Thursday, December 12, 2013

When Little Boy Dreams Become A Young Man's Reality

I am sitting here with tears glistening in my eyes as I type this post.  I've had tears in my eyes for much of the past two days as I debated whether or not to write this post.  But since J has been sharing his news all over Instagram and Facebook I guess I can share it, too.  Just before Thanksgiving, J attended a camp at a small college located in North Carolina.  It's a college that had been on his list of possibles to apply to and he took the opportunity to tour the campus while there for the camp.  He really liked the school and felt it would be a good fit for him.  As always when he attends a camp, he hoped he had left the coaches with a positive impression of his abilities.  On Tuesday, he received an email that confirmed he had in fact, done just that. You see, my J, who has dreamed of baseball since he was a tiny boy, who has worked tirelessly over the past several years to make that dream a reality, has a college interested in having him play for them.  I saw the email first, since his email comes to my phone these days.  With all of the college info, camp info, etc it ensures that nothing gets missed.  My heart stopped when I read the email.  I had to read it several times just to make sure I was reading it correctly.  I immediately forwarded it to Coach C, who was as ecstatic as I was.  I couldn't wait for J to see it, so when I got off work mid day I drove to the high school and had him pulled out of PE class.  He came to the office, a little worried when he saw me.  I quickly assured him nothing was wrong and handed him my phone so he could read the email.  If someones face can actually explode with joy, J's did in the moment when he realized what he was looking at.  And then my almost grown up boy, the one who has become stingy with hugs in the past several years, enveloped me in the biggest bear hug I've ever received. He was laughing and crying all at once, so excited he could hardly stand still.   It's a moment I'll cherish forever, getting to be there when my baby was handed his most heartfelt dream.  However, there is still much work to be done.  While this coach is definitely interested, no offer has been made yet.  He states that he hopes to continue the recruiting process with J.  Luckily for J, Coach C already had plans to come to our house for dinner tonight.  He asked if J minded waiting to respond to the email until he could be here to help him write it.  J, of course, welcomed Coach C's input and they crafted and sent a response tonight.  So now we wait for the coach to respond and see where this will lead.

To say we're proud of J doesn't come close to describing the emotions we're all experiencing. Everyone, hubby, me, N, A, his grandparents, friends we've told, are so happy for him.  And of course, Coach C is as proud, maybe even more so, than we are.  He and J, and that special bond, always hit me right in the heart and that was certainly true tonight.  Watching them work on the email, talk about where J goes from here, and just seeing the sheer excitement they shared gave me more than one misty moment.  For this victory is as much Coach C's as it is J's, though he humbly gives J all the credit.  But we know J couldn't have made it this far without him. For so long we've worked and focused on getting J to this point, knowing that it was a long shot.  To have this opportunity present itself is tremendous.  As always, J is willing to keep working hard to prove himself worthy of the interest this coach has shown. Coach C has already laid out the next phase of his training, advised him on how to proceed with his upcoming school season, and most importantly of all, continues to believe in J and be his strongest supporter.  And what can I say about this all?  I'm filled with pride at everything J has accomplished.  He chose this path so long ago, and never let anything deter him.   Along the way there have been setbacks, people who told him he wasn't good enough or that making his dream a reality would be too hard.  He just kept working toward his goal, never losing sight of what he wanted.  And now, someone has laid his dream, like a gift, in his hands.  It's his for the taking and as a mother I am privileged to have been on this journey with him.  I'm overjoyed my baby got his moment, the moment when he realized that dreams can come true if you believe in yourself enough to make it happen.  As Coach C said to me, it's been J's drive, determination, blood, sweat, and tears that made this happen.  And we're damn proud of him for it.        

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Top Ten Baseball Moments

J just finished his final fall baseball season.  He played tremendously well, finishing off his season with a batting average of .522.  It was a little sad knowing that he has one spring season left.  Hopefully after that it will be on to college ball, but we're still quite a ways from knowing how that will work out.  As always, being the overly sentimental mama that I am, I've been recalling a lot of moments from his nearly 14 years on the field.  I decided to share my top ten.

