Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pageant Traditions

Today our school had our annual Christmas Pageant, which is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  I tend to be a very sentimental person, and the pageant brings it out big time.  This simple retelling of the story of Christ's birth, in which every child in our school participates, is as much a part of our Christmas traditions as pajamas on Christmas Eve and leaving cookies out for Santa.  I can still vividly remember the first time I saw it, when J was in pre-k.  I was amazed at how much this humble little performance touched my heart.  Twelve years and twenty four performances later(two shows each year), it still moves me to tears.  I have loved watching my babies grow up participating in it.  Each year is a little bittersweet, signifying the passing of time and the speed at which they're growing up.  The first grade angels are my favorite part and tonight I watched my last angel make that walk down the church aisle, sassy smile in place.  I've been the head homeroom mom since J was in 5th grade and N was in kindergarten, which means I'm responsible for overseeing a lot during pageant week.   I, along with my dedicated group of homeroom moms, assist with costumes  rehearsals, and prop repair.  The day of the pageant, we set up for the reception that follows the evening performance, assist with dressing kids in costumes, and generally do anything that needs doing to ensure the pageant goes off without a hitch.  Pageant week is both exhausting and exhilarating, and I love nearly every minute of it.  During the reception, I enjoy standing back and watching families come together, kids congratulating each other on another great performance, alumni having mini reunions and reminiscing about their own pageant years.  At the end of the evening, as I'm locking up the parrish center, observing the school and church in the dark and quiet, I'm struck how much I love our school family, and how lucky my children have been to grow up surrounded by the love and faith our little school has in such abundance. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Official

A while back, within another post, I told you that Coach C would be coaching the 18u TP team this upcoming summer.  While we've known this for a while, he hadn't made an official announcement to the rest of the team.   Well, yesterday he sent out an email to the team, announcing that he would be coaching the 18's, so I can shout it from the rooftops now.  J is thrilled to know that he will have two more summer seasons playing for Coach C.  Okay, we're all thrilled and so looking forward to the summer season, which will begin in May.   The upcoming year is an important one for J and I feel so blessed to know that Coach C will be there to coach and guide him through this very important and special time in his life.   Great things are just around the corner.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Celebrations

Hard to believe that Christmas is just over two weeks away.  Like everyone, we're in a frenzy of holiday preparations.  The kids still have two weeks of school before the break and it's business as usual with all of their activities.  However, despite the frantic pace we do have some fun things planned to enjoy the season. Some have already happened and some are hovering on the horizon.

N's chorus had two concerts last week.  The first was a performance with Christmas with the Celts at our local performing arts center.  The second was a holiday concert with an adult choir and a bell choir from a neighboring town.  Both performances were an outstanding kick off to this month of celebrating.

Our school had a float in the annual Christmas parade this weekend.  A rode on the float dressed as an angel.  She smiled, waved, and sang the entire parade route.  Hubby and I walked the parade behind the float, while J participated in the float of one of the local Little Leagues.  N missed the parade in order to participate with some of the other school kids in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the local playhouse.   They sang two songs as the chorus in the production, participating in five shows over four days.

This week, I'm hoping to get to my holiday baking.  I usually bake an assortment of goodies to share with friends and family. I also need to finish up my gift buying, which is nearly complete.  Friday night A has a performance with the baton team in the Christmas show the dance school puts on.  Saturday we're going over to Busch Gardens for Christmas Town with some of my family and some of my brother's work friends.  They're supposed to have light displays, special Christmas shows, visits with Santa, and some of the roller coasters will be running.  The kids are really looking forward to it.   On tap for Sunday is dinner with Coach C.  He's coming to the house and I'm going to cook a Chinese feast.  I'm hoping it turns out well since I'm just starting to delve into Asian cooking.  We also have some Hanukkah gifts for Coach C and it will be nice to spend some time with him, visiting and catching up.

Next week will be a busy one since our annual school Christmas pageant takes place late in the week. It's my favorite holiday activity and the true kick off for Christmas in our family.  This year N will perform in the choir and A will be a first grade angel, one of my favorite parts of the pageant.  I'll for sure be keeping a tissue handy because I cry every year at this beautiful telling of the Christmas story.

After that, the kids will be out of school for two weeks.  We don't travel anywhere for Christmas.  Most of my family is right here, as is hubby's mom.  We'll host the annual Christmas Eve get together for the family, complete with new pajamas for the entire family.  The pajamas are a tradition started back when my brother and I were kids that continues to this day.  Kids and adults alike all have new pajamas to sleep in on Christmas Eve.  I'll take the kids to Christmas Eve mass in the afternoon.  My mom and I will return to church for the midnight service as well.  Christmas Day begins at our house as soon as the kids are awake, which will be early.  You'd think A, being the youngest, would be the first one up.  However, J is without fail always the first one awake, wakes up his siblings, and calls the rest of the family so they can get here in a hurry.   Everyone will gather to open stockings and gifts from us.  Then we'll move onto to either my mom's or my aunt's to open gifts there and have breakfast.  The gift opening will conclude at the third house where we'll have Christmas dinner.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope the season is filled with much love and joy for you and your loved ones.  Remember to slow down long enough to enjoy the traditions and celebrations unique to your family, and to count the blessings in your life.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Worthwhile Cause

A few days ago, Coach C called to ask if it would be alright if he sent me some information regarding a philanthropy project his fraternity is involved in to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network..  I of course said yes, and told him I'd happily share the information with as many people as possible.  I've since shared it on my Facebook page, emailed it to several friends, and have decided that posting it here will reach the few people who may read this blog.  I'm going to let Coach C speak for himself here, since I think he very movingly describes the work being done for the Children's Miracle Network.  If you feel moved to donate to the cause, I'm including the link to Coach C's personal donation page at the bottom of the page.  The following words are from Coach C:

Dance Marathon at UF is considered the most successful student-run philanthropy in the southeastern United States. During the event approximately 800 students will stay awake and on their feet for 26.2 hours to raise funds for Shands Hospital for Children, our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital right here in Gainesville.

Over the past 18 years, Dance Marathon at UF has raised more than $5.3 million for pediatric research, leading-edge medical equipment, and diversionary activities for children who must endure long hospital stays. Your support means a great deal to these patients and they are at the heart of Dance Marathon. Here is my thank you letter from last year which defines my experience with this incredible cause:

To My Family and Friends,
As I write this letter to you, I have just come back from UF Dance Marathon, and thanks to your generous contributions to this unbelievable cause my fraternity won the Miracle Cup for the second year in a row by contributing $31,000 to our team total. Thanks to all of you, and the thousands of people just like you, UF Dance Marathon is now the largest run student philanthropy in the country as it raised a staggering $866,000 dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network. I’m writing you this letter to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your donations, because today I learned the true importance of your contributions.
This was my first year participating in Dance Marathon. I had always believed in the cause and mirrored my fraternity’s enthusiasm for the philanthropy, but I never fully grasped just how incredible this event is until I had the opportunity to experience it for myself. For those of you who don’t remember the email, UF Dance Marathon is an event where dancers, backed by a large support staff, stand for 26.2 hours straight to raise money for life saving equipment in the Pediatrics department at Shands Hospital. I worked on the Morale staff this year. My job was essentially to help the dancers in anyway possible, keep spirits up during the marathon, and provide entertainment to keep the dancers occupied. I worked 20 of the 26.2 hours and I can honestly say that I have never been more emotionally touched in my entire life. Throughout the event families and their children whose lives have been saved thanks to this amazing charity tell their stories to the dancers and the staff. Their unyielding strength despite insurmountable odds made a lasting impact on myself and put the gravity of the entire event in perspective; however, none made a more lasting impression on me than a young boy named Justin. I met Justin while in the family relations area of the O’Connell Center, which is the arena in which we held the event. He was throwing a ball around and we started playing catch and talking. He told me he was 14, loved baseball, and that it was his dream to play in the Major Leagues one day, preferably for his beloved Tampa Bay Rays. For the next hour I gave Justin lessons in both hitting and pitching, and by the end of the hour he had improved substantially. As he ran to go tell his parents all the new things he had learned, his jeans rode up to his ankle as he ran, and I saw that Justin had a prosthetic left leg. Not once during our time together did he ever mention his disability, nor did he let it affect his play. After seeing this, I had to excuse myself so he wouldn't see me crying. His resolve, his fun loving nature, and his courage to dream big despite his chances being so small, rocked me to my very core. Justin is a testament to the results of the money you contribute to Dance Marathon. Thanks to you, this remarkable young man was given the chance to live, and was able to become the unbelievably brave person he is today. 
Justin is just one of the 100,000 children Shands treats every year, and each of the children who came with him to the marathon were different in ailment, but equal in spirit. I am so proud to have been a part of this wonderful cause. It has had such a huge effect on my life, and it is with all my heart that I thank you for your generosity and your kindness. It has meant more then you will ever know. Thank you.

