Bill's Blither

Location: Cheshire, Connecticut, United States

devilishly handsome, screamingly funny, overly modest

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Blank Pages

Sorry for the delay between posts. I'm writing a 20 page paper about the undefeated 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. Really. I'll be done in a few days. See you then.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Challenger Baseball

For over 30 years I have been involved in the coaching of children with special needs. I found to my considerable surprise that my patience level when doing this increased from my usual bare a tolerance to well above that of the average adult. I have created basketball and golf programs that I run through the auspices of the local Park and Rec office. These are low-impact programs that I started because of my belief that Special Olympics is philosophically much too competitive for the population being served, but that's a subject for another post. I spend far more time and effort with Challenger baseball.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Challenger programs were formed through Little League with the strong support of Nolan Ryan (yes, THAT Nolan Ryan) about 20 years ago. It is designed for children with special needs, and unlike Special Olympics includes children with only physical problems as well as those with mental challenges. Age range is school age, elementary through high school.

The program emphasizes success. A batter cannot strike out, he or she keeps swinging until a ball is hit fair. If thrown out, a runner continues to stay on the base reached. No score is kept, and if asked I always answer that it's a tie game. The coach (me) pitches to his own team, so that adjustments can be made for each individual batter. This also allows for batting instruction during each at bat.

Cheshire has a well-developed program. We are the second oldest Challenger organization in the state, this being our 18th year. Since we had no Little League team in our town, we received our own charter, which we maintain still, which gives us an independent status which has proved to be useful. We have three teams of 15 players, two for younger children and an older (teen-age) team that I manage. It was my idea 15 years ago to separate the older players in order to teach a more advanced program and team spirit.

For this team,(the Cheshire Challenger Red Sox) I help identify and recruit players, set up the schedule (12 games,7 on the road), prepare a roster, pass out uniforms, make sure everyone is properly equiped, check that the field is in shape, arrange for home-game pizza, and keep in regular touch with parents about their child's progress. This is in addition to actually coaching the kids and managing the games, including doing the pitching. Oh, I forgot, there's a Board meeting once a month from October through June. In all it takes approimately 300 hours a year.

In case this sounds like complaining, it's actually more like bragging. I volunteer to teach these kids because I love it and seem (unbelievably) to have virtually unlimited patience to do it. Also I'm good at it. The children respond very positively and am always surprised at how much they improve each year. The parents are also surprised (sometimes shocked) at how their kids develop skills considerably beyond their expectations. I found these parents to be (unlike typical Little League parents) helpful and appreciative.

Another aspect of the program is the emphasis placed on team morale and esprit de corps. I teach the players to be demonstatively supportive of their teammates and NEVER to make negative remarks or boo the other team. At the end of the season, the Red Sox are a team that is proud of themselves and their accomplishments. For most of the players, this is their only experience with team play, and it's important to me that they come away with a positive attitude.

Sometimes, of course, I get a little carried away. Yesterday I pitched 2 games with a pulled muscle in my rehabilitating leg (my wife is NOT happy with me, and my physical therapist will be even less so). But I wouldn't trade the feeling I get from helping these kids for a month with Charlize Theron. (I don't know about TWO months, but then it hasn't been offered,yet).


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dining Alone

As I was driving home from work today, I listened to Eric Casillias (sp.) on ESPN radio blithering on about his dislike (fear?) of eating alone in a restaurant. I've also heard many women echo that same aversion, so I decided to spend some time musing about this phenomenon here on my blog.

What would spark this solo dining phobia (monorestaurantitis)? I thought at first that entering the large restaurant doors might be a metaphorical return to the womb. Should there then be a negative correlation between people suffering from this syndrome and those with an Edipus Complex? Is the maternal connection too strong to allow the average person to eat comfortably without the assistance of a companion? It's definitely food for thought (pun unintended).

Another possibility is waiterphobia (maitrephobie,en Francais), the confusion of your server's persona with that of a circus clown (by whom nearly everyone is terrified from early childhood on). I dismissed this theory since it has been my experience that clown-like attributes are far more likely to be found in my dinner companions than my waiter- which would make it actually preferable to dine unaccompanied. My apologies to a lifetime of dining companions, but in your hearts you know it's true.

Another character trait of people who hate to dine alone is that they are under the mistaken impression that other restaurant patrons are watching them. Not only do they feel that they're being observed, but that somehow judgment is being passed. They hear the silent unasked question "Why is he/she eating alone? Isn't she/he good enough to rate a companion?". I'd like to point out that that question would never arise if you were looking at, say, Charlize Theron. So if you suffer from this syndrome, you either have an inferiority complex (in which case it doesn't matter whether people are talking, you still need a shrink) or you are actually as unattractive and boring as you think, in which case people are probably passing the judgments you were worrying about and you still need that shrink. If you're looking for a solution to this quandry, you'll have to try another blog.

I myself love to eat alone. I can ogle to my heart's content. I can strike up conversations with complete strangers (one of my favorite pastimes). I can crack ice without my wife glaring at me. I can overtip the cute waitress and fantasize that she'll follow me out the door, possibly to Bermuda. I can tell Atkins to go to hell and munch non-guiltily on pecan pie (I love pecan pie more than dinner companions, except for Charlize Theron))

But most of all I like to dine alone for one overriding reason-- I REALLY love the company.