Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coach - In Memorium

Baseball is about coming home. The whole point of the game is to finish where you begin – home plate – and once you are home you are finally safe.
- From Kim Fabricus’ Blog on Faith and Theology

“In my beginning is my end…
Home is where one starts from…
In my end is my beginning.”
- T. S. Eliot, “East Coker”
I cried this morning.

Here I sit in my office with my weathered and oft used and loved little league baseball glove on my desk. I have thought and prayed often about my early years playing organized baseball and my first mentor , real teacher and coach , Art Baudistel. He taught me more about life when he showed me "how" to play the game of life using the baseball field as his classroom.

Concepts such "integrity" , "self confidence" , "being ones self (using one's talents) completely" , "being present to the moment" and "faith" were all common themes behind his lessons on the ball-field.

I read the news that "Coach" passed away the other day . I just want him to know that his spirit lives on in my spirit and my heart. I have re posted a story I had written about him earlier as my way of saying thank you and God bless you and your family. I thank God for the gift of "Coach."

Arthur J. Baudistel, 96

Scotch Plains – Arthur J. Baudistel, 96, died Sunday (September 13, 2009) at Runnells Specialized Hospital in Berkeley Heights. Born and raised in Newark, he lived in Scotch Plains since 1951.

Mr. Baudistel was a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army. He was employed as a stock clerk with Prudential in Newark for 47 years before retiring in 1976.

He was a member of the VFW; the Midget Baseball League; and the First United Methodist Church, all of Scotch Plains. He was also a diehard NY Yankees fan.

He was predeceased by his wife, Aurelia, who died in 1995. He is survived by his son, Robert Baudistel and his wife, Kathy; two daughters, Lorraine Baudistel and Cynthia Crawford and her husband John; two brothers, Harvey and Richard Baudistel; and two grandchildren, Jacqueline Hosp and Scott Crawford.

Services will be held at Memorial Funeral Home, 155 South Ave., Fanwood, on Thursday at 10 A.M. Visitation will be Wednesday from 5:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 325, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076 or a charity of your choice. For additional information or to express condolences, please visit www.fanwoodmemorial.com.
Game Called. Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent hill.

Game Called. Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

Game Called. Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.

- Grantland Rice


Dave, who was a client and Vice president of sales for for a Fortune 100 company, asked me one of the most difficult questions that I have considered in a long time. I was always challenging him to think “outside the box” concerning business matters and he threw a curve ball at me that came from deep outside... the realm of our business relationship. He pierced me so deeply that my heart decided to skip a beat as I caught my breath. Right in the middle of a substantive exploration of marketing strategy he grabbed my arm and queried, “Have you ever had a personal relationship within someone who inspired you?”

I stalled him for a minute as my brain sweated searching for an accurate honest meaningful response. The synapses in overdrive surfaced an almost thirty-year-old recollection reaching my vocal chords humbly whispering “my coach.” I then explained to Dave how I used to get fitted for special shoes by a foot doctor who told my parents that my feet were crooked and so flat . The Doctor said unequivically I should forget about playing sports. The doctor even went so far as recommending that I take up a musical instrument or get a hobby like stamp collecting. My ten-year-old spirit was broken. Everyone in a neighborhood filled with boys and girls my own age thrived on the freedom of playing every sport and game that could fill a child’s imagination. I would join in where I could but I found myself often sitting in front of the TV watching Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle battle for the home run crown in the major leagues and daydream seeing myself on a ball field.

Did you ever have one of thos fate-filled days? One of those fate-filled days came my way when a group of the boys in the neighborhood asked if I wanted to come with them to the little league baseball tryouts. No one except for my parents and I knew of what the doctor had told me about sports. Not wanting to divulge this heartbreaking secret I decided to join them at the tryouts. This was an era when only the best players were selected for this league and I knew I had no chance in hell of making a team. I had not even practiced throwing or batting since I had received the doctor's diagnosis and recommendation. Filled with anxiety about embarrassing myself I rode my bike two miles to the tryouts. What was I to do? How could I even get out on the field with the other boys?

At that time the players trying out for pitcher would pitch to the players trying out at bat. With the luck of the Polish I drew Paul P. the best pitcher in the town with the fastest fastball this side of Whitey Ford. Much to my surprise and the delight of my companions I made contact with every strike he threw over the plate! But when it came to running the bases I was always next to last or last. Then came the moment defined as the thrill of victory or the agony of rejection. All the players trying out to make a team sat in the outfield as the coaches compared notes. Finally after forever sitting the league's director came out to read the list of names of all the boys who were selected by a team. They called the names of every boy in my neighborhood; Billy, Bruce, Dennis, Will and Richy. But my name was not called. My companions tried to console me but I grabbed my bike and darted home alone humiliated. “Why had I done this? Why was I so stupid to even try?”