Your dollars can truly make miracles happen for these children, and I ask you to give what you can. There stories have touched my heart and my experience with them has changed my life. Thank you for your time.

Follow this link to donate  click here to be taken to the page to make your contribution.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Update From the Diamond

As usual, life is speeding along at the speed of light.  J recently finished up both his junior swim season and his fall baseball season.  Try outs for spring baseball will be in mid January, and while J will have a bit of a breather in regards to games, he's still focusing hard on his training to be ready for the next steps in his baseball career.

Yesterday, J and I made a trip to visit Coach C for a progress check.  You may remember me posting back at the start of the summer season that J had suffered some back sliding in his game that was causing him some difficulties, Obstacles to Overcome.  Since none of us wanted a repeat of that scenario, we decided it would be best if Coach C made periodic checks of J's progress.   I am happy to report that Coach C was extremely pleased with how J is looking on the field.  J had made improvement by the end of the summer, working hard to fix the deficiencies in his game.  Yesterday Coach C said he could see even more improvement, which really gave J a confidence boost. And no matter how much hubby and I pump J up, our pep talks and praise never quite have the effect that Coach C's do.   So what's next?  J is continuing his training program.  Coach C will be giving him a new, more intense workout routine next week when he comes home for Thanksgiving.  In addition, J will be swimming a few days a week for extra conditioning, as well as keeping up his hitting and throwing drills.

 His school season will begin in January.  I'm going to briefly touch on something here that needs to be said and then put away.  J's school program is not everything we would like it to be, which is a source of great frustration for all of us.  I especially have a hard time dealing with it and tend to work myself  up into a bit of a frenzy at times.  That stops now.  I don't want to say or do anything that could negatively impact J's mental focus when he's on the field playing for the school team.  So from here on out, no matter how hard it is, no matter how upset I get, I will only say positive things about the program.  I will do my very best to only think positive thoughts.  The focus is J, and on helping him do everything he can to improve his game and achieve his goals.  I promised both J and Coach C I would do my part on this and it's a promise I intend to keep.  I'm a naturally optimistic person, so starting now I'm thinking positive thoughts for J's school team to grow and improve in the upcoming season.  And as always, I have faith that J will give his all to the team and have an outstanding junior season.

After that outstanding junior school season, it will be time for a third summer season with TP, led by Coach C.  We talked about the summer season yesterday and the plans Coach C is starting to make.  There will definitely be more to come on that as we get closer to the summer!

The upcoming season is an extremely important one for J.  As a junior, he only has two school seasons left, along with two more more summer seasons for TP.  He's worked long and hard to get to this point.  He's still determined to realize his dream of playing college baseball and now is the time when things could start to happen for him.  He's filling out intent forms for schools he's interested in playing at.  He's working on registering with the NCAA Eligibility Center.  Most importantly, he's continuing the hard work that has gotten him this far.  The journey is a little closer to the end, but it's far from over.  J is determined not only to complete the journey, but to end up exactly where he's been dreaming of for so many years.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Pets have always been a treasured part of our household.  I truly can't imagine our family without our four legged friends.  Sadly though, in the past two years we've had to say goodbye to all but two of our pets.  Two years back, we lost our cat Andy and our black lab Dixie within two weeks of each other.  Andy from cancer and Dixie from hip dysplasia.  Barely two months after that, N's guinea pig Smores passed away after a brief illness.  This left us with two dogs.  Missy, a yellow lab, and Dakota, a Catahoula Leopard/ Australian Cattle dog mix.  Sadly, a week ago, we had to say goodbye to our sweet Missy.  She had a skin cancer that caused tumors to form inside her mouth and all over her body.  She was almost 16 years old, and lived a long, happy life.  However, her passing has hit all of us hard.  You see, I adopted Missy and Dixie,  when J was 14 months old.  My own beloved childhood dog had passed away at the age of 16 and I coped with my sadness by bringing home two roly poly, 8 week old puppies who would bring us nearly 16 years of love and friendship.  From the start, the girls, as we liked to call them, were a handful.  They were mischievous and playful, wreaking havoc in our house and yard.  Yet despite the chewing, the digging under the fence, the running away(one time they were missing for three days) and the endless trouble they got into, those puppies grew up to be two of the best dogs a family could have asked for.  They were sweet natured, endlessly patient with J, and later N and A, and gave us all the unconditional love and loyalty that only dogs can.  When they were 7, we adopted Dakota.  It took a few days, but they eventually welcomed him into the family and he quickly became attached to both of them, but especially to Missy.  When we lost Dixie, Missy, who had always been the alpha dog, went through a long grieving process.  Over the next two years she aged more rapidly than she had in her first 13 years.  I honestly believe that if we hadn't had Dakota, she might have grieved herself to death.  When she first began developing the tumors back in late March, we had two options.  Costly surgery to verify what the was causing the tumors, or letting nature take its course.  At her advanced age, we opted to not have the surgery.  We wanted her final months to be as happy and comfortable as possible. And they were.  She didn't really develop further tumors until late August and even then, she was still her happy self.    These past weeks were rough as we struggled with knowing when  the right time to end her suffering would be.  Hubby and I both seemed to struggle with the decision more than we had with past pets.  For some reason, we had a really difficult time letting go of her.  I suppose because with Missy's passing comes the end of an era.  She and Dixie grew up with J, and were faithful companions to all the kids.  And my Missy was always the leader.  She loved and protected all of us, the other pets included.  Her absence is felt greatly.  The house feels empty and even a week later I still find myself expecting to see her lying next to my bed when I get up in the morning, or basking out in the sun in the backyard.  Poor Dakota is lost without her, and I have no idea how to explain to a heartbroken dog that the one he loved most isn't coming back.  We had Missy cremated and her ashes were returned to us on Thursday.  When Dixie died, we had her cremated as well, but never buried her ashes.  The kids felt that she and Missy needed to be together.  So sometime soon, when the kids feel ready, we'll lay our girls to rest together, which is how I think they'd want it, if dogs had feelings on such matters.  They were inseparable until Dixie died and I like to think of my two roly poly puppies being together again.  If dog heaven has a fence, it's a guarantee the two of them will be digging under it to go off an adventure.

 Mimi(Missy's nickname since J couldn't say Missy as a toddler) and Dixie  taken when they were about two years old.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Unusual Obsession

Baseball is a sport that requires a bit of equipment.  At the bare minimum, a player needs a glove and a bat.  Add cleats, sliding shorts, batting gloves, a protective cup, a helmet, and a cap and you have a list of essentials that most players would consider complete.  J isn't most players.  My son has an obsession with owning as much baseball equipment as he possibly can.  Let's take a brief look at the list of equipment J currently owns:  two wooden bats, an aluminum bat, and a bbcor bat, a catcher's mitt, first baseman's mitt(this one is his pride and joy, it's a beauty)a fielder's mitt, a couple pair of batting gloves, an equipment bag large enough for A to take up residence in, numerous pairs of sliders, pants, socks, belts, caps, and jerseys, cleats, turf shoes, three titanium sports necklaces, numerous power bands and wrist bands, a shin guard, a wrist guard, a compression sleeve(that has permanently taken on the odor of a dead sea otter) a batting helmet, and a complete set of catcher's gear.  I think that's everything.  For the moment.