10.) J's excitement the first year he signed up for t-ball.  I can still picture him with holding his shiny new bat, his tiny glove, and the smile that never leaves his face when he's playing ball.

9.)  His first "home run" during the last game of his first t-ball season.  He smacked the ball to the fence and rounded the bases with all the speed his little five year old legs could muster.  Then he slid home, that smile growing even wider.

8.)  His second season in minor division Little League.  That season truly personified everything that youth baseball should be about.  We had a great little team with fantastic kids and parents and it will always be one of my favorites.

7.)  His excitement when he received a first baseman's mitt.  To him that meant he was really and truly a first baseman.  He used that glove from ages 9-14, when his hand finally outgrew it.  I have it put away in his keepsake box, never to be thrown away.  

6. )  In 2010, J attended a Baseball Factory try out and was selected to attend a national training camp in Cape Cod.  He was one of only 90 kids chosen and I think that is the year that the idea that he would make baseball his life's goal really took root.  It had always been there, but that camp clinched it.  I cried when I put him on the plane because I could see all the dreams in his eyes and I wanted so badly to help him make them a reality.

5.)  His first try out for the high school team as a freshman.  He was so nervous that the day they posted the list and his name was on it, he wasn't sure if that meant he had made it or been cut.  He called me from school to tell me his name was on the list and his voice was shaking with nerves and excitement.

4.)  The day he tried out for TP and met Coach C.  I couldn't foresee how it would turn out, but right from the start, I knew there was something special there.

3.)  His final tournament for TP when he hit a game changing line drive that spurred TP onto to their second championship.  I will never forget the smile on his face as he stood on first base with Coach K next to him.  I have a picture of it and it remains one of my favorite pictures from all his years in baseball.

2.)  During the above mentioned game, once he returned to the dug out, Coach C came over to the fence.  J was on the inside of the dug out, Coach C on the outside.  They put their hands up on the fence, palms together.  Coach C looked him in the eye and said, "Way to be clutch." They probably don't even remember it, but it made me cry then and still makes me get misty recalling it.  In that moment the love and respect they share as player, coach, and friends was stamped on both of their faces.  They'll laugh at me when they read this, but I don't care.  It was a moment I'll never forget.

1.)  The other day, J and I were in the car, discussing some opportunities he has coming up to further his chances of playing in college.  I asked him what he truly felt his chances were and this is what he said, as close as I can recall it, "I think I have as good a chance as anybody out there to play in college.  I've worked hard and will keep on working hard until I know I've done absolutely everything I can to make it happen.  I'm not finished playing yet and it's going to happen."

I have many more favorite moments, but these are the ones I treasure the most.  This year is flying by so fast and I am finding myself overwhelmed by sentiment and emotion.  I'll update soon on what J's up to these days but for now I'll just say he's one step closer to making the dream a reality.        


It seems that a couple of months have managed to sneak by and it's suddenly November.  This school year is keeping us busier than usual, especially since I am now working part time as a pre-k 3 teacher at A and N's school.  I'm really enjoying my little class of 8 three year olds.  More on that in a future post I'm sure!  The kids are busy with all of the normal activities.  J just completed both his final swim season and his fall baseball season.  He's working on college applications and has some upcoming camps and showcases.  N is singing, playing piano, and staking gymnastics.  He's also student teaching for younger boys at gymnastics.  A continues to be our little twirling princess and gets sassier everyday.  I will be making a concentrated effort to get back to regular postings!  So stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Going For It

One week from today, J will begin his senior year of high school.  One short year and my baby will take his first flight out of the nest.  It's an exciting time as he works on college applications, makes plans for the future, and of course, continues to reach for those baseball dreams he's been chasing since he was four years old. I'll be the first to admit that J's dream is a little unconventional.  It's certainly not the most practical, nor is it going to change the world.  But it's his dream, one that he's refused to give up on for the past 14 years.  Oh back when he was just a little boy I'm sure it didn't have the meaning for him that it does now.  But somewhere along the line, baseball became his heart and he's never wavered in his determination.  Now, hubby and I did make it clear that while we were willing to support his dream in any way we could, we weren't willing to let him pin everything on something that was such a huge long shot.  The deal was he had to have a valid fall back plan.  It took him a little while but he finally worked his way around to deciding to study sports business when he gets to college.  If he can't play ball, he wants to at least make a living being involved in baseball.

