by Jack Warren
A few months ago, I called my cousin, a retired school teacher and coach who lives in southern central Tennessee, to let him know that we’d be passing his way and asked if he’d be around. He told me he’d be in Louisiana that weekend. When I asked what was taking him to Louisiana, he responded, “I’m going down to help after the floods. That’s what Tennessee people do.” Yes, indeed, that is what Tennessee people do.
I thought of this the other day as I stopped by to visit with former Top Coach guest Travis Hart of Gatlinburg-Pittman High School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Even though Coach Hart’s baseball field resembles a reclaimed vacant lot after being used as a landing area for Blackhawk helicopters during the recent wildfires, he’s still upbeat about the prospects of getting it all pulled back together in time for the season opener in March. You see, not only does he have the Volunteer (state) spirit, but he has a baseball coach’s Can-Do attitude.
Why are baseball coaches’ conventions and other gatherings so successful? It’s because baseball coaches love to share and help. There is a spirit borne of a perpetual underdog status and a feeling of, “If it’s gonna get done, we’re gonna be doing it.” As I like to point out, what other sport requires the coach to do everything to prepare the playing venue? Basketball coaches don’t set up seating or sweep the court. Football coaches are not lining the field before the game or filling holes after the game. These kinds of activities are part of what creates the bond in the baseball coaching fraternity.
Coach Hart, his staff, the players, their families, and the entire area are pulling together to make the best of a bad situation. In the entire half hour I spent with Coach Hart, there was no sense of complaining or entitlement, other than a mention of some “bureaucratic red tape” that was difficult to navigate. They convey, more than anything, a sense of gratitude, as things could have certainly turned out much worse. Two players on the baseball team lost their homes, but they are all grateful for what they still have. I wouldn’t expect less from baseball people.