MARRIETA, Ga. – As the GA Longhorns Baseball 15u and Twelve Black prepared to square off in the 2012 14u/15u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational pool play Wednesday, the two managers briefly spoke with PG about the task of coaching 14- and 15-year-olds.
Twelve Black skipper Michael Williams, a former Chicago White Sox pitching farmhand in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said he believes there are no unique challenges of coaching this age group compared to others.
“I wouldn’t say they’re unique challenges,” said Williams, who is in his first year with these 14-year-olds from the Houston-based program. “This is the stage where they get ready now for high school, college, and pro ball. I don’t think there are any extra challenges; it’s just getting these guys ready for the next level.
“To see these guys get better year after year, overcome things, and make adjustments in the game are the best things for me.”
The group under Williams’ watch includes a core that’s been playing together since they were seven-years-old.
“It’s a pretty special group,” he said as his team prepared for the early afternoon matchup. “Their skill level is higher than most guys in Houston their same age so it’s been a lot of fun coaching them.”
GA Longhorns Baseball’s Bob Berry, a former player with Auburn University and the Atlanta Braves organization, said players around this age keep him on his toes.
“Anyone who has teenagers knows that,” said Berry before the 11:35 a.m. first pitch. “I’ve noticed this year that the kids have learned new words and they’re a little bit more enthusiastic and energetic. I’ve had a lot of these players since they were eleven and twelve so things change every year.”
What does not change is the need for instruction and investment.
“Kids this age don’t care a whole lot, but if you go out there, practice with them, take groundballs, and show them that you know what you’re doing, they start to respect you,” Berry said. “I never tell them or teach them anything that I don’t do myself.”
Berry said he coached at East Cobb Baseball for five years before joining GA Longhorns Baseball when the program branched off in 2010.
“We went independent just because we know enough people,” Berry explained. He has been coaching the majority of this particular group of players for seven years now.
Berry said he enjoys this time of year but acknowledges the sacrifice that it requires of the players’ parents.
“It’s my favorite part of the year,” Berry said. “It’s a bit of a grind though with the kids because mothers and fathers don’t get to see them play. I just have to be flexible enough to get here and be with them.”
As the players prepared to take the field, Williams described the ballclub as excited to face the competition.
“These guys want to win,” Williams said. “Wherever we go, these players want to win and compete at the highest level. This is one of the tournaments we’ve never been to so this is our first chance to go out here and see what we can do against quality teams all over.”