Feb. 18, 2013
Time to Saw Some Logs
Sawing logs is an expression used for snoring. I’ve always had a hard time with that metaphor.
We’re back in Storrs today after a late flight from Tampa last night. We know the route well. Unfortunately, we also know the opening weekend won-loss record too well. In recent years, the Huskies have started up the season the same way that Lawrence Welk started up his band -- a one and a two.
We had a little of everything in Dunedin and St. Pete. Along with rain, sun, and wind, we got beat, beat somebody else, and beat ourselves. The latter outcome is the toughest one to stomach and we’ve all got to take responsibility for not being ready to play against Purdue yesterday.
In the first inning, we did ourselves in with errors of passivity and stupidity. In short, we played soft. Balls getting by us on defense, throwing to the wrong base, and not knowing how many outs we had are inexcusable mistakes. Thirteen hours earlier, we had great energy throughout a fifteen-inning win against a good Indiana team on Saturday night, and that carried us to our first W of the year. The victory came despite a lack of clutch-hitting. Both teams’ bats were nonexistent with runners in scoring position. The Hoosiers and Huskies looked more like nearsighted carpenters swinging rubber hammers at nails in granite. No matter how hard we tried, they weren’t being driven in. Some encouraging clutch pitching, and gritty base-running led us to the W. On Friday, the Boilermakers had an Earl Weaver-type big inning with some help from our pitching, but we showed some character in battling back from a deficit to come up just short.
As a coach, it was a weekend of head scratching. For everything we did right, we did something else wrong. Characteristically, there was good and bad. The season is a long one, and no one inning or game should be overanalyzed. Yet, the one thing we cannot accept is excuses.
One doesn’t need to look long or hard to find them. They’re like hot dog stands in Manhattan, wedding chapels in Vegas, and lawyers in Washington. They’re everywhere, but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from them.
“You guys were just tired. You’ll be fine.”
“The umpire was calling everything a strike.”
“You’re just not used to playing outside. It’s so hard going from indoors to a field and playing well first time out.”
I heard all of the above just minutes after the last out yesterday. People were just trying to be nice. And it would have been easy to nod, smile, and agree. Yet, a true competitor must resist the temptation to use those excuses as crutches.
I asked the guys what blue collar meant to them after the game. They had good answers. “Gritty, tough, hard-nosed,” were some of the adjectives offered. I’d add no excuses and hard work. We played a five-hour baseball game. We weren’t leading a convoy from Kabul to Kandahar. We didn’t punch a clock and mine coal, weld anything, or clean a single bedpan. The Boilermakers lived up to their name. They didn’t sleep through any alarm. Nobody would have looked at the Huskies and said we were the tougher of the two teams yesterday. That’s why I couldn’t sleep last night, and that has to change today.
We played baseball, that’s all. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And, we’re supposed to be prepared to do it well. We weren’t, and I’m responsible for that.
Today, we’re going to prepare better. After a 2 pm lift and hitting/pitching sessions, we’ll begin our team segment with a base-running/conditioning drill. Usually, we’d leave conditioning until the end, but we need to practice tired. We really don’t know what tired is. So, we’re going to find out, get 27 outs, and go home.
During the energy crisis in the seventies, my parents invested in a wood stove. For several summers of my youth, I remember being outside in the sun sawing wood with my father. Instead of paying to have the wood cut and split, he’d have flatbed -long logs delivered to our driveway. The only way those logs would fit in the two-and-half-foot-wide wood stove would be to saw each of them many times. He told us he was afraid of operating a chainsaw. So, his three sons were directed to do shifts with him and an ancient two-man saw all July. Robby would have an hour on, hour off. I’d do the same. Mikey was smaller. So, he’d only have to do a half-hour every so often. Dad just kept going. Eventually, it got done. He’d split it the old-fashioned way, and we’d stack cord after cord. When winter came, if we wanted to watch the television in the same room as the stove, we’d be in our underwear (he invested in the stove, but not in the proper vents to heat the house evenly). We’d sweat in the summer in order to sweat in the winter. It felt good to sweat. Dad got over his “fear” of chainsaws, but the lesson stuck. Working and working well together when you’re tired makes you better…and I’d like to think tougher.
The way to play better is to work better and tougher together. That will happen today.