When I was young I was very small for my age. I had athletic ability, but it was overlooked; as all anybody saw was a short, scrawny kid. I finally got my mom to let me play little league, but I was no good and rode the bench. Unlike in MLB, the worst kid was put in right field when he got to play his 1 inning every couple of games. I was that kid.
The second year I almost didn't play because I was bad and never played anyway. But I loved baseball, so I tried. The coach, again, spent zero time with me. In fact, he ridiculed me. Late that second season, we had a double header and I got to play the second game. I struck out, as usual and the coach basically laughed at me. One of the dads in the stands, who I didn't even know, got angry. He (who I will simply call, "the dad", because I never got his name) came down and told off the coach. I was embarrassed, but also so happy someone had stuck up for me. He said it was obvious nobody had ever even taught me now to hold the bat and that the coach was not doing his job. When we were at bat that game, the dad would come down and showed me how to properly hold the bat. You see, I was starting with it forward. So, as the pitch was on the way, I had to first bring the bat back and then forward to swing. As a result, I was swinging late on everything. The dad taught me to start with the bat back. yeah- DUH!- but nobody had bothered to tell me. As I write this story, I can vividly picture his moving my arms to the right position. I was so happy somebody cared. My next at bat, using this minor adjustment, I got my first hit EVER. I was so excited I was jumping up and down as I ran to first. He worked with me again after the game, and at the next game. He gave me a lot of encouragement. Whomever's dad he was (I don't even recall), that was one lucky kid.
He also knew that every time a ball was hit in the air to me in the outfield I missed it. He said I just needed to have someone hit me pop flys until I learned to judge the flight of the ball. An older kid who was kind of a friend told the dad he lived near me and would do it. Before the next game, the kid (Randy) hit me flys for about an hour. Within the first 30 minutes, I had it down. Truth is, nobody had ever hit me more than a couple; and it was always when a bunch of guys were out there. In other words, nobody ever bothered to give me a chance and, without a dad, I had nobody. Well, until someone else's dad stepped up and helped me.
The coach never let me play the field again that year, even though I begged him and told him I learned how to do it. He had no confidence in me. That's the thing- prior to the dad helping me, neither did I. But, thanks to the dad, now I was confident. I had a hit in each of the very few at bats I had the rest of the season. The coach remained unimpressed. The dad told me that I was good enough to be a starter and to keep practicing and actually go to tryouts the next year, as it was the jump to Cadet level, so people could see my ability.
I tried out and a new, young, first year coach wanted me on his team. That year, I led the league in hitting, batting over .560, and played center field. I became kinda known for my diving catches. I didn't make an error all season. As for the dad- I never saw him again. The total amount of time that he spent helping me was probably less than 2 hours. It's amazing to think of the major impact he had on my life in such a little time. As a small kid without a dad who got bullied a lot before- it changed my life. The confidence baseball gave me spilled over into everything in my life.
So, to the dad who took the time to help a scrawny little kid who everyone laughed at: