“It was supposed to be a foul ball.”

Matt Kinney is a coach at Sluggers Indoor Baseball & Softball Training Facility in Brewer, Maine. Among the many ways he serves as a coach there, he is currently offering a baseball pitching clinic on Monday afternoons from 5 to 6pm. At the request of my younger son, I signed him up for the clinic–4 Mondays in October. However, I utterly forgot that he would be on a school trip the first Monday this month, and I was left wondering if I’d wasted that price of admission. Then, I remembered Christian.

I asked Christian if he wanted to go to a pitching clinic, and he said, “Sure.” (He’s often up for trying new things.) Of course, once the day arrived and he began to think about what ‘pitching clinic’ meant, he began to get cold feet. He thought it meant getting to play catch with Hunter the Husson student, or something like that, and he wanted to do that, but he wasn’t so sure he’d like learning other steps involved in pitching.

His brother and I convinced him that learning pitching from Major League Baseball pitcher Matt Kinney was the best person to work with, although he wasn’t entirely certain he understood what we were talking about. I tried to explain it, but Christian is a very concrete thinker, and the idea I was presenting was too abstract. “You know that game Coach Kevin keeps talking about that your team is going to play in a few weeks? Well, the guy doing the clinic tonight is one of the people that will be playing against you, and he used to pitch for the Minnesota Twins.”  Somehow, it didn’t compute.

Christian went to the clinic and was the last kid to arrive. The others had paired up with each other, and he was the odd man out, so he paired up with the Coach. I was thrilled for him; he didn’t know who the Coach was.

He enjoyed his hour, and I believe he learned more about pitching than he thought he was going to. Coach Kinney seemed pleased with Christian’s progress from start to finish. We thanked him, and before we left, I mentioned that Christian was one of the players Matt would be playing against on October 17th. Then, as we went out to the car, I brought up the connection to Christian again. “How was it working with him?”

“It was good. He was okay.”

“Okay? Just okay? Do you know who he is?”

“Uh, no. But I know there’s a coach from here that’s playing against my team in a couple weeks that used to pitch for the Minnesota Twins.”

“Yeah, Christian. THAT’s the GUY! THAT’s Matt Kinney!

His eyes opened wide in surprise and excitement. “Oh! That’s him?” He clapped his hands joyfully. “I didn’t realize that was Matt Kinney!”

All I could do was laugh. “Oh, Christian, you’re so funny.”

“Yeah. I get that a lot.”

—Fast forward to Sunday, October 17.—

In the 5th inning, Christian pitched to Matt Kinney. Matt whacked a solid double off Christian. I couldn’t tell for sure, but there seemed to be a mischievous gleam in Matt’s eyes during the at-bat, and I was dying to find out more about it. On Monday, our other son, Michael, had his pitching clinic with Matt, and he found out what had happened.

Here’s what he reported to me:

“So, Dad, I said to Coach Matt, ‘You hit a solid double off my brother Christian yesterday.’

And Matt said, ‘It was supposed to be a foul ball. I was going to foul it off, then swing and miss to strike out on the next pitch. Then I was going to throw a massive temper tantrum. It didn’t work right. I hit it solidly, so I thought, Well, the outfielders get their chance at fielding.'”

Made me laugh again. I appreciated that Michael got the full story, and that Matt Kinney had planned a good show. He’s a good guy. I have a ton of respect for him for a lot of reasons, and it’s wicked cool that both my kids have learned better pitching from him. I absolutely love that the double “was supposed to be a foul ball.”

Published by Bangor Alternative Baseball (BAB)

We are a coed team of teens and adults, ages 15+ with autism and other disabilities, that play baseball and learn life and social skills for on and off the baseball diamond. We are part of a national nonprofit organization featuring more than 80 teams across America.

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