You may know Jess McKnight as one of our underwriters. He has been a member of our Policy Team for 10 years. He has also played a major role in another team. Jess is not just a proud baseball dad; he’s the coach. His son started playing baseball at the age of 5 and Jess has been there ever since--never missing a game. I had a chance to chat with Jess about his experience as a coach and the bigger lessons he hopes to instill in his players.
LM: Did you play baseball or coach before your son’s involvement with the sport?
JM: I never played organized baseball, I only played “sandlot” baseball. I played soccer for most of my youth and younger adult years, probably spanning 30 years total. However, I did play some Adult softball, maybe one or two seasons. As for coaching, I had not coached until my son started playing baseball.
LM: How long have you been coaching?
JM: About 7 years. Tyler, my son, started playing baseball when he was 5. He is now almost 13. I have been an assistant or head coach on every baseball team he has been a part of, including all his Little League teams, travel ball teams and most recently his Middle School JV team.
LM: Are there any lessons you have learned as a coach that you carry with you in other areas of your life?
JM: I continue to learn lessons every day from coaching. I would say the biggest one is patience. As a youth coach, regardless of sport, you are dealing with young kids. Each of them has a different personality, they learn differently and they respond differently. You must have patience in dealing with all those differences. That translates to what I do daily at work and in life in general.
LM: What is your favorite baseball memory?
JM: I guess I have two favorite baseball memories. The first was watching the New York Mets win the World Series in 1986. Growing up on Long Island, NY most people are Yankee’s fans. They are used to seeing their team win a World Series. When the Mets did it in ’86, the Met’s fans had something to be proud of. The second was probably just last year in the North Carolina District 6 9-10-11-year-old tournament. Tyler was the starting pitcher in the Semi-final game (an elimination game of a double elimination tournament) where we were playing our rival league. He pitched 5 and 1/3 innings, throwing 84 pitches (the max for his age in any game is 85), and allowing 8 hits and only 2 runs. When I took the trip to the pitcher's mound to take him out, we hugged each other and I told him that he did a fantastic job and that I was extremely proud of how he performed. We wound up winning the game in the 7th inning by a score of 4-3 and moved on the Championship game. Unfortunately, we did not win the Championship.
LM: What do you enjoy most about coaching?
JM: The thing I most enjoy, has nothing to do with baseball itself. It is the life lessons I try to instill in all the players I have coached. Baseball is the perfect tool since it is a game of failure. The best baseball players in the world fail 68%-75% of the time. Think about that. If a Major League player hits .320 for a 15-year career, he probably gets into the Hall of Fame. That also means that he failed 68% of the time he was at bat. As a coach, you have to make sure your players have a positive mindset and attitude throughout the entire game. If you don’t, things can get out of hand quickly. Young players often get down on themselves when they make a mistake or when something goes wrong. You have to teach them how to put that mistake behind them and move on. They need to understand that they have another opportunity to do better, or fix the mistake on the next pitch. Hard work, resiliency and a never quit attitude will take them a long way in life, and they need to learn those lessons at a young age.
LM: How is the team doing this season?
JM: Our Little League team won the Regular Season with an 11-1 record. We also won the Championship for our division. Right now, I am working with the All-Star team and getting ready for this year’s District 6 tournament which starts on June 28th in Wilson, NC. I’ll keep you posted on how we do.
LM: Where can people learn more about the team and keep up with your road to the World Series?
JM: Bull City Little League, which is the league we play for, has a website https://www.bullcitylittleleague.org/ and you can also find us on Facebook. I am sure they will keep updating both as to results for all the All-Star teams for both baseball and softball. I will also be broadcasting our games on Game Changer, a baseball scoring app. You can follow live game feeds (not video, just like ESPN’s game cast) by downloading the app and searching for Bull City LL 11-12 All-Stars Majors.