We Try to Figure Out the Role of a Bench Coach

Dear friends, I am a student of the minutiae of baseball. The devil is in the details, they say, and surely they are right when speaking of the game of baseball. The tiniest actions, taking on such huge meaning, deciding the outcome of entire contests. Absolutely fascinating.


Hey Joe!
Hey Joe!

Hey Joe!
So today, I plan to tackle the most minute of all minutiae. I, fearless explorer that I am, am going to figure out exactly what a bench coach does. I know, I know, better men than I have been driven to the brink of madness, and occasionally beyond, by the position of bench coach, you say. It's madness to even attempt, you say. There are things man is just not meant to know, you say. Well, perhaps you're right. All of those things may be true. Yet still, I carry on. I consider myself to be the Jacques Cousteau of the baseball blogging world, you know, and so I must press forward. The intrepid explorer must carry on and track his quarry. I will learn the truth.

My prey is Joe Pettini, the Cards' bench coach.

Pettini is rumored to be around 53 years old, though that's open to debate (I doubt that such a mysterious creature would allow its true birth date to be known), and simply appeared one day, as if by magic, in the Cardinals' system sometime in the early '80s, a time of which we now have very few records. He had apparently played ball before he arrived in the Cardinal organization, but the extent of his participation in any recorded games remains unclear. A wily quarry indeed, Pettini may very well push my reporter's instincts and skills to the breaking point. However, I feel confident that by watching this telecast, aided by my space-age coach-tracking technological device known as a DVR, I will discover the true purpose of this almost-otherworldly coaching position. Come along, won't you?

6:11 p.m. All right. I'm in my hideout (some might say it's a fort of sofa cushions, but those people would be wrong) and have set up surveillance. I'm monitoring the dugout area on a Samsung 47" satellite-enabled surveillance unit. I cannot, however, find the remote, so I'll be limited in my options. I may have to spy on the strangely attractive woman in the Sonic ads rather than tracking cartoons between innings. Such are the sacrifices a dedicated public servant such as myself must make. No sightings of the Pettini yet; the manager brought out the lineup card himself and appeared to have a short conversation with the umpire.

6:14 p.m. Aha! I believe I've just had my first sighting! It occurred during a camera sweep of the dugout area. The manager was over toward the edge of the dugout, standing and glaring at imaginary enemies, it seemed, and then there it was! Pettini!

Subject appeared to be sitting on the bench. Perhaps the bench coach has something to do with the bench area...

6:25 p.m. After a grueling fifteen minutes or so sitting motionless in my upholstered hide, I have succumbed to thirst and left the area briefly in order to partake of liquid sustenance. I've chosen a high-calorie, carbohydrate-laden beverage the locals refer to as "beer." It's an acquired taste, but apparently very popular in these parts, with a mildly intoxicating effect that can occasionally lead to sex with an unattractive member of the opposite sex. I shall have to be on my guard, though the living room currently appears to be deserted. I simply cannot afford to be sidetracked by the prospect of regrettable intercourse. Not now.

Back into the hide now. I paused briefly on the way back to break up a fight between two local felines, one of them was preparing to throw up on the sofa. This expedition is beginning to take on a cursed tone.

6:41 p.m. There it was again! My second glimpse tonight of Pettini! Another dugout shot; this time it appeared as if Pettini may have been talking to a player, but I didn't recognize who it was. Upon further inspection, it appears to have been Brendan Ryan. Perhaps Pettini was attempting to convince him to take his medication?

6:55 p.m. Ah, Pettini, you are truly a worthy adversary! I caught the barest glimpse of him on a shot panning past the dugout, but Pettini appeared to be aware of my scrutiny and ducked back behind a security guard. I shall have to be more stealthy from now on.

7:04 p.m. Finally, a proper look! Pettini was sitting and discussing, with some animation, some topic with Ryan Ludwick, himself a rather unusual creature. Ludwicks are known chiefly for their unpredictable career arcs and rather tall heads. They are also somewhat notable for occasionally being involved in trades for Big Macs.

To this point, I have seen Pettini appear to be quite a conversationalist. I'm beginning to gain some understanding of the creature, I believe. I think he functions much as a facilitator of communication in the dugout area, translating the sullen glares and heavy sighs of the manager into a usable form for the worker baseballers. Fascinating.

7:22 p.m. Driven by hunger and another, more pressing biological urge, I am once again forced to leave my hide and venture forth into the living room and, eventually, the house area at large. Before I go, though, I make sure to turn up the volume on my surveillance equipment so as not to miss any auditory clues that may be dropped by the announcers as to the Pettini's activities.

