Bad News Bears


Growing up, the Bad News Bears was one of my all time favorite movies. Kinda what The Sandlot is to my kids. The first time I saw it was at the Drive-In. I loved it. Sassy kids; a beer guzzling coach (I had one of those); kids that didn’t really get along until it counted, loved it. It probably was one of the reasons I started playing ball in the first place.

My first Little League team was the White Sox, we sucked. SRSLY. We may have won a game or two but I really don’t think we did. Our coach was a classmates father and kind of a nerd. As in, I’m guessing he’d never played the game of baseball much less had any personal skills to coach a bunch of little girls. Whenever he would get frustrated with dropped balls or bad throws, he would call a time out and stomp out on the field and scream at the player. In front of everyone. Not really what I had signed up for. When I threw a ball in from left field to the cut off, I (too late) realized that she had her back to me. I hit her in the back…it was his daughter. Coach quickly called a time out and started stomping out my way and I was ready for him. I quickly yelled before he was out of the infield to not even come yell at me in front of everyone just because his stupid daughter doesn’t know how to be the cut off person. (In hindsight, a player should never talk to a coach that way. But now I’m 47 instead of 10 so I’m a bit smarter.) He stopped, crooked his finger my way and benched me the rest of the game. I deserved it. That’s Little League.

I was thinking of Little League last night when I was e-chatting with a fellow thrower. I met Bonnie in the elevator at the Arnold this past spring and instantly liked her. She’s personable, has good energy, a hard worker. Things I like in a fellow thrower. Anyways, once you throw a Games in a full on snowstorm with someone, you’re bonded for life. True story. Bonnie posed a question that, in my opinion, applies to lots and lots of us in the Masters throwing world.

We’re old and new to a sport (maybe new to sport competition as a whole.) How do we kick butt and not get down when we don’t?

One of the best things about the Highland Games is that new folks can walk onto the field and throw with folks who’ve been around forever. The first Games I threw in was here in Wisconsin (not including the Highlander I did down in Texas) and shared a field with the likes of Mark Valenti, Craig Smith, KO, Chris Chafin and the list goes on. A-mazing. I had no idea what I was doing but had an absolute blast with the help of Erin (Valenti’s now wife) and the mood was always kept upbeat and fun by Shawna Mendelson (she’s awesome.) I had a complete blast and was hooked on this whole throwing thing.

Now, I have absolutely zero throwing experience, that hasn’t been helpful. People start talking about orbit and hips and blocking and I instantly start glazing over. I have no idea what that means. I guess I understand a little bit now but have a long way to go. I would contend that my first full year of Games (last summer) I relied on strength alone with a little bit of  athletic ability to take me the rest of the way. But to improve, I need to understand the mechanics of a good throw, practice, and apply. What is the joke (but not really) of how to become a good thrower? Do it correctly, now repeat it 100,000 times. THEN you’ll be a good thrower.

Crap. I’ve only done it about 500 times, not even close. What is there in the mean time? Practice. Little League, where we learn not only the fundamentals, we begin to apply them and hopefully at some point become consistent. Not only that, we learn that we can’t call a teammate stupid just because she doesn’t know she’s the cut off. But srsly, we learn to behave in others sandboxes. We learn that if someone else wants tacky and I don’t, I’m not the only one here. We compromise. We share our umbrellas. We ask for help without being a PI the A and understand the those who are helping are ALSO competing and maybe aren’t just focused on US doing better. We are ready to step into the trig when it’s our turn, we don’t make it about just us and force others to wait until we put on a show before each throw.

I’ve actually seen people COUGH*Jeff Armstrong*COUGH enter the Games and 30 seconds later is in the trig throwing cuz his name came up and it was go time. He wasn’t going to make people wait, it was his turn and he made himself ready for it. We pay attention (like, not become completely enthralled with Kirsti Scott’s WoB and almost miss throwing the Sheaf at Enumclaw. My bad.)

But mostly, we practice. We set realistic goals for each games and focus on them. Once the event is done, it’s done. I’ve had games where I completely bombed out and when I go back to look at numbers from the beginning of the season, I actually did really good. Perspective, keep it.

I really wanted to win the Arnold. When I thought I’d blown it with the hammer I was quite upset…for about 15 seconds. Then I looked at my guy, and then my two favorite sister’s on the planet, KCon and Little Con who all stood out in a snowstorm just to watch me throw and said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Laughed and enjoyed myself.

How do we “just have fun” when we’re having a rough throwing day? I dunno, I’m still working on that one. Do your best. It’s glib and it’s trite but at the end of the day, it’s all we have. Sometimes your best isn’t very good. That’s ok. It’s only Little League, we’ll get better. Sometimes your best is just enough. That’s ok. Sometimes your best kicks ass. That’s ok. It’s all the same, your best.

Again, at the end of the day, all you have is you and your best…and a beer tent. Hopefully a beer tent.

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!

Training Log

Coach Buttermaker

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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