I have been coaching for over 25 years. My first taste was in 1993 when I was a summer baseball camp counselor for Doyle Baseball. Back then I was still a college player who was focused on his own playing career. However, by being a camp counselor I was able to be around scouts who attended these camps and they would allow me to work out for them. I looked at this as an opportunity to get exposure. I had no idea it was the first step in my coaching career.
I played professionally until I was 26 years old. Over the next few years I bounced between coaching, teaching, sales, and management positions as I tried to figure out what the heck I wanted to do with my life. I loved to play the game and had no real interest in coaching baseball when my playing career ended. Eventually I came to a point where I didn’t like wearing a suit to work everyday and I missed the field. So, I kinda fell into coaching more than I pursued it.
Standing for what I believe
Over time I worked with or for many kinds of people. Some I greatly respected while others I didn’t really care for. Speaking of the latter, they would teach me to do the job one way, but when it came down to making money, they would ask me to do things that I felt were dishonest. As a matter of fact, I called a person out once on this and a few days later I was let go by the company. In retrospect me telling a co-worker to inform our regional boss to bring their fat butt (I may have used a different word) down to the store I worked at and make me do it was a bad call…
While that situation was not funny at the time, I sit back and laugh at it now. I learned that I need to be more careful about what I say and especially who I say it to. Just because I feel a certain way does not mean that I should let the world know about it. Note to all of you who vent through social media. A wise word from the book of Proverbs really sums this up:
“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)
Working for God
In 2006, one year after that incident, I moved from Michigan to Arizona and started my own baseball training business. The Lord blessed me with the idea to start Cactus Athletics, so I felt like I was working for him. Now I had the greatest boss in the world. The person that he put in charge of my company was a bit of a mess, but I dealt with that guy in the mirror every night. I loved running the business, but six years into it I missed the team interaction that a company brings so I started searching for something more. I wanted to find a full-time job that would still allow me to run the business.
I was hired by the San Francisco Giants as a minor league hitting coach in 2012. My wife told me after I was hired to “stay under the radar”. She didn’t really mean for me to go totally unnoticed, although I easily could because I’m a ninja. It was more like “Billy stay out of trouble and don’t do something stupid that will get your butt fired”. Three weeks into Spring Training, I was struck in the face by a ball in the batting cage and now I was the center of attention; whoops. Thankfully I was fine in about 10 days and I also got a free nose job out of it. My friends at church pay thousands for that kind of stuff.
During my first year I ran into a difficult situation. One of my co-workers who was much older than me, was not coaching the way our directors in the minor leagues wanted him to. He would accommodate the “brass” when they were in town but would revert to his way when they left. Another co-worker and I were told to not let him do this, but we let it slide. I brought it up to him once, but he was set in his ways and I felt like he was not going to listen to me. Then towards the end of the season one of the bosses came in town unannounced and didn’t like what he saw when he got to the field.
The funny thing is, he didn’t go to the person who was coaching in a way that he didn’t like. He went to me and my co-worker. It was our job to hold this man accountable and we didn’t do it. At this point I realized the importance of following through with what I was asked to do. I also learned a valuable lesson that I personally needed to act and coach the same whether there was a superior in town or not. I wanted a daily reminder of this, so I searched the bible and found the following scripture.
“Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”Colossians 3:22-24
Some of you might notice that I did not put what version of the bible this came from. That is because 90% of it came from the New International Version, but I modified a few of the words so it would be more relevant to me. An example would be me using the word “men” instead of “human masters”. I decided to type this verse up on a word document with multiple photos of my family and then placed it inside my locker. It was a good reminder of who I am working for (God) and the people that I am providing for (Taleen, Connor and Bryce). Here is one of the images I used the first year I put it in my locker.
I still run Cactus Athletics and work for the Giants. In nine days I report to Spring Training, which is only seven miles from my home. The amount of time I spend at my job is pretty intense March through August. We are usually at the field a minimum of 10 hours per day, 6 days a week. That sounds a little crazy, but I am essentially on call from September through February. As a matter of fact, this past year I went 4 months without having to show up to work. That afforded me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with one of my passions- writing.
Playing for God
This is an entire blog entry in its own right, so I will tell the short version of the story. About 10 years ago I started a youth athletic ministry called “Teen Impact”. We used the back room at a Barro’s Pizza in central Phoenix to host our events. Any teenage athlete in the area could come for free. It was all you could eat pizza and drinks. We offered free bibles and encouraging words from Christian athletes who would share their testimony.
One night I was sharing a message on how you can honor God with the gift he gave you on the playing field. I talked about how it can be used as a sign of worship. One of the athletes who was nicknamed “Paco” had a hard time understanding what this meant. I asked him if he ever made or bought anything for his parents for Christmas. He said yes. Then I asked him how he felt when they were opening it. He said he was excited. I told him that is the same way God feels every time he sees you out on the field opening up the gift he gave you to play baseball. That’s when it clicked for him.
Over the years I shared that story hundreds of times and then last year during Spring Training a player asked me to write it down for him. That’s when I decided to turn the story into a poem, which is now something we offer on our website. It’s a story of a child speaking to their father on the way home from practice. You can purchase it in 10 different versions that cover 9 sports. Below is our baseball image.
If you would like to see all 10 images that we offer of the poem “Playing for God” please CLICK HERE. You can purchase any of these in the following five formats/materials: digital download, poster paper, sintra board, dibond metal or high-end acrylic.
Here are some points to think about:
- Stand up for what you believe.
- Treat everyone with respect and be cautious with your words.
- Work as if God is your direct boss. Doing this will make your productivity go through the roof!
- Follow your passions and try to find a job that will allow you to use them so you can impact others.
- Spend time with your parents, kids, or friends (depending on who is reading this) and talk about the giftings that God has given you.