Friday, March 28, 2008

Seeing the forest through the trees

If there's one thing that Jefferson Blue Devils manager Jeff Laesch has learned over his years of playing baseball, it's to appreciate the here and now.

It's a lesson he'll probably be passing on to his young players on the Jefferson team. Because there was a time when Laesch got caught up in the youthful exhuberance that so many kids do coming out of high school.

Jefferson won the Grand Championship back in 1990, Laesch's first year playing in the Home Talent League. And while that was fine and dandy, Laesch readily admits he probably didn't appreciate it like he should.

"It was amazing," explains Laesch, "but unfortunately when it’s your first year out of Legion, I was nineteen years old and probably don’t soak up all the excitement and enthusiasm that you should. You can take it for granted."

And who can blame him? At the time he was spending his springs playing for the University of Wisconsin baseball team back when they had a varsity program. And Big Ten baseball was a cut above Home Talent. It is probably not unlike the difference between Major League Baseball and the minor leagues.

But when Laesch won the Kendall Murray award for the league's outstanding pitcher after Jefferson had won the Grand Championship in 1990, things started to change a little bit. He started to understand the Home Talent League and his place in it a bit more intimately. A new found appreciation was gained.

"Unfortunately when it’s your first year in the league, you don’t know all the stories about individuals," said Laesch. "But then when I was told I won the award, and it goes to the best pitcher in Home Talent, it was an extreme honor at that point . But then when you get to the awards banquet ... you find out what kind of a player and a person (Murray) was, it kind of hits home a little more."

Laesch doen't think his experience was unusual in winning the Kendall Murray award. By his estimation, there's been a lot of players that don't realize what it is they're actually doing for the Home Talent League until they've had a chance to reflect on it.

"To see over the years going to all the banquets and seeing the young kids -- and usually it is young kids that win it because they’re the ones that keep this league going -- I think they’d probably all agree that until you get a little older you might not appreciate it as much because, like I said, it was my first year in the league and all these things came at once, and it’s been hard to get there again. You wish you could take it in a little more, but you do appreciate it."

Things have changed now. Laesch is beginning his second stint as manager for the Blue Devils and has had time to look back on the past. Prior to this season he had been working as the team's general manager the past couple years, and he's been pretty excited about the team's recent successes.

"When we made it back to the finals in 2004 and 2005, I was probably more excited running the team and everything than I was back when I was 19 years old and pitching at that time," said Laesch.

Just imagine how excited he would be if Jefferson made the Final Four now that he's managing.

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