When I was 12 and getting ready to play my last baseball game as a member of the Elks Red Sox in the Millinocket Little League, my teammates and I jumped off the bench after some loud pops echoed through the dugout.
We looked up and saw our coach, the late Bee Levasseur, laughing after lighting a few firecrackers and telling us it was time to wake up.
Bee had correctly deduced that we were suffering a case of the doldrums as we prepared for the championship game against the Indians.
We did wake up, but that wasn’t enough to beat the Indians, and Bee’s sparks of motivation were more of his way of having a little fun as he was already happy because the team which had beaten us the previous season for the championship had been eliminated in the semifinals.
His lighting of firecrackers before that game in the early 1970’s didn’t bother our parents, but certainly wouldn’t be accepted in today’s society and Little League, and rightly so, but much has changed since those days of the ‘70’s when our parents didn’t have to worry about psychopaths with guns walking into schools.
What wasn’t acceptable in those days and also isn’t today is what occurred last week when Brewer Little League softball coach Jarrod Williams was ejected and then arrested at an all-star game in Bangor following his outburst over a disputed call at home plate.
Williams has expressed his remorse for the incident and explained the scenario that contributed to it, but those reasons still can’t justify what occurred and a line no coach should cross. He seems to understand that and says he will no longer coach in Little League.
Some may believe that when coaches reach a low point like Williams, then they should stay in exile. When pondering this, I remember my old Little League coach, Bee, who oozed competitive fire, but who I always liked as a coach because he loved the game, treated us fairly and, in between grueling shift work at the Great Northern Paper mill, spent a lot of time helping us in practices.
I like to think that if he was coaching today that he would adapt to today’s Little League in which coaches are under more scrutiny and achieve a better balance of teaching the game with the desire to win.
If he had trouble adjusting and crossed a line, however, I would like him to receive a second chance at eventually coaching again some day. Many of us who have participated in sports as a player, coach or volunteer over the years have come close to crossing the line but have been stopped through helpful friends, teammates, other coaches or through early lessons at home.
Perhaps a second chance can be eventually given to Williams or other coaches who cross the line.
To do so, they should take off at least a year from the game and take some lessons to address their issues. Leagues can also assist by mandating those coaches can start over only in an assistant’s role, always need to have another coach present at practices and games, and invoke a one-strike rule saying that the coach is permanently out of the league if one more incident occurs.
And keep those dugouts quiet.