Does he truly need all of this stuff?  The honest answer is no.  And I would like to add that I am not the one who buys it all.  Yes hubby and I buy a fair amount of equipment for him.  But we tend to stick to essentials like bats, gloves, and cleats. He turns on the charm for my mom who buys him the rest of it.  I tell her he doesn't need it, but she enjoys doing it so I've given up.   J is like a little kid turned loose in a candy shop when new baseball catalogs arrive in the mail.  He pores over them, circling things he'd like to have, as well as some things he simply finds humorous, especially if he thinks an item will get a good reaction out of Coach C, who likes to give J grief over his equipment obsession.  There have been countless hours of amusement  over J's shin guard.  Coach C insists that there's no need for it since J has only once, in all the years he's played, ever taken a ball to the shin.  That happened just a few weeks ago and J gleefully told Coach C about it when we saw him.  J's argument is that there is a need for the shin guard now that he's been hit.  Coach C said it didn't count since he hadn't been there to see the ball hit J's shin.   The two of them enjoy going round and round on this topic.

So does J really use all this stuff?  Yes, he does.  He loves decking himself out in all his wrist bands, sleeves, necklaces, etc before a game. He has come to realize that Coach C is right in saying that all that stuff weighs him down running bases, so he usually takes a lot of  it off when a game actually starts.  He just enjoys the ritual of it all.  That and messing with Coach C.  As for his bats and gloves, those he does use with regularity.  In fact, he needs a new bbcor bat before spring season.  Since a new bat is a serious investment, I turned to Coach C for some advice and our conversation ended up being the inspiration for this post.  Christmas is coming and I'm sure J's stocking will be filled with baseball stuff.  Some of it needed and some of it just for the sheer pleasure it brings him.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Life in Pictures

Things have been so busy since school started that I've really fallen behind on my blogging.  I'm hoping to be able to get back to regular posting soon, but in the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite pictures from the last several months.  So here goes:  our summer in pictures.

 This is A in her sparkly TP shirt that my friend C made for her.  She wore this outfit to the majority of the games over the summer.  She's convinced it's a good luck charm for the team.

 A and Coach C's pregame ritual.  He hit her ground balls before every game she attended.

 Is she the cutest bat girl ever or what?

I just love this picture of my sassy princess.

 My all time favorite picture of A and Coach C.   She has this one in a frame on her night table.

 A competed in her first swim meet in July.  Here she is swimming butterfly.

 This was J's game changing hit in TP's championship game.

 Here he is at first base after his awesome hit.  That's Coach K with him.

 Coach C presenting J with his championship medal.

 After the big win.

 N playing mini golf in St. Augustine.

 N and cousin M

 This is hubby and I with Cousin B at her high school graduation.

 Hubby and Coach C during an intense chess game at our hotel in Jupiter.

 N doing duty as bat boy during the Junior Olympics tournament.

Most of the family at cousin B's graduation.

So there you go.  A sampling of my favorite pictures from the summer.  I'll get back to regular posting soon, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this peek into our family album.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baseball and Little Girl Dreams

This weekend was another busy one, with J having four games.  The first two on Saturday were for the high school's fall team.  Then yesterday the TP fall team traveled about 2 1/2 hours to play against a community college team.  J was excited about that for two reasons.  First the opportunity to play against a college team was both a thrill and a challenge.  Second, this college is located in the same town as Coach C's university, which meant we'd get to see him.  He doesn't coach the team in the fall.  With the distance and his school schedule it just isn't practical.   The owner of TP takes over during the fall, and while I do think he does a wonderful job, we can't wait for Coach C's return to the field next summer.

We had a great day, that started off with breakfast with Coach C.  He had plans for the afternoon and was unable to attend the games, but we left home early so we could spend time with him beforehand.  Following our breakfast reunion, we headed over to the nearby college field so J could take batting practice and get warmed up with the team.  I'd like to report that TP blew their opponent off the field, but I'd be fibbing.  This team was quite good, and presented TP with a very big challenge.  They unfortunately lost both games.  However, the experience was a valuable one.  J himself had both good and bad aspects of his game.  His hitting was off.  He had two strikeouts, a ground out, and a fly out.  While disappointed he didn't make a better showing, he says getting the chance to face quality college pitchers was worth it.  It enabled him to see what the game is like at the next level so he can work on improving his own skills in order to be ready.  Fielding he actually did pretty good.  He played right field and first base, making some good plays at both positions.  Those fielding mechanics have come a long way  since the start of the summer when he was having his difficulties.   Our friends  K and K were able to join us with their children for the second game, making an already good day even nicer.

Of course, A was thrilled to see Coach C yesterday.  It's been about six weeks since he returned to school and she's been missing him.  She still has a huge crush on him, and is actively planning their wedding again.  I always take him a care package when we visit, so this time she wanted to get involved.  She made him a little cake in her Easy Bake Oven, frosted it, and had me pack it carefully with the other goodies we had for him.  Saturday night she was so excited we had a hard time getting her into bed, and from the moment she opened her eyes yesterday, she was full of energy and excitement.  I lost count of how many times she asked if we were almost there yet.  We beat Coach C to the restaurant by about three minutes and she anxiously kept watch for him.  He greeted her with a big bear hug and from that moment on she was attached to his hip.  She kept up a running chatter during breakfast, and was thrilled when he ate the cake she made for him and told her it was delicious.  Later on she told me that was the best part of her day.  Honestly, I don't know when this crush of hers will start to fade.  She absolutely adores Coach C and has been telling me lately that I need to let her marry him before he becomes an old man.  I just laugh and tell her she can't get married til she grows up.    Her response is usually eye rolling along with some exasperated sighing.  Maybe one of these times I should ask her when she'd like me to schedule the wedding  just to see her reaction.  Although knowing A, she might take me seriously and try to drag Coach C to the altar!    I admit watching her innocent pursuit of Coach C still makes me laugh, especially because it freaks hubby out a bit, her being his baby girl and all.  Coach C, as always, is a champion, taking it all with good humor.  After all,  A has him wrapped as tightly around her sassy little finger as she does the rest of us.  A is already asking me when we'll see Coach C again, and even though I don't have an answer for her yet, she's happily making plans and dreaming her little girl dreams.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Catching Up

I just realized it's been a month since my last post.  It doesn't feel like that much time has passed but it's been a super busy month. Aren't they all?  Here's a quick recap of what we've been up to.

Once the TP season ended, Cousin M arrived for a three week visit.  During his visit, we took a day trip to St. Augustine to visit with my dear friend J and her family, who were in town on vacation.  Following that, I took J and M on an official visit to Saint Leo University, which is on J's list of possible colleges.  J and M then spent the weekend with my brother, who lives near the college we toured.  After that, we had Coach C over for a combination farewell/birthday dinner, though he did the cooking, impressing us all with his cooking skills. Next up, Aunt S and Cousin B arrived for a week long visit.  After my aunt and cousins departed it was time to get ready for school to start.  J has been back in school for a week and a half, while N and A have a week under their belts.  As always, back to school time is a bit of adjustment as we all get used not only to the school schedule but the fall activity schedule.  All three kids have full schedules for the fall.

J is swimming his third season for the high school.  He's also signed up to play on the fall TP 18U team.  His school will also be having a fall ball season, which he should be able to do since TP is primarily on the weekends.  He's off to a good start with his schoolwork, taking AP and honors classes.  His training program is back in full swing, too.  He continues to keep his eye on the prize of playing college baseball and has finally settled on his potential college major of sports business.  He's really starting to research various schools and narrow down his list of possibles.  And I'll share a bit of happy news here regarding his plans to play next summer.  As I've mentioned before, next year he has to move from the TP 16u team to the 18u team due to when his birthday falls.  Previously we were unsure if Coach C would be moving up to the 18u team or staying with the 16u.  He told us a few nights ago at dinner that he has decided to move up to the 18u team!  Hurray!

N is in 6th grade this year.  He'll be continuing on with his gymnastics class as well as his music.  He's doing really well with his piano lessons.  I sat in on his lesson last week and was really impressed with how well he plays.    He'll sing in the school choir again and his community chorus starts up again this week.  The chorus schedule is the last one I'm waiting on so I can get the calendar all filled in.  And figure out how to squeeze it all in! He's also hoping to get elected to the student council, and considering signing up for the school soccer team if they have spots for 6th graders.

