I love baseball. I played for half my life, and I watch more games on television than is probably advisable for a healthy marriage. But that doesn’t mean I have a clue how to coach baseball — a hard truth that I’ve discovered this season with a child playing Little League. First off, talking to a gaggle of 7-year-olds for more than 30 seconds is nearly impossible. I rarely can string three sentences together before one of the players interrupts to tell me about the bee that stung him yesterday, or quizzes me on the name of his new hamster. The more they interrupt, the more I lose focus, and the more I lose focus, the more I resort to tried-and-true baseball bromides that are apparently buried deep in the dark corners of my brain. One practice, I found myself babbling, “Baseball is a simple game: you throw the ball, the hit the ball, you catch the ball.”
Brilliant. To the point, and easy for a kid to understand.
I was very proud of myself for connecting on a basic level, and it wasn’t until the kids fell down laughing after I later reprimanded them for being lollygaggers that I realized I’d been simply stealing the best lines from Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham to teach them the game. Turns out, during my three months of coaching, I had, at different times, said variations of the following:
“Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls; it’s more democratic.”
“Don’t hold the ball so hard, okay? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.”
“Don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.”
“A player on a streak has to respect the streak.”
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”
(It’s at this point in the story that I think I deserve a little credit for subconsciously selecting the G-rated Bull Durham quotes, rather than the R-rated ones that would’ve certainly led to my ouster.)
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that there are some pearls of wisdom in Bull Durham and other baseball movies that can at least make it seem like you know what you’re doing from the dugout. Yes, of course there are actual instructional books and online baseball tutorial videos that would prove useful. But isn’t re-watching Major League and The Bad News Bears so much more fun?
Below, I’ve listed 10 classic baseball movie quotes that can prove useful on the field — and one reference that should never ever be uttered — when your brain finally checks out after 90 minutes of herding kids on the diamond.
1. “There’s no crying in baseball!” — A League of Their Own
Fact: There is most definitely crying in Little League baseball. Kids will cry on the field, and you will cry in the car on the drive back home.
2. “Come on, get in front of the damn ball! Don’t give me this olé [stuff]!” — Major League
3. “C’mon Hobbs, knock the cover off the ball!” — The Natural
4. “Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.” — The Bad News Bears
5. “With your speed, you should be hitting the ball on the ground and be legging them out. Every time I see you hit one in the air, you owe me 20 push-ups.” — Major League
6. “[Baseball is] supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” — A League of Their Own
7. “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough. You’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift, then you’ll fail.” — The Natural
8. “All I know is when we win a game, it’s a team win. When we lose a game, it’s a team loss.” — The Bad News Bears
9. “Hey Yankees… you can take your apology and your trophy and shove ’em straight up your ass!” — The Bad News Bears
Yes, it’s a tad crude, but children need to be taught at an early age that the Yankees are evil.
10. “Up your butt, Jobu.” — Major League
This bon-mot is your go-to giggle button. Good for all occasions (unless you have a kid on your team named Jobu.)
For the record, most of Bull Durham is off limits, and any coach who is more Walter Matthau’s Buttermaker than Wilford Brimley’s Pop Fisher should be careful never, ever, ever to call a child a booger-eatin’ moron — even if it’s half true (which it most likely is.)