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An all-star season

Head baseball coach Jeff Strauss sent this letter after his team of 9- to 11-year-olds lost their second-round playoff game Tuesday.

June 11, 2007

GIANTS FAMILIES,

It's probably not a secret, but I'll share it with you anyway. I believe that, despite the players' tears, I am the saddest person on the Giants this evening.

I am not sad about our loss today; it was an honorable and exciting one. Coming from four runs down to tie the No. 1 team in our league is something to celebrate, even if they got us by one run in the end. I am only sad because losing means that we don't get to play any more games together this year.

See, what the kids don't know -- because they thought that I was coaching them to teach them baseball -- was that they were giving me so much more than I could ever give them.

For these last few months, I've had the chance to play a game and feel that game in the way I did as a child -- hopefully with the benefit of a little maturity and a touch of adult wisdom. (I like to think I have those; I'm not sure it always showed.) I got to run around on the grass and get dirty and go to the batting cages every week. I got to play catch with my kids and yours.

I will remember many moments from this year: the pig pile when we beat the Mets, the look on Will Bahr's face when he caught that great fly ball, huge hits by Foster and John and Will Burschinger and Drew and Juan and Chunny, and how Carl looked swimming in that catcher's gear trying to do everything he could for his team.

I'll remember Ollie's great bunt (while forgetting to run to first base!) and his big hit into the outfield. There was Nathaniel's great play at third and, in the playoffs, in short outfield, as well as (I think he's forgotten this) the total change in his batting style. Remember how he used to step out with his left leg on every pitch? But today, against the most feared pitcher in the league -- JOHN TURNER!!!! -- he never moved that foot. He stayed in there and swung at it!

I will remember Eli's return to the mound. After letting in three runs and loading the bases in his first appearance, he came back two games later to strike out two and assist on the final out. He pumped his fist like Eric Gagne as he jogged off the field. We had more solid pitching than any team in the league. (Had we gotten into a 7th inning today, the Dodgers were toast!) After John and Foster, we had Juan and Carl and Eli and Chunny and Drew with game experience.

And there's my own little guy, Jake, playing in big brother Eli's shadow: In two years, when they're both pitching, I'd hate to be any team facing us.

Every year, I tell the kids that I have four goals: 1. to have fun; 2. to help the kids become better baseball players; 3. to help them become a better baseball team; and 4. to have fun. (Twice? Corny? Yeah, I know.) From my point of view, this was an excellent year on all four counts.

So congratulations to everybody! And thanks to my assistants and to all the parents for the applause and waters and snacks and sunscreen. You were great and made coaching a constant pleasure.

That's it. You can have your children back now. But if you're driving by the John Burroughs Middle School on a late Tuesday afternoon and you see a guy with a touch of gray in his curly hair wandering around on the field looking a little lost, toss your kids and maybe a ball and a Gatorade over the fence. I'll have 'em back by dark. Or just after.

--

JEFF STRAUSS, a TV writer and producer, coached the Minor A Giants of the Wilshire Sports Assn.

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