A will be on the baton team for her second season.  She's very excited about doing a presentation routine at competition this year.  A presentation is short solo performed in front of the judges.  She'll also be in a large group and a small group routine.  She's taking gymnastics for the first time, too.  She and I will also be doing our second year of daisy scouts.    Add to all of that the fact that my little girl is in 1st grade!  I don't know how she got so big on me.  She's loving 1st grade so far.   And of course, she's still planning to marry Coach C, though she did tell me a few weeks ago he was going to be an old man by the time I finally let her marry him.

Also on tap for fall:  N's birthday, a weekend baseball camp for J at Saint Leo's, and the annual school fair.    I know you're all just as busy as we are so I hope everyone is easing into their back to school routines with relative ease.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Season Highlights

TP had a terrific summer season, capped off by their championship win last Sunday.  This week I've been reflecting on some of the season's most memorable moments and of course I had to share them here!

Topping the list is of course the big win!  Our boys worked hard all season and winning a championship was the perfect end to their season.  Every player on the team gave his all, making it a true team effort.  As always, they played with heart, class, and sportsmanship, true champions in every sense of the word.

I enjoyed every minute serving as team mom this season.  Every player and coach holds a special place in my heart.  I'm going to miss sitting near or in the dug out and hearing requests for everything from the current score to drinks and snacks.  

A's pure enjoyment at being part of the team was another highlight for me.  Not only did Coach C indulge her by allowing her to hang in the dug out and serve as a bat girl, the entire team treated her like a little sister.  Every player and coach looked out for her, and indulged her every whim, from playing catch with her between games to sharing their sunflower seeds in the dug out.  I'm sure there may have been times they wished she'd go away but they never let her know it. To her, they are her team and her boys, and she is their princess.

I enjoyed forging friendships with the other parents.  When you spend that much time with a group of people,   you either like them or tolerate them.  I'm happy to say I liked them and we had many good times over the course of the season.  I especially enjoyed spending time with M, S, and Coach C's mom, Mrs. C. We had a lot of laughs and I'm going to miss you ladies until we meet again!

J personally had some ups and downs this season.  Every moment, bad or good, allowed him to realize that his dream of baseball is as deep rooted as ever.  There may be some struggles along the way but in the end, he's still willing to sacrifice and work hard to make his dream a reality.  The ups and downs have also shown him how fortunate he is to have a coach  who is as invested in him as Coach C is.  His support of J never wavered, even in the worst moments, and because of that, J has made improvements and is ready to keep working hard on his dreams.

Someone asked me today if we'd be bored now that the season is over.  I wouldn't say bored exactly.  It will be nice to have a few less hectic weeks before school starts again, along with all the fall activities.  But I do miss it and will be looking forward to our next season with happy anticipation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

CFl Championships

This weekend TP returned to the CFL Championship Tournament to defend their championship title from last year.  They not only defended their title, they held onto it with both hands and refused to let go. After  five games played over two days and 41 runs scored, the championship was theirs for the second year in a row.  It was a weekend filled with a lot of action so I'm going to do my best to recap the highlights for you here.

Game one was Saturday afternoon, against a team called Mets Elite.  This team was fairly evenly matched with TP and the game was intense from the start.  TP had a shaky first half of the first inning, allowing Mets Elite to score three runs.  After that, they found their groove and played for a 5-4 win.  Game two was Saturday evening against Team Avalanche and that one got a little nasty.  TP started off strong, taking an early lead.  However, some errors led to Team Avalanche pulling ahead for a brief time.  And that's when things got nasty.  This team was one of those obnoxious teams that I hate coming up against.  Bad attitudes, cockiness, and just absolutely no class. When they pulled ahead they thought they were real hot stuff, but our boys charged and left them in the dust with a 10-7 win.  After that it was back to the hotel to have dinner and wait to hear where we were seeded.  Got word that we were the 3 seed around 11:30 that night with a game time of noon for Sunday.  Game three was against a team called Ocala Blaze.  This game took a while due to rain that at one point caused a fifteen minute delay.  The game went very well, ending in a 10-3 win.  This put TP in the semi final round against the 2 seed team, the Renegades.  This game was a bit more intense than game three since the two teams were more evenly matched, though TP took it in the end 4-2.  After a short break of maybe twenty minutes it was on to the championship round.  The team we were playing, LBA Storm, was a team we'd played before, back in our second tournament of the summer.  They had beaten us in the semi final round of that tournament so the boys were pumped for a rematch.   The game started off being a bit frustrating, remaining scoreless then getting deadlocked in a 1-1 tie I believe until the fourth inning.  To be honest some of the details are fuzzy because what happened next proved to be a very emotional moment for me.  J came up to bat with two outs, which always makes me nervous.  His first at bat of the game had ended in a strikeout when he swung at a pitch he had no business swinging at.  Well, he redeemed himself with a bomb hit  deep into the outfield that brought in two runs, breaking the tie.   The look on his face as he stood on first base is a moment I'll never forget.  Following that, the runner on third base managed to score when J, I believe at Coach C's instruction, had gotten himself into a pickle trying to steal second.  While the other team was busy trying to run J down and tag him out, which they eventually did, our runner scored, giving us a 4-1 lead.  Since the run came in before they tagged J out it counted.  From there, TP ignited and never let up, eventually ending up with a 12-1 win for the championship.   

Let me go back to J's awesome, game changing hit for a moment.  At the time, I didn't fully realize what he had managed to accomplish.  I simply thought he'd gotten a great hit, so great in fact that it made me cry I was so proud of him. It wasn't until later, as we were leaving the ice cream shop we'd gone to to celebrate, that  Coach C said something that made me realize the moment was bigger than I'd thought.  Apparently J's hit turned the tide of the game.  The team was so pumped up that it gave them the push they needed to break out and take ownership of the game.  Had J not delivered, the game might have gone in a different direction.  That made me cry all over again, especially since J has had some rough moments this summer as he continues to work on improving the mechanics of his fielding.  But for last night, he came through when his team needed him the most, which will be a memory he'll carry with him forever.  As Coach C said to him, "Way to be clutch."  

The TP season is over which has left me feeling a little sad.  I'm going to miss the boys, the other parents, and the camaraderie we all share.  I made Coach C promise me last night that we'd talk about next summer soon and him moving up with the current team to the next age division.  I'll be sure to update on that once plans are in place!  But for now, I've washed the swing juice jug for the last time, updated the team web page with our record of 16-6-2, and have almost finished putting together a slide show of TP's greatest moments.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Roots of a Friendship

