MC’s Haworth Makes me Want to be Better

–DISCLAIMER: When my Journalism class starts (one day), I’ll make them “blog” about the experience of preparing an article. This is one of those blog posts.–

I’m not talented at many things. I always say my only real talent is growing a beard—and that’s credited to hairy jeans and laziness. Clay Norton, our AD, says I’m knowledgable about all things, master of nothing. I’ll take it.

Since I’ve started writing for The Clinton Courier, I have met some interesting people and have become more knowledgeable about things I never knew existed. I met Lucky Osborne, the guy who is in charge of the model train exhibit I used to go see as a kid at the Mississippi Coliseum. He was an interesting character. He’s brilliant—Civil War historian and reenacter, model train guru, artist, and US Navy veteran. His shop alone is a Creative Writing class Mecca—what with the rich pipe-tobacco smell, trinkets from here and there, and massive carving promoting “herbal” remedies for ailments, it was truly an experience.

I’ve had face-to-face meetings with Clinton’s mayor Phil Fisher as well as many a meeting with Mark Jones, a guy who has taught me more about quick mass communications in less than a year than I could have wished for. Thanks, Mark (if you’re reading this). I’ve (almost) figured out the differences between “The City of Clinton” and “Main Street Clinton” as well as the “Clinton Chamber of Commerce.” Am I an expert on any of it? No. Not at all. But I’m learning. I’ve enjoyed (right, more like “enjoyed”) Aldermen meetings and zoning meetings and all the fun stuff that make up the small-town, part time journalist.

I’ve especially enjoyed getting to talk to leaders of a church who have been (ignorantly, no falsely…I’ll stick with both) accused of ridding a town of its movie theater. I mean, never mind the fact that the movie theater was closing down anyway. Clearly, it was God’s fault. (Insert Exasperation Here). Journalists generally only receive feedback when they say something stupid or get something wrong (done that). One of these before mentioned ministers thanked me for getting my facts right before I reported on them. Kind words are few and far between. I’ll take what I can get.

There’s No Crying in Journalism!
beacon018One of my favorite interviews was from Mississippi College’s new baseball coach,  Jeremy Haworth. I scheduled a late morning interview with him on a rainy December day. I arrived at the MC Baseball offices in the midst of a chilly mist. The Choctaws had just finished construction on a new clubhouse equipped with new offices and a very nice locker room.

I looked around outside and couldn’t see anyone. I took it upon myself to walk through the door, making sure I wasn’t quiet enough to be ignored but not loud enough to disturb the clubhouse vibe. “Coach! You there?” I hollered at my softer-than-a-yell volume. “Coach?!” Nothing. I took out my phone and called the SID. No answer. I piddled for about five minutes then figured I’d have to tack this interview up to bad luck and try again later. Come to find out, I had showed up a touch later than they thought I would, and they had a Christmas staff celebration to attend. One thing I know from my (brief) coaching career is that when it comes to free food or an interview, there’s an obvious choice.

We met back up a few days later and proceeded to ask questions, answer questions, and simply talk baseball. I grew up with baseball. Played it (albeit not well). Coached it (albeit a little better than I played). Covered it (Next to watching it, ’bout all I can really do, I guess). To tell you the truth, it was fun getting to speak the language. “Turn two” and “aggressive plate approach” were merely a couple of phrases that felt comfortable to say, and better yet, comfortable to hear.

The nuts-and-bolts of the interview were fine: I asked a question or two, he answered. I had some notes to guide me through the conversation—if he mentioned pitching, bring up rotation or if he mentions batting, bring up base running techniques and strategies. I got that covered. No sweat. And safe to say, the interview went well, and my feature was ready to go. We put it on hold for the Spring. It should be coming out soon. (Go find it and laminate it and say it’s the greatest thing since…Wright Thompson…even if you don’t mean it).

But what I experienced in that interview is something I couldn’t translate in a small-town newspaper feature. I tried, tried my best, but the intangibles of that conversation were what stuck out: his passion, his drive, his structure, his methods, his attitude. It was almost as thick as Lucky Osborne’s pipe-smoke in his shop. I could not shake it from me then, and I certainly can’t shake it from me now.

It lingered—like smoke.

Whatcha Got to Prove?
Netherton042212If you go back up and click on Haworth’s link, you’ll see a good bit about him. While I was researching the dude before I met him, I saw he not only coached at Ouachita Baptist University but played there during the same time I was in school. “Wait, this guy’s my age?” Got me to thinking. “He’s, like, doing a real thing that a real adult would do.” He was D-II All-American and won all these other awards and was his conference’s coach of the year. This dude’s legit.

“With a solid resume, this guy has to be the real deal,” I thought. Then I talked with him. Found out he was much more than “the real deal.”

I came back from the interview wanting to find things to be better at. Not new things, but things I do on a regular basis—everyday things. I want to do those things better because that will make me better!

Haworth proved one thing to me in the middle of our interview: He is deliberate. I’d be willing to bet he even brushes his teeth with more efficiency than others. When he finishes teaching his two kids to tie their shoes, I bet they know everything about the bunny, the tree, the bunny’s hole, and how the bunny has overcome shortcomings to be the best bunny he could be. That shoe will not come untied.

All humor aside, Coach Haworth made me a believer. Now, maybe it was all an act, a farce to put on in front of a pretend journalist, and if it is, he could have a future in acting. (Bet he’d win an Oscar faster than Leo did…maybe). He is just one of the quality coaches MC has brought on to help transition the Choctaws from an OK D-III school to a school with multiple contending D-II programs (Hello? Coach Bland? Good job this past season, by the way).

One of my favorite things Haworth said in the interview revealed his grasp of reality. “Winning cures everything,” he said. You can be pretty all you want. If you don’t win, you don’t stay.

He also said winning helps in the overall effort of changing the culture of a program. How will change be installed? Deliberately—or in Haworth’s words, “Aggressively.” Yes, he’s out to change a ball club, but he’s mainly out to impact future families. His main goal is to instill a character into his players where their integrity and loyalty is nothing to bargain with.

Why will they make routine plays?
Why will they bear down on two-strike approaches?
Why will they turn double plays?
Why will they be good husbands and fathers?
Because there is no other option.

You do these things because that is who you are.

Squeeze that Juice
Man! Even writing this, I want to make a list of things I could do better. I even want to make sure I do a good job a making a list! So, if our job as a humans is to inspire others simply by doing what you are called to do—and to do it right—Haworth is a cut above. Go ahead and add another bit to his already stellar resume.

I’m glad I got to interview Coach Haworth. I know I sound like I’m fan-girling, but it’s nice to see new life in a club house that could really use it. I honestly wonder if the young men on his team recognize and appreciate the resource that’s managing their team. I doubt it. How much did you recognize as a 20-year-old kid? But they will, sooner or later.

I saw a message on a marque on our way home from a tennis match in Greenville. “Squeeze the juice out of every day.”

The harder we squeeze, the more juice we’ll get. The more deliberately we squeeze, the more juice we’ll expect.

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