I grew up in a small town, population of about 800, the kind of town where the biggest thing for high schoolers to do on a Friday night was sit on Main Street and watch the temperature on the bank clock change.

I grew up in a small town, population of about 800, the kind of town where the biggest thing for high schoolers to do on a Friday night was sit on Main Street and watch the temperature on the bank clock change.

In a town that size, people wield a lot of unexpected power. For instance, my Little League coach.

“Hit the ball,” he yelled, freezing my 8-year-old frame as the ball sailed past me.

“Time,” he called to the pimple-faced high school umpire in the Pink Floyd shirt.

Lloyd walked to the plate, shaking his head. Lloyd had been my coach for two years, and I knew he meant business. I didn’t find out he’d been a Green Beret until about 30 years after Little League, which was good because if I’d known at that moment, I might have wet myself.

“Put your foot back,” he said, then watched me move my foot. “No, the other one.”

He grabbed my leg in front of what seemed like half the town and moved it to wherever he saw fit.

“There,” he said, standing back to take a look at my stance. “Get that back elbow up.”

I did, slowly enough that a nod from Lloyd was all I needed to freeze it.

“Good,” he said before walking back to the dugout. “Now, hit the ball.”

The umpire hit a button on the big, red pitching machine that would hurl a baseball dangerously close to my head, and I hit the ball. But I really didn’t have a choice.

Yeah, people in small towns lug around a lot of power.

Like the town’s insurance agent, who sponsored the team we faced. He was also the town’s real estate agent and ran the funeral home. So, if someone he insured died in a house fire, that’d be like having your birthday, Christmas and Halloween on the same day.

My school bus driver not only got us to school safely, he was the city’s public works man who made sure the potholes were filled and toilets would have someplace to flush. So when E.J. told us to “sit down and shut up,” we did.

My first grade teacher figured our parents’ income tax returns, Orrick’s mechanic ran the roller rink, and the butcher balanced the city’s books.

My coach had a lot of power, too. His team always won. He was the town’s only barber. And, he was the mayor. In a town bigger than my hometown he’d have been three people.

But, right then, he was just my coach.

“Mike,” Lloyd yelled at his son who stood at the plate waiting for the first pitch. “Hit the ball.”

Mike did, and I scored. We won that game. But, then again, we won most of our games.

About 25 years later, my hometown elected me mayor. I wasn’t the barber, the funeral director, the accountant or a Little League coach. I was a bartender.

And in some small towns that’s power enough.