This past Saturday, J and Coach C spent a few hours doing some hard core training.  Afterwards, Coach C brought J home and stayed for dinner.  During dessert, we were reminiscing a bit about TP's trip to Auburn University last summer and how a moment during that trip became the defining moment of when our friendship really began.  That moment came when hubby decided it would be fun to spill the beans to Coach C regarding A's then newly formed crush on him.  He did this by knocking on Coach C's hotel room door and proceeding to ask him if his intentions were honorable.  Coach C was understandably a bit puzzled, and stated that he always had honorable intentions.  That's when hubby dropped the bomb(with a perfectly sober face) and said he was glad to hear that seeing as how Coach C and A were getting married and having a hot tub honeymoon. (That last part was a quote from A, who has a fondness for lounging in hot tubs.)  Now, I was not in the room for this conversation, but both hubby and Coach C have described his reaction in great detail.  Apparently Coach C turned about as red as a TP jersey and started stammering and stuttering until hubby took pity on him and reassured him he was just messing with him.  After that, there were really only two choices.  We all would become great friends or Coach C needed to run like hell as fast as he could away from our craziness.  Happily, he stuck around and we've nurtured a friendship that has become quite special to all of us.  I know others may look at us and think the friendship is a bit unorthodox.  I imagine  most people don't get as close to their kid's coach, especially one as young as Coach C.  It definitely started on the field, with Coach C and J forming a coach and player bond that is special all on its own.  Readers of this  blog know where that bond has led.  Coach C continues to train and mentor J not only in baseball, but in life.  J values his opinion highly, and looks up to him, like an older brother of sorts.  As the oldest, J has plenty of experience being the big brother, so I think it's been nice for him to have someone fill that role for him.  He is close to my brother, but he's 16 years older than J, whereas Coach C is only 3 1/2 years older.  So it's a different dynamic.  The rest of us love and value Coach C's friendship very much as well.  A of course continues to crush on him, still has plans to marry him, and gives any girl she thinks is getting too close the evil eye.  He, as always, indulges her, treats her like a little queen, and in general, spoils her rotten.  I imagine as she gets older her crush, which is really a huge case of hero worship, will turn more into viewing him as an extra big brother, who will always hold a special place in her heart. Coach C gets a kick out of N and his uniquely quirky personality.  The two of them spend time playing chess or video games and N usually has Coach C shaking his head or laughing at something he says or does.  Hubby loves nothing better than giving Coach C a hard time about everything  from work, (Coach C works part time at hubby's store) to his future nuptials with A.   Coach C gives back as good as he gets, impressing hubby with his quick wit and refusal to let hubby gain the upper hand in their verbal duels.  As for me, I simply love Coach C like one of my own kids.  He won my heart early on, when he saw something in J on the baseball field that others had failed to see.  Since then, he's continued to work tirelessly with J, he's good to my other kids, and is always appreciative of my work for the team.  After our stay in Jupiter, during which he spent a lot of time with us, eating meals and just hanging out, he sent me the sweetest message about how much he loves and appreciates our friendship.  It made me cry, and realize how very much I, too, love and value our friendship. The TP season is coming to an end and I'm not sure what next summer holds for J.  He'll be too old to play on the current TP team, which means he can't play for Coach C.  However, many of the parents and the other coaches are trying to convince Coach C it would be a great idea for him to move up with the current group of boys. I don't know how that all will turn out in the long run, but whatever happens, I know our friendship with Coach C will remain strong.  None of us could have foreseen on that sunny April day when J tried out for Coach C that the six of us would forge such a special bond.  This friendship may have gotten it's start on a baseball diamond, but it's roots run strong and true.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Junior Olympics Recap

I know I said I'd post updates during the week at Junior Olympics, but there was so much going on that I decided to wait and post one big recap.  It was a week with a lot of ups and downs for TP, but ultimately will be a week the boys will never forget.  So here goes.

We arrived on Friday around noon, prior to our scheduled event time of 12:30.  The event time was a time for our team to be observed by the USA Baseball scouts.  Each player ran the sixty, then participated in a modified infield/outfield practice.  The entire process took about an hour and we were then free for the rest of the day.  There was a Jupiter Hammerheads game that evening, for which USA Baseball provided tickets. The game was rained out though, so several of the families ended up going out to dinner together while Coach C and the coaching staff attended the mandatory coaches meeting.  Our five pool play games were scheduled for 8:00am, starting on Sat and ending on Tues.  Here's where some of those downs come in, because TP struggled a bit in their pool play games.  I'll give a brief recap of each game.

Game 1 TP came out and played well.  The team they were playing against was extremely good and unfortunately our boys never did get their bats going.  They lost that game 5-0, though they put up a good fight.

Game 2 was also a loss of 4-1.  For that game, they could have played better.  Once again their bats were quiet and they just weren't playing with a lot of heart.  Coach C was starting to get a little irritated with them because they're capable of playing much better.

Game 3 was supposed to be Sunday but got postponed to Monday due to rain.  It turned out to be the most difficult game of the tournament for them, ending in a 7-0 loss.   The pitching on the opposing team was phenomenal and unfortunately it paralyzed our boys' bats.  They let themselves be intimidated, which killed their shot at winning right from the start.  Coach C gave them a pretty stern talking to following the game, and told them to show up that afternoon for game 4 ready to play hard.

Game 4 was the turning point in the tournament for us.  The boys shook off their previous losses and came out fighting.  Our pitcher pitched an outstanding game against one of the best teams competing in the tournament.  This team was undefeated in pool play and TP shut them down with a 6-4 win.

Game 5 was a heart breaker.  TP was playing well, but during one inning they made a coupe fumbles that allowed the other team to score two runs.  They rallied, and scored, but the game ended in a 2-1 loss.

Wednesday was an off day and we found out TP was seeded 36 after pool play.  Only the top 32 teams advanced to the playoffs, but TP would have two consolation games.  Coach C got them fired up and they approached those two games as if they were the championship round.  On Thursday they played with tons of heart and fire, and ended up with a  7-2 win.  Friday's game was another good one, ending with a 10-2 win.

The overall record for this tournament was 3 wins and 4 losses.  Junior Olympics is one of the best youth baseball tournaments in the country, with extremely competitive teams entering.  Many of the teams that enter  are put together  for the sole purpose of competing at this tournament, bringing in kids from all over to play together for a brief time.  The fact that our boys went out there and did as well as they did is a testament to how well they mesh as a team, their talent and skill, and the excellent coaching they receive from Coach C and the rest of the coaching staff.

We have one last tournament in a few weeks, along with a couple local scrimmage games.  The final tournament is the same one we won last year, so Coach C wants to go and defend our title.  If they keep playing the way I know they can, there's no reason we won't be bringing home the trophy again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Graduation and a Tournament

This past weekend, we traveled to Virginia to attend Cousin B's high school graduation.  Along the way, we stopped to visit some friends in North Carolina.  We hadn't seen them since September, so it was nice getting to spend a little time with them and catch up.  We spent the night at their house and continued on our way to Virginia Friday morning, arriving at my aunt's home shortly before 5:00.  She had gotten tickets for my dad, hubby, J, and Cousin M to attend the Yankees/Nationals game that evening, so they left for the metro station shortly after we arrived.  Much to J and my dad's delight, the Yankees beat the Nationals; in fact, they swept the entire three game series of the weekend.  Saturday morning Cousin B graduated, a fact which is hard to wrap my mind around.  She, cousin M, and J are all one year apart in age; she's 18, M is 17, and J is 16, all with February birthdays.  Her graduation marks the beginning of a three year period where we'll have a graduation every spring.  They've all grown up so fast.  I can still picture them as toddlers, ages, 1, 2, and 3 playing together.  They've always been extremely close and I hope that closeness continues as they move into adulthood.  I'm glad we made the trip up to share in B's special day.  I only wish we could have stayed longer.  J, hubby, and I came home Monday.  N and A stayed behind to go to Ocean City, New Jersey for the rest of the week with my parents and the rest of the family.

Which brings me to the second part of this post.  A recap of TP's tournament in Boca Raton.  Obviously we missed this one and from what I've since been told by Coach C, that's not a bad thing.  To call this tournament a disaster is putting it mildly.  The trouble began early in the week.  By Tuesday night, we still had no game schedule for a tournament that was supposed to begin Thursday.  Wednesday Coach C finally heard from the director.  The tournament start date had been pushed back to Saturday and the end date extended from Sunday to Monday.  Right away this caused problems, since everyone had planned their hotel stay around the original dates.  Several parents also had to work on Monday and were unable to stay past Sunday evening.  A call to the hotel solved the lodging issue.  The sales manager there was extremely understanding and wiling to do whatever he could to accommodate everyone.  Games were scheduled for Sat(two games) and Sunday, with Monday being dependent on how they did in those games.  However, by the end of the day Friday the schedule had been changed to one game Saturday, one Sunday, and one Monday morning.  Saturday afternoon I got a text from one of the other moms that they lost 5-2.  Then Sunday morning, I texted  Coach C and told him to be sure to let us know how that mornings game went.  He replied that the game had now been moved to 6:00 in the evening and a couple of our players were going to have to leave, which left the team severely short staffed.  That's when the fun really began.  Following that game I got a phone call from Coach C and he was seriously riled up at the tournament director.  The man had apparently been misrepresenting the tournament to everyone.  It was supposed to have been held at Florida Atlantic University, but had been moved to some high school fields.  Why?  The director owes FAU money from a previous tournament.  Needless to say they weren't allowing the use of their fields.  After Sunday evenings game, the director again tried changing the remaining game schedule.  By that point, Coach C was fed up and began questioning him as to why all these changes were necessary.  He tried explaining that players were having to leave due to parents having work and other obligations.  The director's response?  He threw TP out of the tournament.   From what Coach C told me, other teams were having the same issues with this director.  If you want my opinion, I think he's shady and is pocketing the entry fees.  Each team paid a pretty heft entry fee, yet many teams never played the minimum of guaranteed games.  My guess is he was inventing reasons to cancel games so he didn't have to pay the field fees and pocketing the money instead.  I would also wonder if the games were ever actually booked to begin with.    The very idea of this guy profiting off the backs of young players makes my blood boil.  We all know there is craziness and dishonesty in youth sports unfortunately.  But this level of corruption is a new low.  He misrepresented the tournament from the start by affiliating it with FAU, and likely has pocketed money from numerous teams.  I don't know if anything can be done to stop this guy.  But you can bet that Coach C and every TP parent will be certain to tell this story to anyone who might be considering registering a team for any tournament being run by this jackass.        

