Learning to teach


In his first season as baseball coach at Boys' Latin, former Oriole Mike Bordick is making an impression

April 18, 2007|By MILTON KENT

The sounds and sights around the Boys' Latin baseball field and the makeshift batting cages are a relentless ping, ping, ping of balls making contact with aluminum bats combined with the image of balls flying through the air or on the ground or trapped against netting.

Eventually, though, the eyes and ears are drawn to the sight of a man with flecks of gray hair around where his baseball cap fits on his head, holding a fungo bat, taped heavily around the barrel. And the sound coming from the bat is immediately foreign, but ultimately familiar, that of wood meeting horsehide, probably the way God intended it and certainly the way Mike Bordick has always known the game.

"He's definitely old school," Boys' Latin athletic director Michael Thomas said.

It's precisely that back-to-basics, do-the-little-things-well-and-the-big-things-will-take-care-of-themselves approach that endeared Bordick to Orioles fans during the five seasons he played shortstop here and that he is selling to the Lakers as they make a run for the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference crown.

"It's funny, but I think young baseball players see major league players do their things, and major league players make it look so easy sometimes," Bordick said before a team workout last week. "So, they feel like they have to kind of look smooth and easy. Well, that's not the way it is. It's hard work. You've got to get in there and get sweaty and dirty and get down and see the ball and all that stuff. You really have to work hard."

Given his general diffidence about talking about his 14-year major league career, spread among the Oakland Athletics, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Orioles, Bordick, no doubt, will hate this story. More to the point, he'll hate the fact that it isn't entirely about his players, who have powered their way to an 8-0 start and a 6-0 conference mark.

The Lakers, who are tied for first in the B Conference with St. Mary's, have been potent offensively this season, scoring at least nine runs in all but one of their games. With just two seniors but eight juniors, Boys' Latin has a nice mix of youth and experience on a team that went 13-1 in the regular season last year but was bounced in the league playoffs.

"They're playing really well. They learned how to win last year," said Bordick, who took over in August for Roger Czerwinski, who left to become athletic director at Pennsylvania's West York High. "They had a lot of success and they're carrying it over to this year."

Junior shortstop Austin Knight, who entered the week hitting over .600, said Bordick has walked a fine line of instructing the Boys' Latin players without pulling out the "I played major league baseball, what have you done, Sonny?" card.

"We obviously know that he knows what he's talking about," Knight said. "Everything he says we take to heart. Your character is on the field in everything you do. Even if you get out, you always have another at-bat and not to leave anything out there and to be a good person on and off the field."

Some might consider the routine of teaching the fundamentals of baseball to high schoolers mundane and a serious step back for someone like Bordick, who amassed a .260 lifetime batting average in a career that included four trips to the postseason, two World Series appearances and, at one point, 544 fielding chances without an error.

And that might be the case for most ex-major leaguers. But, for Bordick, coaching the Lakers gives him the chance to do a more important job from a close proximity, namely that of full-time dad to his five sons, three of whom are enrolled at the Lower School at Boys' Latin.

"To be around them and watch them grow up is my goal," said Bordick, 41, who went back to college to obtain his degree since retiring after the 2003 season. "One day when they're out of the house, I'll see if there's another opportunity professionally. We'll see how it goes."

Of course, Bordick has had to do a little learning of his own, namely that the baseballs that are used during home games don't get rubbed up for play by themselves and that someone - OK, him - has to figure out team stats and call the local newspaper to phone in game scores.

"One of the coaches asked me about stats. I said, `I don't know. Who keeps the stats?' " Bordick said with a sheepish grin. "He said, `Are you kidding me?' I said, `Well, I guess I'd better get on that.' "

Bordick says the Boys' Latin parents have been "so supportive" so far, and while that might continue, former Minnesota Twins pitcher Frank Viola cautions that that situation may change.

Viola, who won 176 games in a successful career that included being named Most Valuable Player in the 1987 World Series, has coached at Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Fla., for the past six years, warns that at private schools like his and Boys' Latin, parents can get the idea that the tuition they pay gives them a say on who plays.

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