I Was 49 When I Finally Became a High School Baseball Coach & Hitting Instructor...

photo-platon. Getty Images.

After I graduated high school in 1974, I went to Norwich University, a private military college in Northfield, Vermont, where I was a P.E. Major. At that point in my life, I only wanted one thing: to be a gym teacher and coach. Either football or baseball…

By 1979, after attending four schools sporadically and completing my junior year at Northeastern, I decided college wasn't for me, and I never looked back. I later became a plumber, and although I was happy with my career choice, I constantly thought about what could've been. My good friend growing up, Jackie Cosgrove, did pretty well. He became the winningest head football coach in University of Maine history, where he played and went on to coach for 23 years. He became the head coach at Colby College in 2018.

In 2005, at the age of 49, I took a job as a plumbing instructor at a local vocational high school. That year, their football team was on the way to winning their second Super Bowl in a row, and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. I had gotten to know most of the kids on the team through some collaborative construction projects at the school, so I wanted to see them succeed. My son Dylan and I started going to a lot of football games. We were there, sitting in the bleachers in the freezing cold, when they won their second Super Bowl in a row. 

After the Super Bowl win, I started chewing the fat with the football coach in his shop after school, and that's when he told me he was also the head varsity baseball coach.

Mike Epstein is a former MLB player who became a highly regarded hitting instructor. He played for the Washington Senators when they were managed by Ted Williams ('69-'71), and the two of them constantly discussed the art of hitting.

Herb Scharfman. Getty Images.

After he retired from baseball, Epstein began teaching Rotational Hitting (hips leading hands), and my son and I attended a two-hour presentation he gave at a local Holiday Inn. Afterward, I hung around, and Epstein and I talked one-on-one about his hitting theories, which all made perfect sense to me. Epstein was a protégé of Ted Williams and is the only person to receive Williams' endorsement as a hitting instructor. What more would anyone want on their résumé?

I bought the book Mike Epstein on Hitting and his video and learned everything I could about rotational hitting. My son began using the no-stride approach, one of the many techniques Epstein taught, and he began making more consistent contact and hitting with power. I started teaching other kids rotational hitting and they began having similar success at the plate.

After I told the coach about rotational hitting and how many of the kids I coached at the Little League level had improved, he immediately asked me if I wanted to volunteer as the special hitting instructor for all three levels: freshman, JV, and varsity. He said he'd make me the assistant varsity coach, and although it wasn't a paid position, if everything worked out, he'd give me something at the end of the season to make it worth my while. I'd also be in charge of writing the highlights, calling them into the Brockton Enterprise, and publishing them on the school's website, so there was some writing involved, too. He also asked me if I'd be interested in becoming an assistant varsity football coach in the fall…

I couldn't refuse. I was all in. It was everything I ever wanted. Literally a dream come true. But it wouldn't be all balls and strikes… Would Coach's ego stand in the way of winning a championship?


To be continued…

*All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental… 

RIP, Willie Mays