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I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a wise sage as a Little League coach. 

Mr. S. was a salesman, if I recall correctly (I was, after all, around eleven years old. ? He used to show up at practice in his dress shirt and tie. But this formality didn’t stop him from rolling up his sleeves and making us work hard. 

He would start every practice by hitting grounders to us infielders (I was his shortstop.) He would hit the balls atta-hand, directing each to a different fielder. And before the first hit, he would shout at us, ‘”Okay! Let’s see who’s awake.” 

That appeared to be his true mission, even more than testing our skills with the glove. Who was awake? I never really understood what he was doing until I was much older. I mean, obviously nobody was actually sleeping, so that couldn’t be it. I eventually realized he was testing us to see who was thinking about what he was doing.

Did we know how many outs there were? What runners were on base?  Where the play should be to get the team out of the inning?

In any given situation, what was the best move for the team?

Yes, he was a baseball coach, but he was much more than that: he was a teacher. A great teacher. A teacher who got each of his students to think about the greater good. About the welfare of the team.

Open your eyes and use your head for the benefit of all. Figure out the best way to move the team forward. An important lesson, for every shortstop, for every team member, be they a little leaguer or a pro.

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