In my job as a sports editor, I run across some entertaining and unusual folks.
Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of covering some of Seguin’s Little League All-Star teams, and last Saturday, went to Lawrence Sampleton football camp at Seguin High School.
I’ve been a sports writer for 25 years now, covering coaches and athletes from kids to the pros.
As a former coach myself, teaching kids and adults how to hit a golf ball as ateaching pro in my 20’s and into my 30’s, I’ve always had a special place in my heart — and a lot of respect for coaches.
Anyone that can teach a kid how to hit a ball, or throw one, or catch one, is a unique type of person.
It takes patience (a lot), positivity, the ability to communicate effectively, and a genuine caring for those in your charge.
I saw all that and more with the volunteer coaches for the little league teams, and also at the camp.
These gigs don’t pay anything, the coaches are in it for the love of the game and for the kids.
I covered three different age groups — and it was interesting to see the progression of players from 8 to 14 years old.
The 8-year-old Specials team had a great group of guys coaching them — and they spent almost the entire two nights I was covering them trying to keep the kids focused on the game.
Little minds wander — in between pitches, while they are out on the field and anytime there isn’t much action coming their way.
Then there was the “emergency” substitution in the first game, when the right fielder, who was yelling that he “had to go” and was dancing around in the outfield accordingly, finally got someone’s attention, and the coaches took care of it.
An untied shoelace from a player who reached first base, was immediately taken care of when I believe it was his mother yelled out to the coach that the lace was untied.
The emergency equipment repair came in between pitches while the runner was on the base — a hit in that time would have sent him tripping toward second, but the repair was made by the coach just in time.
The coaches gave everything they had for the kids and the games, with one of them even being sent packing for arguing a call late in the second game.
The 9-year-old Specials were a little more focused, but the athletic skills were still in development.
Balls flew all over the field and beyond as runners ran all over the bases and run after run scored. I believe the final score was 13-11 of the game that night.
I overheard a grandmother on the sidelines say that these games were much more fun to watch than, “when the big kids played. Who wants to watch a 2-1 ballgame anyway?”
I agree, although the game stretched to almost three hours — because outs were sometimes hard to come by.
Moving on up to the 14 year olds, the Junior Specials team, it was amazing to see how much their skills had developed.
They had learned to hit by that age, errors were few and far between, pitching was precise and under control.
Most of the kids had been playing since they were eight, so they could be called hardened baseball veterans after six years of playing the game.
The coaches, many of whom had been with these same kids since they began playing, cared deeply about the kids they were coaching.
It was head coach Ernest “Bubba” Neumann’s last go with these kids, and he was emotional about it after they lost, one game short of playing for the District 31 championship.
Here’s a shout out to all those coaches: Jesse Herrera, Steve Henry, Joe Chapa and Armando Rodriguez (8 year olds); Korey Kirchner, Thomas Hoblin and Greg Baker ( 9 year olds); and Neumann, Trevor Haas and Rocky Contreras (Internationals Juniors).
Great job, all y’all!
Lawrence Sampleton brought in a staff for 150 kids, including former NFL players Stephen Braggs, Raymond Claiborne, Trent Brown and Flozell Adams.
Another dozen or so volunteers for the camp meant the 60 or so kids that came out had plenty of individual attention.
The kids were 6 to 16 years old, and as with the baseball players, the younger they were the more the coaches had to work to keep their attention.
“They have no attention span at that age,” Sampleton said, chuckling.
Flozell Adams, a lineman for the Cowboys in the early 2000’s, was interesting to talk to for this Cowboys’ fan.
He’s a mountain.
I would guess 6-foot, 8-inch and 320 pounds or so, when I stood next to him I felt like I was looking up at the stars just to talk to him.
I asked him what he thought of his time with the Cowboys and the media that covered them.
“Luckily, I didn’t have to talk to them much,” Adams said. “The only time they wanted to talk to me was if I gave up a sack.”
Adams drove down from Dallas to help out and all the coaches and college players there gave of their time freely to assist Sampleton. The camp was free to the kids and they had an awesome Saturday morning, running all over the field at Matador Stadium.
Here’s to you coaches, and the joy and teaching you brought to Seguin’s kids on the diamond and the football field.