The worst thing about having Marvin Lee Aday for a coach, says Beth Natt, a pitcher and rightfielder for the girls' softball team at Joel Barlow High, in Redding, Conn., "is that if you call him Marvin, he'll make you run laps." Natt and her freshman teammates have thus opted to call him Coach Meat. Aday, you see, is better known as Meat Loaf, whose 1977 hit single. Paradise by the Dashboard Light, features New York Yankee announcer and former Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto's play-by-play heard on a car radio, while Meat Loaf—our hero—pants and sings a rock 'n' roll melodrama of backseat teenage lust and the lifelong consequences of a decision made in a moment of passion.
The softball players could have called him Mr. Loaf, as entertainment critic Clive Barnes once did. But then they wouldn't have come up with the ditty they joyfully sing to their 40-year-old coach on road trips, no doubt to the tune of This Old Man. "La-di-da/We know Meat/He does it/In the backseat," they chant, adding peals of laughter and a postscript fit for these prudent times: "But only with Mrs. Aday...."
That would be Leslie Aday, Meat Loaf's wife and the mother of their two children, Pearl, 16, and Amanda, 10. Pearl played second base on the Joel Barlow junior varsity last spring. Before Pearl was born, her father, long a Yankee fan and a serious softball player in a number of New York City's Central Park leagues, told a reporter, "I don't care if it's a boy or a girl as long as it's a shortstop."
Oh, well, second base will have to do. Leslie confirms that her husband's baseball bent is a little warped. "One of his favorite movies is The Bad News Bears," she says. "He'll deny it, but I think he named Amanda after Tatum O'Neal's character in that film."
If Meat Loaf, who's 6' and 225 pounds, does not evoke images of athleticism, he has always been a gamer. "I played second base and pitched in Little League, high school and American Legion ball in Dallas, but I was never very good," he says. "When I was 12 or 13, we all had those action shots taken of us. In mine I was in the 'ready' position with my hands on my knees. If you look closely you can see the ball behind me between my legs. I had missed the ball!"
His managerial career began in Stamford, Conn., in 1981, when he coached one team and sponsored another in the same Little League division. The latter team went by the sponsor's legal name, Meat Loaf, which was also the name of his band. Coach Meat also made history by drafting the first girl to a Stamford Little League team. "And to make a point," he says, "I drafted her first."
Next he coached girls' Pony League softball in nearby Westport, Conn., and in 1990, after the family had moved to Redding, 10 miles north, he volunteered to coach first base for Pearl's freshman team at Joel Barlow. When the squad needed a head coach for the '91 season, Meat Loaf signed on. Practices and games had to be shoehorned between Meat Loaf's musical engagements, but the team had a coach.
But after rain delayed the start of the season a week, the seven-game schedule was reduced to five, and Meat Loaf's season ended almost as soon as it had begun. The team was 2-1 when he had to turn the reins over to the jayvee and varsity-coaches so that he could jet out to L.A. for several months to work on three movies and an album. (This one will feature another famous Yankee, Don Mattingly, in a yet-to-be-determined role.) The freshmen toughed out the remainder of the the season, finishing 2-3.
Scheduling difficulties aside, however, Meat Loafs enthusiasm could not be dampened. "I only coached three games," he says, "and all of them were won or lost by only one run. That's 21 innings of such close ball. 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."
He expands on his coaching approach: "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."
By all accounts, Meat Loaf is a spirited, gentle skipper. His freshman players are glad that he plans to return next season, this time to coach the jayvee, and that he will try to arrange his work schedule around the softball season. As catcher Jinni Sinnot says, "The best thing about Meat Loaf is that he always wants to play. The worst thing is that he always has some concert he has to go to."
But those are the breaks when you're swinging for a rocker.
Don't call him Marvin unless you want to run laps.