants. The theory from a Giants parent I had heard was there was a play at the plate that was reversed and had a runner sent back to third, but the scorekeeper had never tallied the run to begin with, so when they took the run away they actually took a legitimate run away. That allowed us to rally for 5 runs late and earn a tie. The umpires were adamant the score was correct.

In Game 5 vs the Red Sox, the game was delayed due to weather, and as a result 3 kids could no longer make it to the game. Rather than forfeit, I received permission to use 3 subs from another team so we could field a squad. After eeking out an 8-7 win where the 3 subs were huge parts of our late rally, the Red Sox coaches had questions as to whether we could truly count that as a win for us. I didn’t disagree with them, but also didn’t want to take anything away from our players, so we had a long discussion with the league director and he awarded us the win.

In the semifinals on Thursday, we met the Braves again and the two teams played a very intense game. After three superb innings on the mound from our starting pitcher, I moved him to catcher and made our catcher the pitcher. The Braves believed that to be an illegal substitution. After a lengthy delay, the league president showed up and pointed out the Braves were correct—we could not have pitcher and catcher swap spots. With our pitcher just 4 pitches short of his mandated limit of 65, I opted to just put John in as pitcher and another boy in at catcher and get on with the game. It worked out wonderfully as John pitched a scoreless inning, and the whole argument was a moot point. We would go on to load the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning, but the Braves struck out our final two batters to seal the 1-run win. The boys were crushed to miss out on the championship game, but if you consider the three events above that went firmly in our favor, our luck was clearly going to change sooner or later.

The 3rd-4th place game vs the Phillies was the most epic game I’ve ever managed. We led 4-3 after 4 innings, but the Phillies rallied for 5 runs after we had to make a pitching substitution. Trailing 8-4, we knew it was a long shot. We managed to load the bases with two outs. A kid managed a 2-run single to make it 8-6. Another walk loaded the bases, and the lineup turned over to our leadoff hitter, Nathan. On a 2-strike pitch, he blooped a fly ball into shallow left field. Two runs scored to tie the game, and the runner at third turned back halfway between third and home. But the throw to the plate ricocheted away from the catcher, allowing the runner to scamper home and score the winning run. A 5-run, 2-out rally in the final inning was cause for celebration as the team mobbed each other on the field.

John had a very interesting season. He played a stellar first base most of the season. He is a very large, dependable target at first and catches almost everything thrown his way. At the plate, John found early on that simply not swinging at pitches worked to his advantage. 8 and 9-year-old kids aren’t exactly able to hit the strike zone that easily. John and his teammates were so patient at the plate, coaxing walk after walk after walk. It won us a couple games, but it was some boring baseball. As the season went on and pitching improved as a whole, John’s strategy started to backfire. Believe it or not, we entered the final game Saturday and John had only accumulated 9 total at-bats all season! Walks do not count as official at-bats, and John walked 12 times. So despite having a .000 batting average, he actually had an on-base-percentage well over .500! Finally in the last game, I encouraged him to swing the bat, and naturally he put the ball in play all 3 times and collected 2 hits, an RBI and scored a run.

I will say, the Balcones Youth Sports program and community is the closest thing to Austin feeling like home since we’ve been here. Having been a part of BYS for so many years now, I know almost everyone there. The teams change every season so I feel like I’ve coached over half the kids in the league at this point and know so many of the parents. And in the fall Edie will age into teeball, if she chooses to play.

Those pants literally fit John as recently as the fall season. Now they are at least 4″ too short.