Wednesday is the last game of the season for the Bethlehem Central Modified Baseball team. For those that aren’t familiar with the term “Modified” when it comes to high school sports, simply put, the team is composed of 7th and 8th graders. The players range from 12 to 14 years old. The coach is in his mid 50’s. It certainly isn’t uncommon to have four decades separating a coach and their players. What may be uncommon is when the coach feels like he was the one learning all season.

Almost 50 kids tried out for the team. There were a lot of really good players that didn’t make the final squad, so good that they definitely would have made it in years past. As the coach took in all of the information and evaluations that were done, he thought about the goals of a modified baseball coach. You certainly want to encourage participation, especially following a year like 2020, when none of these kids had an opportunity to play spring baseball. You want to make sure that the players that you keep would have a chance to move up to the next level. Lastly, it’s school baseball. You want to use baseball to teach some important life lessons.

Baseball is a great tool to teach responsibility; commitment; understanding of one’s role; learning that your actions have consequences to others, so consideration; teamwork; listening and most of all, paying attention. That last one is challenging, especially with this age group. However, to the coach's complete surprise, this group stayed engaged and paid attention for the entire season. It wasn’t very easy for them. The team had 26 players. A half a dozen more than most big teams at the modified or most high school levels.

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26 players has its challenges. Most of these student-athletes are the “best players” on their travel teams and they want to play the whole game everyday and who would blame them? They are kids. Traditionally, in youth sports, the players are not the problem. Well, another thing I learned, this group paid attention and was polite and ridiculously well behaved because of their parents. They seemed to appreciate the entire experience for their kids.

Watching your kid sit on the is one of the most difficult things to do as a parent. You want your kids to play. I’ve been there. It’s not a good experience. Sometimes, it’s not always the game experience that accelerates the learning process and the parents, as far as the coach knew, seemed to understand the entire process. 26 players on the team enabled them to play almost 20 full scrimmages during a six week season that included tryouts, preseason and 13 games.

Tomorrow is the last day coaching a Bethlehem Central baseball team for at least the foreseeable future for the coach. He took a job as the host of "The Drive with Charlie and Dan" on 104.5FM The Team, ESPN Radio. The coach is truly excited about his new endeavor. However, he will never forget and will always cherish, the six weeks that he got to spend with these 26 student-athletes. The team is 10-2 going into tomorrow’s very difficult game against Ballston Spa but even the record doesn’t reflect how good these Bethlehem Eagles are and they are great baseball players too.

Thanks guys! I’ll never forget you.

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