Lincolnshire baseball spotlight: Coach Gordon and the Lincolnshire Lightning 8U

Lincolnshire Lightning 8U | Provided.

This week’s Lincolnshire baseball spotlight features Coach Brad Gordon and the Lincolnshire Lightning 8U.

Q. How did you first become involved in the Lincolnshire travel baseball team?

A. I have always had a passion for baseball and have coached my son in house baseball the past few years. When the time came for him to move to the next level, I had reservations whether my coaching would be best for him. After some discussion and contemplation, I applied and obtained the position.

Q. How did your first game go?

A. Our first game was against a tough Buffalo Grove team (which ended up going 14-0 for the season and won the playoffs), but we held our ground. For the boys’ first competitive travel baseball game with kids pitching, I was proud of their play at the plate and in the field. We lost, but we learned we had made great strides since our indoor workouts.

Q. What is your favorite thing about your team?

A. That is a real hard question as there is so much to like about this group of boys. I will tell you they have a ton of energy, which is generally a good thing. Additionally, they are at an age where they are truly having fun and showing great joy in playing the game. But probably my favorite thing about this team is they truly were a team. They really developed a team mentality as the season went on, supporting and providing guidance to each other and creating bonds that hopefully will last a lifetime.

Q. What is most difficult and what is most rewarding about coaching?

A. The most difficult thing about coaching is remembering the boys are eight. I recognize I generally have a level of intensity and philosophy more apt for older kids, which I had to adjust. It is difficult to watch a player, after spending significant time on a skill, go out and do the exact opposite thing you just taught them. But those difficulties are really nothing compared to the reward of seeing the joy on the boys’ faces when they make a good play, hit the ball hard, or the ultimate, getting a win. It made be proud they listened and took the skills they learned in practice and used them in games.

Q. What have you learned about yourself as a coach, and about your team as a whole?

A. I have realized much of the joy of coaching is seeing progress, and the boys comprehending baseball fundamentals. While they may not always execute, they are gathering baseball smarts that will help them go a long way in their baseball careers. I have also learned it takes much patience to coach this team as it became quite clear this group had strong personalities and opinions. It was unclear to me whether the coaches’ and my instructions would get through to them because we were “dads”, but I was readily surprised at the attention and interest they showed, listening to our teachings.

Q. How would you describe the team?

A. This was the first year most of the team played any truly competitive games against kids not their friends and I really did not know what to expect. The boys were troopers, they persevered through some tough practices and losses, all while encouraging each other to improve. They have all come a long way and have gained great confidence with each play and each hit. The boys continued to show their toughness by coming back in each of the last four games, never giving up.

Q. What are you most proud of as a coach?

A. The greatest pride was just watching the game and thinking, this looks like real baseball. Meaning the team got it, they learned protecting the plate on two strikes, getting secondary leads, lining up for cut-offs, taking the easy out, rounding the bases the proper way and talking to each other during the games.

Q. How did the kids react to the new dugout covers, scoreboards and home run fences?

A. They loved them. I remember walking up to the field with some of them on the first day of practice and hearing them say: “Look how close those fences are, I am going to hit some homeruns.” They quickly realized 175ft is very far for an eight year old. They also loved to see the score during the game, even when we were on the wrong end of it. The covers definitely came in handy on some of the hot days.

Q. What are your goals for the current season?

A. Now that our season is over, I looked back at the goals we established on day one. I am very excited to say that I do think we accomplished all of them; the boys learned fundamentals, improved in all areas, and had fun while playing.

Q.  Is there a professional athlete or coach that you look up to?

A. How could someone not respect and admire Jackie Robinson? The strength and fortitude he showed while breaking the color barrier in baseball is beyond reproach. Both on and off the field, he treated people with respect and dignity, even though others treated him poorly. He did not let the pressure or others’ treatment of him change the person he knew he was; he stayed true to himself which is a lesson we all should follow.

Q. What is the best memory you have so far?

A. The best memory was that first win. For me, it was a relief to get it under our belts and for the boys, watching them run around with smiles from ear to ear, high fiving each other and screaming was something I will always remember; it was great to see.

Q. Do you have anything else to add?

A. This was a great season for the team, we finished tied for 5th place out of 14 teams. The boys genuinely had fun; whether we won or lost the game, they would stay at the field and play wiffleball or running bases for hours on end. And I would be remiss if I did not thank my assistant coaches Lee Fell and Mike Grujanac. Both had gone through this before with older boys, and their wisdom and guidance really helped me.

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