The Jerk

I consider myself a big Steve Martin fan. I really like his humor. From The Jerk, to A Wild And Crazy Guy I find his particular humor and wit engaging.

In fact, you may not believe this but I once used one of the most famous lines from The Jerk in an interview. At the time I didn’t care if I did get the job. I wasn’t even sure I wanted the job, so I had decided to just be myself and go with it.

So when the Vice President of International Development asked me, “Tell me about yourself…”

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Opening Day – Play Ball!

Opening day parade.

A post shared by Scott Novis (@scottnovis) on

Saturday was opening day for Tempe South Little League. We had almost 50 teams between T-ball and majors out there lined up beyond the fences.

This is my first year as little league president. In the past I’ve done the schedule, I run the website, and I coached my son Matt’s team – The Red Sox.  Our Red Sox won two championships in the Minors.  My first year in Majors we returned to the Championship game but came up short against the Angels, finishing second.  My last year coaching majors we were horrible. My entire focus was on all stars and I spent no time thinking about the regular season.  We did win the district all star championship however which was really fun.

So here I am, league president. I went from being a lunatic fringe competitive nut job (it’s a requirement to win at all stars) to being in the middle of the pack. The league president is responsible for the league as a whole. I have to be honest, my “middlest” was still eligible to play little league, he considered it, but I did not really want him to play because my job as president is much easier without having a horse in the race as they say.

A lot has happened this first year.  Check this out. First the City pulls pushes us into the corner of the sports complex to benefit adult soccer over youth baseball.  Then, our partnership with Rio brings unexpected “benefits“. They have a boundary dispute with not one but two other little leagues in two separate districts.  So those district presidents call Western Region (Little Leagues governing body for Arizona) to complain that Tempe Little League is a “rogue” league recruiting out of their boundaries. We get a letter threatening to pull our charter. Nice.  Welcome to the job Mr. President.

But that’s not all. For a variety of reasons, people don’t sign up early. With two weeks to go before showcase it looked like we would struggle to fill 7 major teams and 8 minor teams. Ten days later  two hundred kids sign up. Now we are scrambling to add coaches and reschedule the season to go from 280 players to over 400.

Holy cow! We almost lose our fields, Western Region threatens  to pull our charter, and we go from low enrollment to being over subscribed in just two weeks. Oh, and did I mention this league costs almost $100,000 to operate and that we have a $30,000 shortfall?

Before Opening Day

Despite all those challenges, all of the unexpected twists and turns, the strength of this league has always been, and continues to be the amazing volunteers. From Kevin Costigan, our intrepid player agent, Dan Crawford, co-fundraising chairman, Minors Director, Community Activist for little league, Manager and salesman extra-ordinary. Our past president Mark Gordan who took over uniforms and is generally one of the nicest most helpful people you would ever want to meet. There are the newcomers like Geoff Stanisec who has made equipment management and art. Our storage pod is organized like the kitchen at one of his restaurants. I swear you could almost eat off the floor in the storage shed.  Jonathan Bodow who freed me from the schedule (thank you Jonathan!)  And there are so many more; Jim Kenehan and Annette Bau, Stephen Gerl, Beth Ladley, Tom Brown, Kirk Busch, Shantel Foshie, Hal Allen, Nick Enoch, Ernest Cisneros, Jeff Unterkoffler… The list goes on and on.  I apologize to everyone I have forgotten.

Back to opening day.  As a personal goal, I wanted to see the competition level in the league improve.  It’s strange.  It is not something I can control directly.  However, I felt that if I articulated a framework for people to believe in, and then let them run with it they could achieve my goal.  On opening day, the first major game I watched was a 3-0 battle between the Red Sox and the Mariners. Both teams played error free baseball and both teams played a close game start to finish. Later, the Cubs and the Cardinals squared off for a classic 6-5 struggle.  Again, the play was clean, the coaches composed and the fans electric. The Cubs came from behind to win on a walk off in dramatic fashion.  Trailing by one run the lead off hitter belts a triple.  The Cardinals pitcher bore down and struck out the next two batters.  Wow!  Baseball at its best.  In the end the cubs batter hit a walk off single over the shortstops head.  One of the coaches later said, “That was like a playoff game!”

Yes. It was a close hard fought battle with a playoff feel.

On opening day!

Now for me, that made it all worth it.  Great kids playing great baseball.  The distractions caused by adults are just background noise to the memories these kids will have for the rest of their lives.  Jody Ackersly(Jackson) was our guest speaker and she has interviewed many famous baseball players and they call say that their favorite memories from playing baseball started at Little League.  Little league is about the community pulling together, the coaches putting in the work, and the players playing.