So what's next for TP?  We've decided to chalk this tournament up to crazy and move onto the biggest, best tournament of the summer.  We leave Friday to travel down to Jupiter for the USA baseball 17U East Championships.  Seven game guarantee, scout test day, and an opportunity for our boys to really shine.  I'll update from the road for this one since there will be a lot going on.  And let's hope TP brings home the trophy at the end!                       

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tournament Weekend Three, Hardball Baseball Showcase

Today we headed an hour south to Vero Beach for the Hardball Baseball Showcase.  We had two games today and both went very well.  TP played hard and well, once again proving that they are contenders whenever they step on the field.

The first game got off to a shaky start, with the other team scoring three runs in the top of the first inning.  After that though, our boys got their mojo going and started fighting back.  Their bats were swinging well and their defense was solid.  Every player was giving his all, playing hard the entire game.  They won that game 8-4 in six and a half innings.

After a break of two hours, it was back to the field for warm ups for the second game.  TP's bats weren't as hot as they'd been in the first game and they were down 1-0 for the majority of the game.  Finally in the 6th inning, J was pinch running for the catcher and scored on a beautiful line drive double hit by the third baseman.  They held the opposing team in the bottom of the sixth, but then the umps called the game due to an impending severe storm.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie, but I think our boys would have pulled off another run or two if they'd had the time.

Overall, the TP boys played extremely well and Coach C is very pleased with them.  Today's games bring their record to 7 wins - 2 losses- 2 ties.

So how did J personally do you might be wondering?  Especially since I recently posted about the issues he's been having.  I'm happy to report he did very well today, at least in my opinion.  I haven't discussed his performance with Coach C yet, but I imagine he's pleased with him.  He played first base in the first game and did very well, with no errors.  He had three at bats, with one hit by pitch and two walks.  He was annoyed because he'd rather get a hit than take a walk.  But his on base percentage was fantastic so there's the silver lining. In the second game he did duty as pinch runner for the catcher.  He did make a blunder there, and was off on his timing running the bases, causing him to get tagged out at third.   Coach C was pretty steamed at him since it's the kind of error he's trying to teach J to avoid and play smarter.  However, I think he redeemed himself when he hauled butt from first to home in the 6th inning to score the only run of the game.  I wish I'd had my camera out to shoot some pictures as he rounded third, headed for home.  The look of pure determination on his face was awesome.  I'm anxious to get Coach C's thoughts on how he did.  I think he did great, but I'm his mom, not his coach.  I asked him how he'd rate his performance on a scale of 1-10 and he gave himself a 7.

So there it is.  TP is having a fabulous summer season so far.  Next up, they head to Boca Raton for the FAU Showdown tournament.  We'll be missing that one since we're traveling to Virginia for Cousin B's high school graduation.  But I'll  be checking in with Coach C for updates which I'll be sure to share.  Or maybe I'll ask Coach C to do a guest post and write the recap for that tournament himself.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tales of a TP Team Mom

I love being a part of TP.  I'm thankful that J has the opportunity to play on a such a high caliber team, with an awesome coach.  I enjoy making friends with the other parents and getting to know all the players.   I'm especially enjoying this year since Coach C is graciously allowing me to indulge my inner team mom to my heart's content.    I decided to share some of my favorite parts of being the TP team mom.

1.) I get to spoil the boys.  I love to bake and who better to appreciate my efforts than a team full of hungry baseball players.  As often as I can, I bake goodies to bring to tournaments for the boys to munch on between games, or just hanging out in the hotels.  For the Fort Myers tournament I baked ten dozen cookies and they plowed through the majority of them over the course of the weekend.  Since I was busy with wrapping up the school year and A's recital I didn't have time to bake for them this past weekend.  But they'll have goodies this coming weekend when we head to Vero Beach.  

2.) I get to keep score during the games.  The fact that I'm enjoying this one surprises me.  I've never kept score before and have no clue how to do it in a traditional score book.  But Coach C uses a scoring app on his ipad and asked me a few weeks back if I'd be willing to learn how to run it.  So far so good.  I haven't screwed it up, at least, not that Coach C has told me!  He keeps handing me the ipad before games so I guess I must doing okay with it.  I enjoy doing it because it helps me learn more about the ins and outs of the game.  Since baseball is such a huge part of J's life it makes sense for me to be able to follow it and carry on conversations with him about it.

3.)   I'm the keeper of the swing juice.  What is swing juice?  Swing juice is Coach C's name for the beverage they all swig from during games to bring them good luck hitting.  Truth be told, it's really just raspberry green tea Crystal Light.  Shh, don't tell the boys, Coach C has them convinced it's a top secret blend of ingredients.  I started bringing it along in the cooler because I know Coach C loves it and he usually ends up needing extra drinks during games.  This past weekend I made him a gallon jug and before I knew it, the entire team was swigging from it.  Kind of disgusting I know. But they hit like their bats were on fire so who am I to mess with their superstition.  I'll now be toting a jug of swing juice to each and every game in the special jug I bought to hold it. A wanted to deck it out with sparkly letters spelling out swing juice but I went with basic black letters.  Didn't want to girly the team up too much.  

4.)  I love taking pictures of the team to post for all the parents.  Unfortunately I haven't taken as many I'd like lately because I'm busy scoring.  Luckily another mom also enjoys taking pictures and has been taking care of it.  I'm determined to master running the scoring app and my camera at the same time though.  Last year I made a slide show of the best pictures from the season and plan to do one this year as well.

5.)  I get to plan the team picnic.  Last year's picnic was a huge success and I can't wait to get started planning one for this year.

So there you go, some of my favorite parts of being TP's team mom.  I love to volunteer and be involved in all of the activities my kids are involved in, from school to extracurriculars.  I enjoy all of it,  but TP is near and dear to my heart.  I plan to enjoy every minute of this summer season with Coach C and the boys.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Obstacles to Overcome

I rarely write more than one post in a day, but this one has been brewing in my mind for several days since I've been unsure  whether or not I wanted to write and post it.  Since this blog is as much a journal of sorts for me as it is a place for family and friends to keep up with us, I decided to go ahead and write the post.  Here goes.  I warn you, this may get long.