Later that same evening as I sat crying alone in my room my mother called me to come downstairs. There was a phone call for me. The man introduced himself as “Coach B.” He said he saw me at tryouts today and wondered why I hadn’t signed up to play in the town recreation league. I had never heard of such a thing. He explained that this league was basically for boys who couldn’t commit to the rigors of little league play.Boys who had to go on family vacations or had summer school or other commitments and who might miss a game or two could not play little league baseball would play in this recreation league. I knew there must be a catch. He also explained it was for boys who wanted to play baseball but who tried out for little league and didn’t make a team or who chose not to play little league. “A league for losers” I thought! He continued that his son played in the recreation league because they had other family commitments but his son was quite good. “Typical father” I smirked under my breath. He then explained how he liked my batting and fielding skills and wanted me to play on his team if I was interested. Did I want to play with a bunch of rejects? Did I want to play with a bunch of losers or kids who couldn’t commit to a season of baseball? “Yes, of course. I would love to play” I responded without hesitation. We had practice tomorrow. I was elated! I was on a team!!!

Adrenaline pumping a mile a minute, the smell of wooden bats and leather baseballs, glove filled with a fresh coat of linseed oil I rocketed my bike about a mile or so to the practice field the next day. Upon my arrival I saw this short older man standing near the players bench and he slowly moved his way over to me standing alone by my bike. He introduced himself “Hi, lefty, I’m Coach B.” He then clarified that he was really the assistant coach. Why’d he call me “lefty?” He later introduced me as “lefty” to the head coach and the other players on the team. Later I discovered I was the only left handed thrower and batter on the team. I was also the youngest and it would soon become obvious to all…the slowest. Though I didn’t play much that season I proudly wore my team shirt bearing the name of our sponsor “Tom’s Market” everyday.

While the head coach worked with the starters mostly, Coach B. would work with the subs and younger players. He had a calm demeanor and was extremely kind and very very patient with each one of us. He could see in my eyes that I wanted so much to be with the starters. He seemed to take me under his wing and he had his son, Robbie, who was a starter, pitch to me in batting practice for at least an hour after the rest of the team had departed. He taught me how and where to stand in the batter's box, how to watch the pitcher, how to see the ball and how to make contact. Over and over again each day he would stand outside the batters cage. ”Good swing. Now let’s try that again.” I had forgotten all about my feet, my running and my being rejected by the other league.

When the season ended coach called me a said that the next year he would have a team of his own as head coach and that he wanted me to play on it. I said “sure” but I felt that my batting had improved so much that I would try out again for little league. When the next spring started to show its colors and kids ran to the parks to warm up for the next season I thought twice about little league. My friends thought I was nuts as my batting skills had improved almost 1,000 percent but I decided to play with Coach B.

That next year Coach continued to work with me on batting and though not a full time starter he decided to work with my fielding . No one had ever paid this much attention to me before. Gently he would say, “Get the glove in front of the ball. Bend over. Think where you will make the play if the ball is hit to you.” It was that summer that I realized that his wife would drive he and Robbie to practices and games. Someone finally told me that Coach had polio but I don’t know,even to this day, if that was the truth or not. I was so absorbed in the experience of practice and playing I had forgotten that he had a disability. I had not thought of his struggles, his pain or his life. But then Coach never complained and in some respects I had forgotten that he had physical limitations.

That summer was a Zen experience as I was consumed with everything baseball and the days flew by faster than a Texas windstorm. I couldn’t wait for the next season. It would be my last year playing in the league, as I would be twelve years old the maximum age allowed by this league.

Well by the next season I had dropped about 15 pounds of my roly poly fat and shot up about five or six inches. Most importantly the team finally had full uniforms with major league team names. We were just like the Little League and our team was called "The Senators." I had the coolest looking navy blue hat with a big bright “S” in the middle. I wore that hat everywhere I would go. Father Nelligan would make me take it off whenever I walked into church. I didn’t mind.I would have worn it as I served as an altar boy at mass!

This was the year that I finally became a full time starter. I played either first base or left field and always batted third or fourth in the lineup. I had finally made it! At our first game we played a team that was coached by the head coach of my very first team and this coach asked Coach B. “who was the tall kid in left field? He’s pretty good” he said. Coach B. explained it was “lefty” from three years ago.

I knew I was doing much better that last season. I did get on base more often and had a few home runs to my credit but I was clueless about my statistics. I was just feeling really good about myself. Just as everything was falling into place there was that one game when a sure pop fly was hit right to me. There was a kid on third and I thought that I needed to grab the ball and make a clean throw to keep him from tagging up. Before I knew it the ball had hit my glove and quickly popped out before I could squeeze the glove shut. I picked up the ball and noticed the boy who was on third was scoring home. I was mortified. I did not have an error this year! I had let my team down. I had let me down. I had let coach down. At the end of the inning a slowly walked over to the bench and sat by myself not saying a word to anyone. Coach came over placed his crutches on the bench and without looking at me, his eyes fixed on the field said ,"Did you see that Maris (Roger Maris my left hand batting hero) had struck out three times last night? It happens to the best of us. But remember even if you want to be a Maris first you have to be yourself. Be true to who you are and who you want to be. That’s what matters. ” Somehow,someway he had the right words to say.