While there will always be room for improvement, we put a priority on having a great player experience and so far, it looks like we are off to a very good start.

— Scott

Opening Day

I was at the baseball fields yesterday. There were nine million kids running around, from 5 to 12. Opening day is tomorrow, and everyone wants to be ready. We try really hard to make sure every team gets to play. Little League

This is the best time of the baseball year. Spring training. Everyone is undefeated. Everyone is full of hope. No one has compared themselves to any other team. Most kids are working hard to become better.

In Arizona we start baseball early due to the crushing heat of the summer. We select teams in February, start play in March and finish the regular season by May. Our playoffs will conclude about the time the rest of the country is just getting going. The same weather that makes Arizona perfect for professionals to conduct spring training pulls our little league season into the winter months as well.

After coaching for more than 10 years, I have learned that Little League is really two seasons – and two leagues – both marketed under the same name. Most people who think of Little League think of the Little League World Series – the insanely competitive baseball tournament that concludes in August each year in Williams Port PA. The little league I preside over is the little league most boys have played in. The local little league.

Cynics would call this consumer baseball, and there are parents who fully embrace the retail aspect of little league. “I paid so my son had better play.” I look at it differently however. I see it as community baseball. What makes Little League unique – is not the ultra-competitive tournaments promoted on television. The world is full of those. Little League remains the only baseball experience (in my neighborhood at least) where kids get to play with and against their friends. At school kids get cut. Not everyone can afford to play club – and even if they can afford it, they often only see their teammates at practice. The competition? No clue who those kids are or where they go to school.

But Little League? Everyone gets to play. Maybe they don’t get to play at the level they want, or on the team they want, but pretty much everyone who wants to play (and who can behave) can play.

Little league for a long time has had a nasty reputation for attracting “crazy” parents, but the league has done a tremendous job of cleaning that up. And with the support of their national organization they make it clear to support district administrators and league presidents like myself that they want maximum participation but in a way that promotes a strong community. The outrageous behavior of the past is no longer tolerated. What this means – as much as possible is that kids get to play with the kids go to school with.

Tomorrow more than 600 kids will line up in the outfield at the Tempe Sports Complex and parade in their uniforms in front of their family and friends – only their friends will be in the crowd. It is amazing to watch, all the brightly colored uniforms, the teams increasing in height like a staircase from t-ball to farm to minors to majors.
Opening Day
They all stand in a circle, listen to some guest speaker, repeat the little league oath, then the moment they have all waited for – a free hot-dog. And finally, after way too much standing around, and way too much talking by adults – the real celebration begins, the playing of the first games.

Finally, after weeks of preparation, after hours of waiting, they get to play the game they signed up to play. Suddenly baseball is new again. And I can’t wait.

Ground Rules

One of the reasons I don’t write more is that I am worried about writing about people. I have had some really interesting stuff happen in my life, but whenever I come to write something out, I often worry about what the other person would think. And that worry typically stops me in my tracks. I have notebooks full of dull (even to me) notes about nothing because for some reason I am verklempt about writing down my version of a series of events because – I don’t know, someday someone might actually read it.

In his book, It worked for me, Colin Powell said (I listened to the audiobook), that in all his books the stories that stuck with people the most were the stories about his family and friends. In short, the people stories. The stories about an insiders look into world events resonated with no one.
No Angry People
To take the idea further, I have been listening to P!nk lately. As an aside, a friend asked me what kind of music I liked and I couldn’t tell him. There is no common thread to any of my music except that I like it. But back to P!nk. Here is someone singing, very publicly about her life, her troubles, her divorce. It is all out there. And it is compelling I think because it is so human. I can hear her pain, feel her regret, identify with her hope. Andrew Stanton, Pixar’s much lauded director of Finding Nemo said in his TED Talk that we all have a strive. Something motivates us. And when we share our strive, it resonates. Events are often just that – events. But it is in the interactions, motivations, and strives of other people that we find stories compelling.

So here are my personal ground rules.

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Of Baseballs and Businesses

FDOS Week 6I have a new job. Well, at least it feels like a new job. Now I did not start a new company, but in many ways it feels like I did. You see, I finally convinced someone to take over my day to day programming duties at GameTruck. I rarely talk about GameTruck in this blog. Heck, with no clear vision for what to do with this blog I sort of wrote about anything I wanted, or that interested me.

However, I am starting to learn that many people come to this website for one of two reasons, because of GameTruck – they want to know more about me and the company. Or they come here because of baseball. This year I volunteered to become the president of Tempe South Little League. Baseball holds a special place in my heart.

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