Intro: JD and Reagan both coach baseball with two Vietnamese coaches, who prior to the camp had never played the sport before.
1. What is your experience with baseball?
Reagan: I love played softball in middle school while running track. I was a catcher. But when I got to high school I decided to just run track.
JD: Baseball was my first real sport that I grew to love. It was the first time that I had been genuinely competitive, which came along with a necessary but unfamiliar level of commitment. I remember times in which I wanted to do anything but go to practice, but I was always there in the end. Baseball taught me about honoring my commitments and staying true to my word and team. It also showed me that competition is not always fierce. Being an outfielder in little league was not always the most exciting, but it was always a steady battle between the batters and fielders. Baseball taught me about the importance of relaxed intensity, which has developed over time into something I bring into everything from the classroom to friendships.
2. What is interesting about teaching a sport that these kids have no experience with?
Reagan: The coolest thing about teaching baseball is that all the kids start with a clean slate. There are no preconceived hesitations because none of them have seen it before. No one is shy or embarrassed since they are all beginners. That means everyone from the start goes full force and really gets into the game. I’ve actually noticed that in general a lot of the girls are better than the boys because they have no reason to be reserved, unlike in some of the other sports and in general. The girls really capture the finesse of the sport which is neat to see come so naturally.
JD: Admittedly cliché, but watching the kids hit the ball for the first time and running with focused clarity to first base is incredible to watch. Not only have the students never played baseball before, but they also have hardly even heard of it. Yet in just a short lesson with a few demonstrations, these kids get extremely competitive and excited. It is thrilling to see them get so into something that in many ways shaped my childhood and development into adulthood.
3. What is difficult about teaching something new?
Reagan: The most difficult part is communicating all the little details. Baseball has a lot of rules and much explanation is required throughout. It can be hard to teach the kids all the parts, but they are all necessary to understanding the game. Since baseball isn’t a just muscle through it kind of sport, we have a lot more talking to do, so it can feel like we are throwing a lot of information at them.
JD: In any situation of Coach for College, I cannot verbally communicate with the kids for the most part. I have relied on the Vietnamese coaches to interpret and translate, which goes very well. However, teaching baseball is extremely difficult in that their experience is just barely more than that of the kids. The experience barrier therefore transcends every level of the teaching process, making it quite difficult to teach an already complicated sport filled with specific rules and unique scenarios. However, it also makes seeing the students play even that much more sweeter. Knowing that we were able to work as a team to achieve an understanding like that is extremely special and humbling.
4. What is the most interesting part of teaching them baseball?
Reagan: The kids really do a great job with the sport. They seem to be having a great time and have really immersed themselves into baseball.
JD: How good the students are! It blows me away! We teach basic form, yet we soon see some of these kids throwing sidearm curveballs and hitting the ball way past where we expected them to be able to. It is so cool! On just their first batting drill, we see them hitting home runs and solid base hits. This week we begin playing the full game, and I am extremely excited to see what they are able to do in a game situation.
5. Why so American?
Reagan: I love watching the kids pick up the sport so quickly. We’ve all grown up around baseball since it is such a part of our culture, but they had never seen it before. Despite this, the kids have gone all out in practice. There’s even some who have amazing natural talent, so I like to help them see that talent in themselves.
JD: Baseball is woven into the fabric of America. Specifically in the sense that it transcends the game itself, rather playing a role in the ideals and progression of American culture. Exemplified by players like Jackie Robinson who were infinitely more than guys who could hit a ball and run in a diamond path, its history represents America at both its best and worst. It is a reflection of how far we have come and how far there is left to go. Beyond subjects like Biology and Math, in which these students will learn through their normal progression in school, baseball is something that I feel like I am crossing the cultural chasm with. I feel honored to act as an ambassador of American culture with these students, even if it is just for a few weeks.