July 11, 2013
The young baseball players assembled on top of the pitcher's mound with individual medals in hand.
Three coaches followed the players, most of them middle school seventh and eighth graders, and some who had recently finished their freshman year at the high school. Fallon's Babe Ruth Giants had won their second league title after posting a 20-1 record.
The coaches deflected all the accolades to the players, something they had done during the past two years. When the team faltered in the quarterfinals several weeks ago, former Greenwave players Justin Amos, Randy McClelland and Jeremy Beach didn't deliver any blistering speeches. They told their players that if they want to win the game and then play for the championship, they had to show the desire to win.
And that they did.
"It's exciting working with those kids," said Beach, who also played for his father in Little League in the 1990s. "It's lots of fun."
Amos, like his two coaches, has loved the game of baseball since he was a youngster in elementary school. What makes this year's crop of Fallon Babe Ruth baseball coaches unique is that three teams were guided by coaches in their 20s; additionally, none has a son playing baseball.
Amos caught the coaching bug five years ago when he served as an assistant coach for a 12-and-under Cal Ripken team. After taking a few years off, Amos said he wanted to coach again but this time at the Babe Ruth level.
McClelland had been with the A's for two years before he and Amos decided to coach a team together. Then they asked Beach to become the third coach on the team.
Both Amos and McClelland said they wanted to pass their knowledge to the younger players coming up through Fallon's youth program.
"We wanted to give back to the kids," McClelland said.
Based on what they learned during the years at all levels, they wanted to disseminate their knowledge of the game to their young teenagers.
"We have no specific coaching methods," said McClelland. "We use what works and place kids where they can play."
The coaches acknowledge it is a challenge to assess players according to their abilities.
"We did it with all the kids," Amos added. "We assesses their abilities and willingness to learn and for us to coach them."
Part of the success for the new crop of Fallon coaches is their ability to develop the players based on their level of expertise.
"When we were younger, we had coaches who didn't coach to our ability," Amos said. "They tried to change us."
Beach said the players are always willing to listen, and the coaches were fortunate to have supportive parents.
"The parents were really helpful," Beach said. "It was nice having hem around. They were supportive."
Amos, who played for his dad for many years, said his father, Phillip "Red" Amos came to the games. Afterward, Justin said his father would talk to the coaches about the finer points of the game.
"Dad helped with the rule book," Justin Amos said.
Likewise, Beach said his father, Jack, a Greenwave baseball star in high school and former Greenwave baseball coach, came to some of the games and gave the coaches a better insight into the game and coaching.
"Dad was a big help on the little things," Beach said.
That attention for detail and patience paid off the Giants. Justin Amos said the players responded well to their coaches.
"They can relate with us because we're younger," McClelland said.
Both Justin Amos and McClelland said they are there to teach to fundamentals of the game and improve their players' abilities.
"We want to get them up to the next level to high school ball," McClelland added.
Last summer, Amos and McClelland coached the 13-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars to the state title; this year, they inherit the 14-year-old team consisting of many of last year's players.
Danny Bright, like his three friends on the Giants, wants to share the love of baseball with younger players.
In his first year of coaching, Bright struggled early in the season, sometimes wondering why he took on the task of coaching teenagers. He had trouble relating, but finally, something clicked and the team began to respond.
Struggling near the bottom of the six-team league standings, the Astros began to play more competitive ball and finished the season in third place. During championship week, the Astros stunned the second-place A's to advance to the championship game.
"It's been a learning experience and can be stressful, but I have learned to coach them differently. I can't tell them the first time. I have to coach them by putting together building blocks."
Bright received some help from his boss, Claude Parsley, a former Babe Ruth and youth coach who served as commissioner of the Fallon Babe Ruth program.
"Claude knows how to deal with kids. He gave me some drills to help prepare them" Bright recounts.
Bright and his friends worked with the younger players week after week, drilling them on the little things to make them good, solid ball players. Each week the team became more competitive in its games, and the close games became Astros' wins.
"As the season went on, the players began to trust me," Bright said. "They're younger, they can relate with me, and that helped us come together as a team."
Bright said he wanted to give back to the players. He had been involved with Fallon Youth Baseball for years, pitched on the Greenwave and then took his game to the next level where he played junior college ball.
Parsley said it's good to see the younger coaches work with the players and to keep them involved.
"I'm proud of Danny wanting to do it," Parsley said of coaching.
Bright received one of the best honors a coach could have. He and his two of his coaches will be coaching an all-star team.
Teryn Smith, Michael Perazzo and Nikko Parsley took the A's this year and molded them into a contender. The A's handed the Giants their only loss this season. If it weren't for the surprising Astros in the playoffs, the Giants would have faced their chief nemesis for the past two years in the title game.
Smith became one of the dominant pitchers when he played in the Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth leagues. In high school, Smith became one of the Greenwave's top pitchers. He then played for a year at Western Nevada College before he began to experience arm trouble.
Smith has been able to take all the words of wisdom, the playing experience, the drills and the different styles of coaching to the field this year.
"Go out and play hard," Smith was quick to say. "Take the game seriously but go out and have fun."
During the season Smith displayed a fresh approach in dealing with his players. He continually pumped up their spirits and the belief they could play against anyone and win.
"We (the coaches) told the kids never give up," Smith explained. "You get time to play and time to shine. Every player has potential."
His No. 1 assistant, Nikko Parsley, was also a pitcher in Babe Ruth and high school. He, like Smith, loves the game and would rather be at the ballpark coaching young teenagers rather than doing anything else.
Parsley said he also impressed with the parents' support.
"They are more involved than when I played," Parsley said.
During the season, Parsley was asking his dad about the game.
"During the season dad would come out and watch some of our early games and then give us tips," Parsley said.
Parsley, though also learned from his experiences to make the players better conditioned and to work with the pitchers.
Perazzo, who joined the team in May after finishing his semester of college, said all the coaches love the game and want their players to do the same.
"Make the good plays and enjoy," Perazzo said.
Growing up with four older brothers who played baseball, Perazzo said they taught him more about the game. Although players need to be focused on what they're doing at bat or in the field, Perazzo said the players are also out there to learn the game.
"Don't go out there and be hard nosed," Perazzo remembers the advice given to him by an older brother. "Teach them the fundamentals."
Todd Moretto has served as the Babe Ruth commissioner for several years. Moretto said he likes the trend of younger coaches working with the players.
"The trend is that the younger kids fresh out of college or high school are helping pick up a Babe Ruth team," Moretto pointed out. "Next year I would like to see all of our teams either have younger coaches, either as the manager or as assistants."
Moretto said the younger players tend to respond better to the fresh faces coaching them.
Moretto, though, said he is still gratified when parents step up to coach a team because of the knowledge they also bring to the game.
"Parents are also a key part of this," Moretto said.