Tim Redding Golfs 200 Times a Year
The First Tee is a World Golf Foundation initiative dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship, and also, with luck, the ability to notice minute rules infractions during televised golf broadcasts and to then tattle to the world.
Langston Golf Course is a D.C. muni with lovely views of Spingarn High, RFK Stadium, and rumbling Orange Line trains, and with a snack bar that makes truly great breakfast sandwiches.
Ryan Church is a left-handed swinging Nationals outfielder who is fifth in the National League in doubles. He also golfs about 20 rounds a year, and has a handicap of perhaps 15.
Tim Redding is a journeyman pitcher who has a 1-3 record after being pressed into starting duty with the Nats this season. He also manages to fit in about 200 rounds a year, has a 5 handicap, and recently shot an 80 at TPC at Avenel.
Now that you've met the particulars, get ready for the game. The game is Driving Range Baseball, an invention of GW Golf Coach and First Tee instructor Scott Allen and friends. It's actually a great game, far more fun than golf, as far as I can tell. I do worry about mixed messages being sent to the First Tee kiddies; earlier in the day, an instructor had told them that "while the big boys are swinging for the fences, in golf, we know that's not always the proper thing to do." In Driving Range Baseball, it sure is.
Anyhow, Church and Redding appeared at First Tee today to be special guests, not knowing that they were also going to be Coach Church and Coach Redding of Driving Range Baseball fame. "What players are those?" asked some of the Langston regulars up by the clubhouse, raising the possibility that Tim Redding has not yet become a household name in D.C. Everyone then headed down to the range, where the kiddies--who have been going to the program for six weeks--had some introductory whacks.
"Most of you guys are using the baseball grip, right?" Allen asked.
"Grip it and rip it," Redding said, approvingly.
As the kiddies warmed up, Coach Church and Coach Redding were encouraged to offer advice.
"Keep your eye on it," Coach Church said.
"Stay down and hit 'em straight, that's the important thing," Coach Redding said.
The coaches were then supposed to draft the kiddies onto their teams--talk about ruining young children's pyches--but instead, the First Tee people split the kids up, supposedly creating two even teams. Four orange cones were grouped behind the range, signifying the four bases. Little posters bearing the names of all sorts of virtues created a fairway up the range. If you hit it straight, between "Confidence" and "Perseverance," you got a single, for example. Nook Logan would approve. If you carried the ball past "Integrity" and "Courtesy," you had a double. That's Church land. If you went short or wide left or wide right, you were out. I'm telling you, it was a great game.
The coaches huddled with their players and crafted batting orders on their special clipboards; "does anyone have a whistle?" Coach Redding asked.
Team Church was up first. Single, single, single, bases-clearing triple, and immediately Billy Traber was up in the pen.
"Fixed, fixed," Coach Redding said in frustration. "We're playing under protest."
"I've got no problem kicking you out of this game Redding," said third-base umpire and First Tee instructor Sean Ketchum.
Another double, making it 4-0.
"Imagine that, Church gets a double," Redding said.
"I thought this would be a pitchers' duel," Allen said.
"No game that I'm in is ever a pitcher's duel," Redding pointed out.
"10-run rule," suggested Church.
Another double made it 5-0; "Coach Redding, get your players ready," Allen suggested. "They're all sitting up in the clubhouse, eating," Redding said.
Church's spot came up in the order, but since no left-handed sticks were available, he passed. The side was finally retired, but by that point the damage was done. Between innings, Church discussed his golf game; he doesn't play at all during the season, because it messes with his baseball swing.
"Pitchers'll do it because they've got nothing else to do," he said. "It might help their swing." He didn't mention his arch rival, Coach Redding. He didn't have to.
Church said when he starts playing golf after the baseball season, his swing is initially broken, and he retreats into "grip and rip." I asked which direction this makes the ball go. "Left," he said, "and right."
By the bottom of the second, Redding had thrown propriety to the wind. He grabbed a club--some not-very-fancy generic driver--took a few warm-up swings, and stepped up to the plate, or tee, or whatever.
"Cheater," Coach Church said.
Then Redding blasted a ball maybe 260 yards, veering right, way over whatever life skills signified a home run. "I'm not sure if that's in our out," Allen said. Redding teed another one up, reared back, and sent a ball 280 straight down the Driving Range Baseball Fairway and way over the Driving Range Baseball Fairway Fence, had it existed.
"That'll be a run," Allen said.
The player/coaches soon left to drive back to the stadium, with Team Church comfortably ahead; "it was real easy, I had all sluggers," Coach Church said. "I'm disappointed in my coaching effort, never disappointed in my players," Coach Redding said. I asked the First Tee instructors to critique Redding's swing.
"Short, compact, very effective," Ketchum said. "He hit the hell out of that drive."
"It was all on a plane, it was all together," Allen agreed. "I think we could work with that."
I told the instructors that Redding plays 200 rounds a year. They were amazed.
"Well," Allen said, "for 200 rounds a year, maybe his swing's not that great."
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