Late one evening, my assistant coach-for both my high school C-Team and my summer league Connie Mack team-his girlfriend, my girlfriend and I were entertaining ourselves with some rather deep conversation about teaching techniques. By around 12:15 a.m. an epiphany had found its way through to my brain. We all began discussing different success stories of education, via public high school, baseball coaching, or as a full-time educator in a youth detention center-better known as juvie. I am a first-time, 9th grade English teacher, 3rd year baseball coach (first time high school), that coaches the Farmington High School C-team in the baseball program. Jeff Rogers, the aforementioned assistant (the coaching variety, not upper echelon society) is a rookie in the coaching department and has a ton of new insight due to virgin eyes, so to speak. My girlfriend, Jenna, is an educator inside the Farmington Youth Detention Center and has insight into teaching from a point of view that deals with some of the most unfortunate minds that America has to offer. To be short, we are a group of educators that cover the gamut of educational opportunities. During this conversation I found that every story had a common denominator; they all dealt in small group scenarios, where the learners felt that they were learning something that was uniquely new to their group and not to any other group of the population. They felt that they were the new holders of knowledge. Specialized learning is common place, even to the first year teacher. How does that carry over to baseball?
By creating an environment that feels specialized (read as personal) the learning experience holds deeper within the young mind. Thus, the educator must create small group areas in order to promote proper learning. I have personally seen the production of teaching multiple techniques/practices, to particular groups of 3-4 players/practice and have found the turnouts to be just short of extraordinary. For instance, with my six 8th graders ,I have two who are above the rest. I am able to group them with a couple of the lowest freshmen, and teach one principle for a round of BP. For another group of my most superior players, I am able to teach a much more sophisticated approach to what hitting is and means. There are about 2 more distinct groups of players, such as speed guys and pitchers, that I end up being able to talk about my true passion in 4 different ways each and every practice; five ways if you count the average kids in the middle, right on track. This is simply amazing.
I now have, maybe, the truest experience of baseball one could imagine. I am able to focus the majority of my skills and prior practiced/played experiences on my one true passion in life (except for my previously mention girlfriend Jenna. She’ll never be #2); baseball. The pleasure brought forth, through realization of this, has made my most recent 45 minutes post-enlightenment, pure bliss. I feel like I am living a dream, fuck the cliché. It is this joyous, slightly extravagant, excitement that makes me thank baseball for my life. It has lead me down a road that I am forever thankful for finding. Baseball has taken all over the place. New Mexico. Arizona. California. Colorado. Wyoming. New York. Omaha, Nebraska. Texas. Missouri. Simply put, it’s provided me with the chance to experience an eclectic environment and way of life (especially baseball life) that is unique.
It is unique in the same way that the teaching is unique. From the immaculate artist, locked away, to the 8th grader who has never had proper coaching, to the kid who asks to ignore The Odyssey for a day, and find out how to eliminate the national debt. Sure they are once in a blue moon, both the class discussion with freshmen and truly gifted baseball players, but that is the beauty of it. It provides multiple opportunities to discuss some personal interests. A personal investment is the most efficient fuel towards true education. I feel lucky to have had baseball in my life. Thank you baseball. Thank you for leading me to where I have landed. I am the happiest man I could be. And all along the way, you have helped me discover a better way of educating. Two passions for the price of one. (Hey, I had to bring it all around full circle somehow.) One.