In 1991, I was a high school freshman in the small town of Redding, Conn. My brother was a senior, and his prom date was one of our neighbors down the street, a junior, Pearl Aday. Pearl would drive me home from softball practice when her father, our coach, was unable to. I preferred Pearl, as her dad drove a red sports car, pushing it to its capabilities through our small, winding roads … like a bat out of hell. His name was Marvin Lee Aday, but he was better known to the world as Meat Loaf. To the scrappy group of girls he was trying to mold into softball players, he was Coach Meat.
The JV team was orphaned at birth that year. No one wanted to coach us, and it was getting down to the wire when Meat Loaf volunteered, despite being on the verge of filming three movies and being in the midst of recording Bat Out Of Hell II. Coach Meat took the game very seriously. When we prodded him to sing us one of his hits, we were denied. Instead, he taught us a team chant: "What do we wanna do? Kill! What do we need to do? Kill! What are we gonna do? Kill! What do big dogs do? KILL!"
Soon after he signed on, journalists started coming to our practices, something Meat had little patience for. He nearly bit the Sports Illustrated reporter's head off for daring to walk right onto our field, then made the guy sit on the sidelines quietly for the entire session. He extended practice that day by more than half an hour, presumably just to piss the guy off. It made us, this big dog's orphaned litter, feel special.
At games, the other team, their coaches, their parents, their entire town would come and circle over our benches to get an autograph or photo-and again he would try to protect us from it, playing only the role of "coach." He broke character only once, after our first win (suck it Abbott Tech). When we loaded on to the bus, he started belting out, "I Will Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)." We had never heard the song, and the public wouldn't hear it for nearly two more years.
Again, we felt special, but we still wanted one of his classics. We prodded him for more as we sang him our own song: "La Di Da, We Know Meat, He Does It, In The Backseat... but only with Mrs. Aday!" A few encores of that and we were finally interrupted: "I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday, parking by the lake and there was not another car in sight." He sang his parts; we sang the girl parts. (Had it only been the era of the iPhone.)
The Sports Illustrated piece—which came out after the season was over—called him a "spirited, gentle skipper." Coach Meat had told the reporter that all the games were won or lost by one run. "That's .... such close ball!" he said. "We should have won them all! I kept telling the team that it was my fault and not theirs, that I had made coaching mistakes. If a player knows she's made a mistake, then she doesn't need to be yelled at. If she doesn't know, it's my job to make her understand she made a mistake without yelling at her." Which, in retrospect, sort of just sounds like a nice way of saying it was our fault.
Coach Meat had to depart early to finish up his album and to film some movie parts. Before he left, we had a big pizza banquet, where we took this photo. He gave us his address in L.A., and told us to write, and that he'd be back next year to coach again ... and he was, running laps right alongside us.
In May this year a publicist asked me if I'd like to interview Meat Loaf about an upcoming movie he was in. I hadn't seen him for a decade and replied that I would love to do the interview, adding that he was my old softball coach. In the end, the publicist was "unable to accommodate me" after all, "due to his schedule."
It was OK. Coach Meat was still the one who'd taught me how to throw the ball straight. "Pretend like you are drawing down a blind," he said.