So that's his plan. Earn a sports business degree while hopefully playing college baseball.  And he still dreams of a shot at the big leagues.  Again, a long shot, but my boy is nothing if not determined.  J is a kid who has to work hard for things.  Good grades don't come naturally for him.  He has to study hard to maintain his GPA.  He also has to work hard on the ball field, where his natural talent and ability only take him so far.  He isn't that player that has scouts and coaches chasing after him.  He's good, but he isn't showy or flashy. I've always compared him to the tortoise in the old story of the tortoise and the hare.  Slow, steady, and determined to win his race.  This past weekend he attended a baseball camp at his top college pick.  He was determined to make a good impression on the coaches.  If  looking smooth, confident, and in control during fielding drills, hitting well in batting practice, and going three for three, scoring twice, and fielding like a pro in the simulated game they played was what it takes to leave a good impression, then he nailed it.  He left his whole heart on that field, knowing it was his one shot to show what he could do. Next he'll begin contacting coaches with letters of interest, letting them know a little bit about himself and that he's interested in playing college ball.  From there, if anyone is interested, he'll follow up with a letter of recommendation from Coach C, and hopefully the next step would be a try out and an offer to play.

I, being the sentimental mom that I am, got a little teary eyed when he hit send on that first email this morning.  I'm so proud of him, and I also admire him tremendously for having the courage to keep pursuing a dream.  So many people give up on their dreams, believing they just can't do it or that it isn't worth the hard work.  But my boy has never wavered in his determination.  There have been times when he's been tired, discouraged, or frustrated, but he's kept going.   He's sacrificed being a typical teenager at times in order to train and become the best player he can.  No matter what happens, he's going to know he gave it everything he had.  As for me, I believe in my heart J is meant to play ball.  It could be somewhere close to home or it could be hundreds of miles away.  No matter where it is, I'll send him off with a smile, knowing he's earned the chance to live out his dream.    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Catching Up

Wow, I didn't realize over a month had passed since my last post.  I had every intention of posting this summer but circumstances got in the way.  I figure this is a good time to catch everyone up on what's been going on.

The biggest thing that kept me away from blogging was a family medical crisis.  My brother D spent three weeks in the hospital, battling a rare autoimmune disorder called TTP.  The official name of the disorder is   Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.  You can read up on it here: TTP.  It's extremely serious and for the first week in the hospital, D was in critical condition, sedated and on a ventilator while the doctors treated him by doing daily blood cleansing.  I'm thankful to be able to report that he is now on the mend, though he will continue treatment as an outpatient for several more weeks.  Treatment consists of blood cleansing and chemotherapy.   It's unclear now whether this condition will turn out to be acute or chronic.  We're in a wait and see pattern for now, as he completes his treatment.  

Remember J's showcase back at the beginning of June?  He got his evaluation back a few weeks ago and it was really good.  Perfect Game gave him a grade of 6.5 on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being baseball is not your game and 10 being you're a freak of nature, welcome to the big leagues.  He scored between potential college prospect and college prospect with future draft potential.  He and Coach C were very pleased with his grade and overall evaluation.  J is inspired to continue working as hard as he can towards achieving his dream of playing college ball.  He took a bit of a break following the showcase and just got back on the field with Coach C yesterday.   The break apparently did him a world of good, if Coach' C's reaction to how he did is any indicator.   Coach C felt that he looks better than ever, which pleased J immensely.  Next up is narrowing down the list of schools he wants to apply to, contacting coaches to express his interest in playing, and having Coach C write him a letter of recommendation.  He's looking at schools in Florida, as well as out of state, since out of state is still his best option to play ball.  However, with his Perfect Game eval and grade, we're very, very cautiously optimistic that something might, very big might, work out in Florida.  Whatever happens, J is both excited and nervous as he begins his senior year.  