Sadly, the announcers do not seem to be interested in helping my cause. In fact, they do not even appear to be aware of the presence of Pettini. Surely they cannot be ignorant of the presence of such a natural wonder amongst us, can they?

On further review, they appear only marginally aware of the baseball game going on. The one called "Al,'' in particular, seems to have suffered some sort of head trauma in the recent past. I do hear comments about strikes, which leads me to believe the comments are related to the game, but they seem imprecise and circular in structure. I wonder: could these two be in league with the Pettini, perhaps trying to protect it? They must be; no one could possibly spout out such nonsensical drivel unless they were purposely trying to conceal information.

7:45 p.m. This sandwich is really good! I forgot that I had turkey in the food-storage unit back at my base camp. Wonder how long it's been in there? Oh well, too late now. And mustard never goes bad, right?

8 p.m. This "Lohse" thing appears to be ineffectual at throwing the baseball. I wonder if Pettini is perhaps responsible for monitoring the activity of the creatures on the mound?

On closer inspection, there appears to be another, angrier creature in the dugout who is writing in some sort of primitive paper-based device and muttering to itself after each pitch. I think this creature, called a "Duncan,'' may be responsible for the pitchers.

8:21 p.m. There is another creature, currently on the field, who appears to be of the same species as the Duncan in the dugout. The individual on the field appears to be irritated by some round, white, flying object, swatting wildly at it in an attempt to chase it off. Curious...

8:46 p.m. The moderators of this contest, a group of older, rounder individuals, seem to be conferring as to whether the weather is acceptable to continue on with the current contest. Perhaps a break in the action will bring me more luck.

9:07 p.m. Blast it all! My surveillance equipment is malfunctioning. I can no longer see even the area where Pettini was previously sighted; my equipment is now only picking some sort of crappy, "human interest" footage. Whereas previously rain delays were accompanied by older footage of three slapstick comedians and commercials featuring a man in a gorilla suit selling furniture, I now appear to be able to observe only these awful staged interview pieces. I fear Pettini is attempting to lull me to sleep.

Well, it won't work, you slippery bastard.

9:48 p.m. No change to report. I'm going to make good use of my time now and review some previous surveillance footage I've amassed, of two rather buxom nurses and a midget engaged in some sort of mating ritual. I shall return.

9:50 p.m. I have returned. I'm very sleepy now. My fears that Pettini is attempting to hypnotize me into a stupor have been realized.

11:42 p.m. Damn! The wily devil has outsmarted me! He managed to coax me into a sleep-like state, thus allowing him to operate unobserved. Luckily, the contest appears to be continuing. This "Detroit" place must have different rules of baseball from other locales'; games don't usually take this long.

11:57 p.m. Ha! I have you now, Pettini! Yet another dugout shot. This time I was able to observe the creature engaged in some sort of cleansing ritual. He appeared to be scratching at his groin area; perhaps this ritual also functions as some sort of signal to the rest of the group?

12:04 a.m. The scratching ritual definitely appears to be some form of communication; I have witnessed no less than five other creatures performing the same act; though admittedly some seemed to be engaged in more of a lift and separate sort of situation, as opposed to a simple scratching. I think Pettini may be signaling to the others. Perhaps he doesn't translate strictly into verbal formats after all.

12:27 a.m. My heart is heavy, dear friends. I have failed to ascertain the true purpose of the bench coach, and now the contest appears to be over. Even with careful review of my surveillance equipment, it appears that the creature is just too wily to be so easily photographed. Perhaps another set of eyes is in order? I shall enlist the aid of others in my next attempt to decipher the Pettini's activities.

However, the evening was not a complete loss. Based on my observations, I believe the Pettini to be a facilitator of sorts. The manager, as the leader of the dugout (a type of nest, essentially), uses primarily nonverbal means of communicating his moods and intentions. The bench coach, in this case Pettini, then interprets those signals and communicates them to the lower members of the group, either through whispering quietly while the others are on the bench, or through a highly stylized series of genital manipulations. The Pettini does not appear to leave the bench area very often, if at all, leading me to theorize the name "bench coach" originated as a reference strictly to the creature's habitat, rather than a function related to the physical wood of the bench itself. Still, the information I was able to glean was less than conclusive. Further observation will be required.

Until then, dear friends. As always, I remain in you service. Farewell from the wild.

- Aaron Schafer

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