I knew nothing about baseball. Yes, as a teenager, I had memorized batting averages just to have something to talk about with other kids, and later, one afternoon (while in the Brooklyn College cafeteria) I remember the excitement attending Don Larsen’s perfect game in a World Series. However, I had never played baseball or attended a professional game. Watching Josh play his various team sports was my introduction to a Ridgewood subculture of fathers and sons which I thoroughly enjoyed. I thought I would be bored or indifferent to such mundane displays, but no. I had a wonderful time watching my son having a good time, and I was amazed at some of the things he could do. And when he was mistreated by an umpire or referee, I was outraged. However, I knew next to nothing about these sports.
Which is why I was surprised when Tony Argente, the commissioner of Little League baseball for the west side of town, one early March morning phoned me and asked me to meet him. He wanted me to become a Little League team manager. I explained to him that I knew nothing about the game, that I wouldn’t know where to begin. Tony was convincing. He wouldn’t hear it. He told me that he would help me pick a team at tryouts, and that after that all I had to do was yell, “Good eye, kid”, whenever the ball was swung at and missed. To make a long story short, Tony was desperate for a manager, and I agreed to become a manager for that season. I wound up managing a Little League team for three years.
Needless to say, I am rather competitive. There are few more competitive activities than chess, and I was a serious chess player, no matter what else I was doing. One year I had won the Rockland County chess championship, and another year I had won a national title. I was as competitive as anyone I knew and maybe a bit more. Once sucked into baseball I immediately began to scheme and plot about winning my division championship. This did involve some reading (I had to know the rules), and developing warm-up exercises, and doing all those other things that are supposed to be done before a game. When I should have been grading papers at work, I worked at assigning fielding positions and created batting orders. Then the season began, and I was a manager! Contrary to the popular myth, the parents of my little players were not blood-thirsty crazies; just nice people who enjoyed watching their kids play and win, but not overly troubled by a loss. I enjoyed them almost as much as I did their kids.
Tony had picked a good team for me. It won as many games as it lost, and we finished my first season right in the middle of the pack. Josh, my son, had himself a wonderful time, and I was surprised at how naturally and well he hit. As for that “Good eye, kid!” it came in handy.
By the end of my first season I had figured out that championships were not won or lost on the playing field. Championships were won and lost during tryouts, and I made up my mind that the following year I was going to pick my team much more carefully. It would also help if I could get the dad of a really good player (preferably a pitcher or power hitter) to become my assistant manager. Like all managers, I looked forward to next season.