A few weeks ago I posted about J's rapidly approaching future and some of the decisions he'll have to make regarding college and baseball in the next few years.  Since then, a situation has come to light that could threaten the dream J has held dear for so long.  J is certainly a good ball player.  As I stated in that previous post he has a mixture of some God given talent, a love for the game, and a work ethic that is second to none. He's not that one in a million player, but he's determined to make the most of what he has and achieve his dreams.  So what's the problem?  Coach C had hoped that by this point, he would be seeing certain improvements in J's game.  Subtle things like how he fields the ball, how smartly he plays the game, his approach at the plate while hitting, etc.  Unfortunately he wasn't seeing those improvements.  In fact, he realized that J was missing some fundamental mechanics in his game altogether.  How could this happen?  How did none of us notice this before?  That's easy.    Last summer J did well playing for TP and Coach C fully expected that his school team combined with his training program would help him make the necessary improvements needed to take his game to the next level.  Keep in mind that Coach C was away at school and had not actually seen J play in many months.  Fast forward to the current TP season and the alarm bells started going off.  J seemed to be at a plateau with his game, lacking the finesse that would carry him further.  During last weekend's tournament, J had a pretty rough game, making three very costly mental errors that forced Coach C to pull him from first base for the remainder of the tournament.  That alone was enough to shake J up, but the worst was yet to come.  Coach C told him if he didn't manage to pull it together, he wouldn't be able to play first base at all this summer.  Not only that, if he continues to plateau, his dream of college baseball could end before it begins. Needless to say, J was devastated, I was heartbroken at the thought that my firstborns dream could be crumbling, and it was no picnic for Coach C either.  Remember that he and J have shared a special bond from the beginning and I know it wasn't easy for him to have to be so tough on J.   Many serious discussions and gallons of tears(mine) ensued.  So again, where did J miss learning these mechanics?  Coach C says he should have been being taught these things at the high school level.  It isn't something he would have learned at the Little League level.  That brings me to something that until now I've avoided talking about on the blog except in the most general of terms.  J's school baseball program.  To be blunt, it's terrible, probably one of the worst if not the worst in our county.  It's really nothing more than daddy ball, a hot bed of brown nosing and politics.  The boys really are not taught anything at all.  It's simply an extension of Little League.  Coach C flat out said J's school program has failed him.  However, all of the blame is not at the feet of the school program.  J shares some blame in this, too.  We knew that the school program was nothing great and warned J he needed to be very careful not play down to the level of the program.  It may have been sub conscious but I believe he did exactly that.  His JV coach usually told him he was doing a good job, he was hitting decently, and managing to play a couple of positions that were not his usual.  It was a very short season, only eight games for JV, so J had a lot of time between the end of the school season and the start of the TP season.  I won't spend a lot of time harping on the poor quality of the school program.  I've done that, bending Coach C's ear numerous times throughout the season, as well as hubby's.  Bottom line is there is really nothing we can do about the school program.  But we can do something about J's problem.

One of the things I respect the most about Coach C is the fact that he always plays it straight with J.  If J's having a problem or not getting something right, he says so.  He doesn't pump sunshine and tell J that  he's the greatest thing baseball has seen since Babe Ruth.  He's honest with him, both as a coach and a friend.   This is no different.  Once Coach C had talked to J and to hubby and I about the issues, he set out to do everything he can to help J get over this hurdle and continuing on down the road to his dream.  So what's the plan?  It's simple.  Good old fashioned hard work, along with a crash course in the mechanics that J's missing.  Coach C has enlisted the help of the entire TP coaching staff,which includes himself, Coach K,the assistant coach, Coach P the infield coach, and Coach C Senior, the speed and agility coach and Coach C's dad.  Also on board is Coach C's roommate T, who plays on the club team at UF and is the son of Coach P.  Got all that straight?  They're all doing everything they can to give J extra time in practice, working with him on the things he is missing, and encouraging him.  Last Tuesday night, Coach C, Coach P, and T spent two hours working exclusively with J on his fielding mechanics.  Watching the session, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.  In the back of my mind I think I had feared that the mechanics J was missing would be so huge that he'd never catch up to where he needs to be.  But that's not the case.  By the end of that session, he'd already made improvements.  Coach C is pleased with him and keeps assuring me he's going to be just fine.  J will be working daily on the things that the coaches are going over with him because repetitive practice is what's needed here.  This weekend, he showed improvement.  The differences are subtle, but are evident even to my untrained eye.  He fielded the ball with a little more finesse,  he's a bit more graceful with his footwork, and most importantly his confidence is up and he's determined to be where he needs to be very soon.  He's been struggling some with hitting, too, but did quite well there this weekend as well.  Overall, we're all pleased with how he did and as always are extremely proud of him.  If sheer heart and hard work could achieve his dreams, J would have this thing sewn up.

I do want to say that I am so thankful that J has a coach, role model, mentor, and friend like Coach C.  It's no secret that Coach C is a dear friend to us all, which made this situation both easier and more difficult.  Easier because  it's so evident how much he cares about J and wants him to succeed.  Another coach might have blown him off or given up on him but not Coach C.  He's in this with J to the very end, wherever that may be.    In one of my more tearful moments, I suggested that perhaps if J's difficulties were going to make him a liability to the team it would be better if I pulled him.  Coach C did not take kindly to that idea and promptly let me know exactly how he felt about it. It made me cry when he said that J will always have a place on his team and that he most definitely has a lot to contribute to the team. Then he forbid me to ever try and pull J from the team which made me laugh and lightened the moment. On the flip side, that very loyalty and affection for J makes the situation harder.  I never want Coach C to be put in the position of having to defend himself to other players or parents for the decisions he makes regarding J.  I never want him to feel like his friendship with all of us would be in jeopardy if things don't turn out exactly the way J dreams they will.  I told him he means too much to all of us for that to ever happen.  The fact that he would move mountains for my kid simply makes me love him more, for I do believe he will do everything in his power to help J achieve his dreams.  He also said something to me while I was weepy and sad, not knowing what to do to help J turn things around  that really helped put things in perspective for me.  "Mrs. M, J is so much more than just baseball.  He's going to go far in life no matter what he does because you and Mr. M have raised him right."  And he's absolutely right.  We have done our very best to raise a son who is kind hearted, compassionate, full of life, and not afraid to dream dreams that are brighter than the stars.  J may achieve his greatest dream or he may not.  But no matter what happens, he's going to know that he gave it his all.  And that he had more love and support than most people could ever imagine.  Which is why I decided to go ahead and write this post.  Our family and friends have been so supportive of J as he takes this journey, it only seemed right to share the hard times as well as the good.                           

Tournament Weekend Two, Triple Crown Sports Florida State Championships

TP headed to Kissimmee for their second tournament this weekend.  They didn't take home the championship but they came close, placing either third or fourth overall.  We're still waiting for final tournament results to be posted.  Their final record for this tournament was 3 wins - 1 loss -1 tie.  Like most tournaments, this one was not without some excitement.

TP's first game was originally scheduled for Friday evening at 8:00.  However, the games were all rescheduled due to heavy rain at the fields on Friday.  We were scheduled for two games Saturday, 3:30 and 8:30.  A had her big dance recital Saturday, twirling and dancing in five numbers over three performances.  So Coach C picked J up and gave him a ride to and from the tournament.  I rarely miss games, so it was hard staying behind, although I thoroughly enjoyed watching A strut her stuff in the recital.

J texted me an update following the first game.  They tied that one 2-2.  He played first that game and was happy to report he had done well and that Coach C was pleased with him.  (More on that in a future post)  The team went out to dinner together before the next game at 8:30.  I briefly thought about heading to that one following A's last recital performance.  But it was an hour away and I was just too tired.  Besides, I would have missed most of the game anyway.  They won that one, 4-2, heading for home around 11:00 pm.  Since I was home by that point, and Coach C lives about half an hour south of us, I texted J that I would meet them to save Coach C the trouble of driving him all the way to our house.  It was shortly after midnight when they arrived at Coach C's house. Coach C let me know that they were scheduled for a 10:30 game this morning, though he had some concerns that the tournament organizers had messed up the brackets, therefore assigning us the wrong game time.  However, he had attempted several times to verify and kept being told it was correct.  Fast forward to 1:30am when the tournament people  realized their error and rescheduled the game for 8:00am.  How to contact everyone at that hour to ensure the team arrived at the field by 7:00 for warm ups?  Coach C sent out a mass text and email, hoping that everyone would see it in time.  In my case, I happened to wake up around 2:30 and saw the text alert on my phone.  That meant adjusting my wake up time from 7 to 5, and leaving the house by 6 instead of 8.  J was none to happy when i woke him to get ready, though he promptly went back to sleep once we were on the road.  Amazingly, everyone managed to arrive at the field in time to start the game at 8:30.  We were all a little sleepy and a little grumpy, but there and ready to go. Coach C got the boys revved up and they managed to pull off a 6-5 win for that game.

