We’ve admired the enthusiasm and joy that James Lowe, better known as Coach Ballgame, brings to baseball. And we aren’t the only ones who have noticed: He has partnered with Major League Baseball’s “Play Ball” campaign and helped run baseball camps last year at the MLB All-Star Game and the College World Series.
For 15 years Coach Ballgame has run playful in-person camps and sandlots (his no-pressure, old school take on modern clinics), created with the goal of making kids fall in love with the game. Now, with the help of his wife Tara (aka Mrs. Ballgame), all of that in-person education is being done over the internet.
inCourage spoke to Coach Ballgame about the joy of falling in love with baseball, overcoming negative baseball experiences and the challenges and triumphs of pivoting to an online teaching experience.
iC: You have an amazing coaching resume, but we don’t know too much about you as a person. Who are you?
My name is James Lowe but my nickname is Coach Ballgame. I’m a happy guy. I look at life positively. I love spaghetti, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and playing the drums. I love my wife, my two daughters and baseball. I’m a youth baseball coach and I’m on a mission to cause every child in the world to fall in love with the game, while simultaneously building their character. I’m also passionate about giving parents and coaches resources on how to solve one prevalent problem—negative baseball experiences.
iC: What do you think has most affected your coaching style?
I go way back to one of my first camps. A five-year-old arrived at my camp and the parent said they were going to give baseball one last shot. He had just come off two straight seasons of not fun baseball. The coaches he’d played for created this bad picture of baseball in this boy’s brain. It was so eye-opening for me and set me on this path of spreading joy through the lens of baseball.
iC: How do you describe your coaching style?
My coaching style lives and breathes on creativity and positivity. I’m always looking for a new way to tell an old story.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments from your years as a coach?
I love everything about coaching kids, but my favorite moments stem from a newcomer giving baseball a try at one of my sandlots. They arrive with little to no experience or knowledge of the game, yet they leave with this newfound joy. I also get really excited when a parent emails me saying how excited their child is about their newfound love. When you can cause something positive to travel from the field into the home, that’s about as good as it gets.
iC: You’re known for your ability to engage kids in the game. How do you do that in “normal” circumstances and how have you approached it during these times of social distancing?
As for how I’ve attempted to engage during the quarantine, it’s been lots of YouTube or Facebook Live. I do a daily PE class and an afternoon baseball class. The most popular virtual endeavor has been baseball trivia, which I run three times a week on my Instagram. I’m a baseball fanatic and I thrive on entertaining groups of people, so it has been incredibly gratifying to meet people from all across the world who miss baseball just as much as I do.
iC: How old were you when you were first immersed in the world of baseball? And how exactly did you get started?
I fell in love with baseball at age five while playing in the backyard with my father and two older brothers. We would invite the neighbors over, and would play sandlot games with a tennis ball. My mom had to beg us to go inside the house for dinner. That was our life.
iC: Some kids adapt well and some are really frustrated by the virtual learning and will just close the laptop and walk away. Do you have any tips for keeping kids engaged during these virtual times?
The key to keeping kids engaged virtually is to really engage. I know everyone’s handle, nickname, and what city they live in by now because of the relationship we built. We have truly created a virtual community of baseball lovers.
iC: What do you find most exciting about your job? What makes you do what you do every day?
The most exciting part of my job is the endless positive impacts that can be made on each player I meet. That’s why I’m driven to bring as much energy as possible toward every second of my work.
iC: When you’re out there coaching, what are you feeling? Is it adrenaline, excitement, or something else?
When I’m coaching, there’s definitely a zone that I fall into. I’m hyper-focused on the specific task at hand, and how the group as a whole is responding to the task. It’s an adrenaline rush, and pure joy all wrapped into one job. I’m very grateful to have found a line of work where I can marry all of my interests into one job. It’s the thing I wish most of my daughters’, that they won’t settle. That they will find a purpose in life that they look forward to nurturing each day.
iC: Do you have any goals for the summer?
As for my goals this summer, it’s been the same one for the last 15 years. Make as many kids fall in love with baseball as humanly possible.
Be sure to get everything from inCourage. Sign up today!
Have something you’d like to share with the inCourage community? We’d like to know what matters to you in the world of youth sports. What brought you satisfaction and success? How did you overcome a struggle? Tell us about who made a difference in your game and your life. Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.