Over the weekend, former Chicago White Sox hitting strategist Matt Lisle tweeted out a video of his “friends’ son” taking BP.
Pretty normal, right? Lisle took to Twitter to get some advice from the internet on how this kid could improve his swing for, I would assume, the upcoming high school baseball season.
Some viewers gave light-hearted advice ranging from “stop dipping your shoulder” to “step into the pitch more” to “stop uppercutting.” One commenter stood out as particularly critical though, the Evansville Devils Baseball Program.
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The Evansville Devils are a 17U baseball program based out of… you guessed it, Evansville, Indiana. The team’s Twitter account is run by its head coach, Ryan Wargel. Wargel, 47, has been coaching since he was 19 years old. When he saw the video, he figured he’d leave a quick comment and let everyone know how the hitter in question could improve his swing and hopefully have a chance at succeeding at the next level. Some people questioned Wargel’s expertise on the matter, but the Devils’ coach doubled down on his critique.
To be fair, Wargel has good intentions. He was obviously trying to teach good technique and wants the kids he coaches to value line drives over huge, winding swings that take forever to get around and generate pop-ups, but might go for a home run every now and again. That’s good advice, normal advice you’d expect to hear from any coach worth his money. The only problem is that Wargel wasn’t critiquing a high school athlete. He was critiquing three-time MLB MVP Mike Trout, AKA the guy who ESPN just ranked as the 15th-greatest baseball player of all time.
The video that Wargel was commenting on was a video that Trout had posted to his Instagram page just a few days earlier of his dad, Jeff Trout, tossing him BP. Wargel was embarrassed by his statements, but did not back down from the backlash he received. Rather, Wargel used that moment as a means to advertise the kids he coaches.
He didn’t delete his tweets. He didn’t try to walk back what he said once he realized his mistake. He owned up to his words and made the most of an embarrassing situation. I don’t know of many people who would’ve taken this scenario in such stride the way Wargel did. Since the “Mike Trout fiasco,” Wargel has used the newfound interest in the Evansville Devils team to market the kids he coaches, and that’s the mark of an amazing youth coach — someone who won’t get upset or angry when they’re proven wrong and uses every opportunity to help develop the young men and/or women they coach.
As Twitter user @thewinningrun put it: “I’d bet you’d do this again if it meant one of your players got a second look and was able to then play at the next level. Which is secondary to the life lesson of owning a mistake, even as minor as not recognizing Mike Trout.” And I don’t doubt that for a second. Almost every one of Wargel’s tweets since has promoted the kids on his travel ball team. He really seems to care about their futures and I hope other coaches take a page from Wargel’s playbook the next time they find themselves in a similar situation.