Later after that same game of the "big error" coach announced the three players from our team who would represent The Senators on the American League all star team in the rcreation league "all-Star" game. He mentioned his son Robbie, who was clearly the best pitcher in the league and Espo who was clearly the best and fastest short stop in the league. Then he said “lefty.” I don’t know why but I was shocked, delighted, surprised, and overwhelmed as my teammates congratulated me. They were not surprised. They told me I had the best batting average in the league. I was so wrapped up in playing the game it was the first time I had known about my stats.

Our team went on to win the division championship and would play the Pirates in the league championship game. Unfortunately I came down with some serious virus just a few days before the championship game and was still not feeling well the day of the game. I had to plead my parents to allow me to play. I explained it was my last game. It was the championship. It was everything I had worked for. It was for coach. At the 11th hour my parents agreed and they drove me to the field and we arrived just as the game was starting. Coach didn’t have me in the lineup and would put me in as a pinch hitter. Then I noticed who was pitching for the Pirates, it was Paul P, the best pitcher from Little League! He had dropped out of little league and decided to play in the recreation league. Our pitcher, Robbie coach’s son, was the best in our league. It became a pitcher’s duel. I finally got the call in the second inning to be a pinch runner of all things! I was a step faster than the boy who had walked and got on base. The next batter went down in three pitches. He next time I got up was in the fourth inning and Coach gave me the “take” sign and I was walked in just five pitches. We were soon out of the inning after our next three batters grounded and struck out. It came down the bottom of the sixth, the finally inning in youth baseball and it was 0-0 and it seemed as though Paul P. was just warming up. I finally got up to bat again and fouled two screamers down the right field baseline. The next four pitches were all high and outside and I was on base. I was angry that I didn’t get a chance to get a hit. Espo was up next and the first pitch was a wild pitch and I made it standing up to second base. Coach gave the sign to Espo and me to “hit and run.” Was a he nut? It’s me,lefty the second slowest kid on the team! " But I got set and gathered up every bit of positive psyche and energy a twelve year old can muster. Espo then cracked one up the right center gap and I took off. I saw Coach at third base waving me home. The only sound was my heart beating fast and furious and the piston driven puffing breaths as I rounded third to home. There was Robbie who was on deck holding up his arms. He didn’t want me to slide so I motored over home right into his arms. There was an error in the outfield and I made it home without a play at the plate and it hit me…”We were the champs!”

I saw my parents cheering on the bench but I turned and continued my run back up the third base line and jumped crying into coach’s arms. We had done it. He had done it.

There was more to the story I told Dave D. about Coach and that year but Dave interrupted me again. “Do you keep in touch with him?” Another darting shot. I felt horrible when I answered that I had lost touch with him. Soon after my meeting and rekindled memories with Dave feeling guilty I tracked down coach and called him on the phone. The first person to answer was his daughter who now was taking care of him. She remembered me right away. She told me how she was so jealous of me and the boys on our team. “You guys always got his attention and love.” I told her how sorry I was but I went on to explain how important Coach had been for all the boys and especially for me. He was a man with a disease and disability but he didn’t let that have an effect on his love and his desire to help us (me.) “He taught me to be myself, to be proud of myself and that I have more ability in me that I give myself credit. I am given talents for a reason and I need to use all of my ability if I am really to be genuine.” She understood. Her dad wasn’t home but she would give him the message that I called. It was a day later when Coach called. When I picked up the phone he said”Hello, Lefty!” We talked for hours and exchanged addresses. We corresponded and over the years and I included pictures of my girls who were both athletes in my Christmas cards to him. When I was the head of a consulting firm I kept the baseball glove I used when I played for coach on my desk. It was a reminder for me of the Coach and for me to be myself and to use all of my talents and gifts no matter what I do.

I received a returned Christmas card “address unknown - No forward possible” this past December. It was my annual Christmas card to Coach. I am afraid he is passed now but he is not passed from my heart and my memory.

Time has continued to be mark itself close to the final innings of my own game of life. After my bypass surgery last August somedays I feel I have made it in to extra innings! Not too long ago,though,I had managed a special program that educates disabled young adults in computer technology. I gained a greater appreciation of those with disabilities. I had a wonderful diverse group of dedicated students of all ages and disabilities in our program. We were providing these individuals with a "second chance" and the opportunity for hope,dignity and to thrive as themselves. I don’t even know if he had a job or what he did to earn a living. I just know that he loved his family and the team. I pray that I was able to pass on the spirit of hope Coach B instilled in me to my students and athletes I have coached. I am also hopeful that I have the strength and wisdom to continue to do so to those I encounter in each inning of my life.

I thank Coach for his love and the "second chance." I thank God for bringing coach into my life .

Today if you come in to my office you will still find my glove that my dad gave me that I used when I played for the Coach.It is a little less flexible now and a little cracked and worn.(Much like me I guess.) It's age doesn't diminish,though, what Coach taught me - to play and live with enthusiasm, dignity and integrity, and to always be my authentic self.


- Copyright 2008


  1. Great post.

    It made me think of the poems by Ed Jirsch about his football coach.

    I wrote a bit about my connection with that poems and my son at

    Ed's poem EXECUTION is online at

  2. Thanks for the commentand the connection. Ed Hirsch has also been a long favorite of mine.