After that there was time for a quick lunch before heading to a different field for the second game of the day.  TP came out with bats blazing for that one, taking a 4-0 lead by the 2nd inning and never giving it up.  J hit a beautiful line drive for a double in that game, bringing in two runners.  He also did a great job playing first base.  Our pitcher did an amazing job, and in the end, TP shut the other team out, winning with a 4-0 score.  The third game of the day began about half an hour later.  The boys were pretty beat by that time, but they came out playing to win.  And for most of the game it looked like they would be advancing to the championship game.  However, in the bottom of the 5th inning, we had a few errors that allowed the other team to pull ahead, 5-2.   The boys fought hard, scoring another run in the 6th inning, but in the end they lost that game, 5-3.

Coach C is extremely proud of them and how well they did this weekend.  They not only played hard, they played as a team, with heart, sportsmanship, and class.   Next weekend they have a two game showcase in Vero Beach,where they are sure to do well once again.      

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tournament Weekend One, Perfect Game Memorial Day Classic

TP started their season off with a bang this weekend in the Perfect Game Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers.  This was a huge tournament, with 70 16U teams competing.  Ours boys finished the tournament with a 3-1 record, with a total of 30 runs scored over four games.  They just missed being in the top 16 teams to advance to the playoff rounds.  Coach C is very pleased with their performance in this tournament.  Perfect Game runs some of the best tournaments in the country, so the fact that they did so well is a huge accomplishment for the team.  They can only go up from here!  Here's a quick recap of their four games.

Game one was theirs from the moment they took the field.  They pounded out the hits, scoring 12 runs and winning the game 12-1.  Their defense was rock solid and they never gave the other team an inch. We had a three hour break, then it was time for game two.  Unfortunately game two was the one that tripped them up.  They fought hard, but some costly errors turned the tide in the other teams favor.  They lost that one, 7-5.  On Sunday, they had two back to back games starting at 8:00 in the morning.  Game three was a nail biter, scoreless for five innings until the opposing team snuck in and scored a run.  TP kept pushing though, and in the top of the 7th inning, one of our boys cranked out a double with the bases loaded.  Three runs scored off that hit, giving TP a 2 run lead.  The bottom of the 7th was tense, with the other team scoring another run, but in the end, TP triumphed and won that game 3-2.  Game four they again owned the field from the first pitch.  Their bats were lit up, defense was solid, and they won 10-2.  In fact, the ump cut the game short in the 5th inning due to the mercy rule.

A was in heaven being back on the road with the team.  She ran tame in the dugouts, wearing her one of a kind TP shirt made for her by my friend C.  Here's a picture of her in it:


 It has her name and the number 1 on the back.  The number was Coach C's pick,  She was so excited to have it to wear for the weekend.  As soon as we all got to the hotel she had to put it on and go down to show Coach C.  She wore it to all the games and is convinced her sparkles brought the team good luck.

I spent the weekend running the scoring app on Coach C's ipad.  I had a little experience with it since I have the same app on my iphone and used it to score a few of J's high school games.  I was nervous doing it this weekend though because there are a lot of details and rules of the game that I don't have a solid grasp of.  However, Coach C handed me the ipad, saying he was confident I would pick it up quickly.  I think I did okay.  I was able to enter everything accurately with a little help from a few other parents helping me keep track of what was happening.  At least Coach C hasn't called yet to ask what the heck kind of scoring I was doing!  I'm hoping that means everything was accurate and made sense.

Next weekend we head to Kissimmee for our second tournament.  I'll actually be missing the first day of that one since A has her recital for dance and baton.  It's an all day affair so J will be catching a ride to and from the tournament with Coach C, and I'll be requesting texted updates throughout the day from the two of them.    I'll be there on Sunday cheering TP on as they hopefully play for a championship trophy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hitting The Road At Last

At long last, it's time for TP to hit the road for their first tournament of the summer, the Perfect Game WWBA East Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers.  It's a huge tournament with about 70 teams competing.  They're really starting the summer off with a bang.  Are they ready?  I think they are.  I've been watching them practice for three weeks now and to my eyes they look pretty solid.  Coach C has been pleased with them.  Roughly half the team are returners are from last summer and the other half are new.  They've quickly forged a team bond and an outsider would have a hard time picking out the returners from the newbies.  I have a good feeling about this weekend.  I think they're going to do really well, displaying that trademark TP heart and fire.

I've spent the day running around getting ready to leave tomorrow.  The bags are packed, the cookies baked, and the van is loaded.  We'll depart after lunchtime tomorrow once A's end of the year party at school is over.  Hubby and N are staying behind this trip.  Hubby has to work over the holiday weekend and N elected to stay home with him.  So J, A, and I are hitting the road along with my parents and J's teammate C, who's family was unable to attend the games this weekend.  The hotel is catering a team dinner for us tomorrow night, which will be a nice way to get to know everyone.  Our first game is Saturday morning at 9:00.  I'll be posting updates, so check back to see how TP does in their first 2012 tournament.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pondering the Future

When it became apparent to hubby and I that J was not going to give up the dream of playing baseball, we made the decision to allow him to pursue that dream as far as he possibly could.  It wasn't a conventional decision, nor one we took lightly.  While allowing him to dream big, we also have to make sure he keeps a grip on reality.  While J is certainly a talented player, he's not one of those one in a million players who has so much natural ability that it simply outshines every other player on the field.  J has a mix of some God given talent, a passion for the game, and a good work ethic when it comes to achieving his dream.  It's been nearly a year since hubby and I first sat down with Coach C and talked to him about mentoring and coaching J on this unique journey.  I remember my eyes tearing up that evening when Coach C said he felt J had a shot at his dream if he was willing to work very hard.  J has had many ups and downs over the years with his baseball.  Some wonderful experiences, and some not so wonderful, including being told he would never be good enough to get anywhere with it.  As a mother, to have someone who not only believed in J like I do, but to be willing to help him make his dream a possible reality meant the world and more to me.  It still does.  Which brings me to the point of this post.  This summer is an important one for J.  He really needs to step up his game and polish the rough areas in order to take his game to the next level.  He needs to really give serious thought to where he'd like to go to college.  He also needs to try and match up his college choices with his baseball possibilities.  Being a Florida baseball player is both a blessing and a curse.  Everyone wants to come play in Florida, while northern schools love to get Florida players.  At this point, Coach C feels J's best chance for college ball is a division 2 or 3 school, likely up north.  If J continues to work really hard and starts to separate himself from the pack, who knows what can or will happen.  At this point, I feel like he should keep all of his options open, while doing some hard thinking about where he sees himself in two years time.  Over the course of the summer, Coach C, J, hubby, and I will have some serious discussions about the future and what J wants and the best plan of action to make it happen.  There are so many options out there, and it's time to start narrowing the choices and possibilities down.  For me, this is hard to think about because I know J will be leaving the nest soon.  He'll potentially go thousands of miles from home to pursue his dream.  And I'll let him go, no matter how much it will break my heart to watch him leave.  I never want him to have any regrets when it comes to this crazy dream he's been chasing since he was four years old.  I never want him to feel like I held him back simply because I wanted to keep him close for a little while longer.  Wherever he ends up, I'll send him off with a smile and a heart full of tears, knowing that he's making the best possible choice he can for himself.               

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Surprise For A

Regular readers of this blog know that A is crazy about Coach C.  She's been impatiently waiting for him to be finished with school for the year and get back home.  He got home a few weeks ago, but A has not gotten the chance to see him since I don't usually take her along to TP practice.  For a while now, she's been saying that she wanted Coach C to pick her up from school one day.  Well, today he did. Sort of.  Several weeks ago I asked Coach C if he would be willing to come and do a little baseball clinic for my daisy troop so they could earn a baseball fun patch.  He agreed and we decided that we would keep the clinic a secret from A.  All she knew about today was that Coach C was coming for dinner,which is not an unusual occurrence.  I always pick the girls up from the dismissal line on meeting days and today when I arrived, Coach C was with me.  When A looked up and saw him, she was actually speechless for a minute, her little mouth dropping open and her eyes blinking in disbelief.   She recovered quickly and happily gave Coach C a hug. Once in the classroom we use for meetings she was quick to announce to all the other girls that Coach C would be coming over to our house for dinner after the meeting.  I guess she wanted to make sure none of the other girls tried to take him home!

The baseball clinic was a success.  Coach C taught the girls about pitching and hitting, then played a game of wiffle ball with them.  Here's a group picture I took at the end of the clinic.