Even though he has retired from nearly 25 years of coaching Little Leaguers and Babe Ruth League players, if you drive by the baseball fields behind Sunnyside Elementary School during the afternoon, there’s a good chance you will see Robert “Coach” Kling out there maintaining the fields.
Whether he’s physically weeding the fields or laying down the lines for an upcoming game, Kling said typically he spends two or three hours per day working on the fields.
“I swear I work more now that I’ve retired than when I was coaching,” said Kling. “It’s become a fixation for me.”
Since 1992, Shelton native Kling has made it a point to give the local ball players fields they could be proud to play on.
“Growing up I played sandlot ball, and no one ever took care of the fields we played on,” said Kling. “I love that I can be a part of the team to give the kids a nice place to play. I take pride in that.”
Kling loves the game of baseball and wants all the players he’s coached or watched to have fun.
One player in particular said Kling’s coaching techniques have influenced him to be a better person. Currently a freshman at Sacred Heart University, Ryan Hart said while playing for Kling he played some of the best baseball of his life.
“He taught me the importance of a good work ethic while still making sure we all had fun. Playing for him made me realize the impact one coach can make on a player’s game compared to another,” said Hart.
Hart explained that his and Kling’s relationship bloomed when he took on the role of his mentor for his high school Capstone Project, a senior graduation requirement at Shelton High School. The two created a baseball clinic that aims to instill the fundamentals into young players with help from some of the high school players.
“Kling makes it possible for the kids playing Shelton National Little League to experience a professional-like setting while they play America’s favorite pastime,” said Hart. “He runs numerous free clinics for the Little League kids throughout the year, one which he and I started during the summer of 2015. He is currently running one now as well. His amazing personality enables the clinics to be enjoyable for everyone. He has an amazing way of recognizing every player’s strengths and utilizing them. If you love baseball, you will love playing with Coach Kling.”
With years of memories to reflect back on, Kling said he’s unable to choose a favorite team that he’s coached, but he values all of the relationships he’s built with players and their parents.
“That’s what it’s all about for me,” said Kling. “I want people to see me and smile, not shoot me a glare. I’ve always treated everyone with respect and kindness. I never agreed with constantly yelling at players — I would rather teach and encourage them instead. I always felt like I may have been saving them from some other coach that may not be as nice to them.
“We want them to come back to play. Screaming at them all the time isn’t going to get them to do that.”