One of the joys of this job is the number of young coaches I get the chance to speak with. Dennis McGrath is no exception.
The 1998 Bangor High School graduate is the new B team baseball coach at the William S. Cohen School in Bangor.
When I speak to guys like Dennis, it always takes me back to a time when I was a young coach, dealing with an age group similar to coach McGrath’s team, and reveling in a time when the games were pure and the entertainment value was higher.
Spend a little time with this guy, and you’re likely to come away from that conversation feeling better about yourself.
You see, coach McGrath’s philosophy of all this coaching stuff is to make sure each player on the team has a good time.
What, I’m thinking, are we talking about fun?
“I had the good fortune when I played baseball to be around some special baseball people,” Dennis said. “Dating back to Little League, I learned to respect the game of baseball from guys like Dave Mansfield,” he continued.
Dennis went on to sing the praises of Bangor hardball notables such as Bob Kelley, John Stubbs, Neil Waterman, and Jeff Fahey.
McGrath, 28, gives Fahey, the current Bangor Rams baseball boss, credit for ultimately touching his life — personally and coaching-wise — in such a way that it may have been Fahey who gets the most credit for the way Dennis coaches.
“Jeff was an intense leader, but at the same time, he had a side that made the players confident and comfortable,” he said.
“I try to make my kids feel like that,” he continued. “I try to teach my kids the way he taught me.”
Interviews like the one I had the privilege of conducting with this fine young man are always special to this old coach. I always come away from them feeling that the coaching profession is better for having people like this in it.
At times, I worry about the profession in general. I worry about what television and the national scene can do to incoming coaches who didn’t have the backgrounds that guys such as Dennis McGrath had growing up.
I’m concerned, too, about the example Major League players are setting for the would-be coaches out there, who witness all the negative stuff and grow sour to the game itself. The cavalier attitude displayed by the participants toward wrongdoing can have a huge affect on the future of the game, which includes choosing baseball as one’s life work.
Then I meet guys like Dennis McGrath, who were weaned on all this baseball at an early age, and had the good fortune to be around some of the aforementioned coaches.
And the good folks at the Cohen School are better off for it.
30-Second Time Out
Has anyone out there in the great sports coverage world —- TV, radio, print and Internet —ever considered the possibility that Boston Red Sox DH David Ortiz may have had his day in the sun and will never reach the same level of success again?
After having beaten to death the Kevin Garnett injury story, media thoughts now turn to the struggling Ortiz. Look for the Red Sox to either get another bat, lower the friendly slugger in the lineup, or gut it out until 2010.
No one in his or her right mind would ever slight the gentle giant for what he brought to Red Sox Nation, beginning with the incredible comeback in 2004 which led to a world title. But this guy is, in fact, human.