N and A have kept busy this summer as well.  N has continued his piano lessons and he recently attended scripture camp for a week.  It was a sleep away camp about an hour from home.  He had a fantastic time and has not stopped talking about everything he did at camp since we picked him up on Friday night.   He has already said he'd like to go again next year.  A has been swimming all summer and will compete in a swim meet in a few weeks.  She also had National baton competition which went extremely well.  She took third place out of nine girls in her age category for her presentation routine.  She was extremely proud of herself and fully expects that I will let her compete at Nationals next summer.  Since next year's competition is in California, as opposed to an hour away from home, I haven't broken it to her that we most likely will not be able to go.    

School starts in just over two weeks so the next couple weeks will be spent getting organized and ready for the busy pace of the school year.  When I have a few extra minutes I'll do a summer in pictures to post to further catch everyone up on what we've been up to.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Perfect Game Sunshine East Showcase, Day One

Right now I'm sitting in the bedroom of our hotel suite, listening as J and hubby play a video game in the living room area. J's voice is relaxed and happy, his spirits are high, and he's looking forward to tomorrow.  The first day of the showcase went very well for him.  He woke up this morning, full of nervous energy, tinged with a  healthy dose of sheer excitement.  As we drove to the field, I was checking Facebook on my phone and saw that J had posted the following status:

   Can't believe it's here all ready. First baseball showcase so pumped to play today. I have worked so hard for this. I have a couple people to thank. First my parents for their constant love and support. And last my coach Coach C. Without him I would of not been even close to as ready as I am today. The constant training has been amazing thanks a lot for all you do. Today I take a big step in the possibility of making baseball a career for myself. Lets hope one of the coaches will see something they like. I'm stoked and ready to go. I'm going to make you guys proud

I immediately got teary eyed, like I always do when one of my kids does or says something unexpectedly sweet.  But I digress.  When we arrived at the field, J joined several hundred other young players for warm ups, followed by a meeting with the Perfect Game staff.  When the meeting ended and the players went to the assigned fields to participate in the workout, hubby summed it up perfectly,  "Talk about a field of dreams."  Anyone watching could surely see the hopes and dreams clearly reflected in the face of every player in attendance. 

As for J's dreams, today he went out there and grabbed for them. He's been training with Coach C for weeks to prepare for this weekend and prepared he was.  He played with his trademark heart and spirit, bringing his own special touch to the field.  He played at first base, which is where he shines and shine he did.  Beautiful stretches, a few dives to stop wild throws, smooth footwork and solid glove action.  Coach C would have been proud to see it.  (I took so many pictures he'll feel like he was there.)  His bat was shaky during the game, though he hit extremely well in batting practice later in the day.  Eight solid line drives out of the ten pitches thrown to him.  

I freely admit that tears spilled out of my eyes more than once. I tend to be sentimental under the most ordinary of circumstances.  Add in the extra emotional punch of having the privilege to watch J going after his heart's desire and well, it was only a matter of time before the waterworks started.  

Tomorrow J has one more game to finish out the showcase.  If any of the coaches or scouts in attendance today liked what they saw, they will contact him in the future. To my way of thinking, they'd be crazy not to take a look at J, but I know we have to be realistic!  Here's hoping that at least one, or a few, took a look at my J today and saw the unique gifts he has to offer a team.    

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Next Step

Today I watched J and Coach C on the field during J's last full training session before the showcase this weekend.  I always enjoy watching the two of them together on the field, but today my view was blurred by the tears that kept spilling from my eyes.  These were not sad tears, but proud mama tears.  This weekend J is taking a step in his baseball career that could change the course of his future.  He's worked and trained so hard to get to this point and I admire him so much for sticking with his goal.  Over the years there have been ups and downs, as many disappointments as there have been triumphs, yet J has never wavered from his determination to become the best baseball player he can be.  Watching him today, I saw not only the athlete on the cusp of adulthood, but the tiny boy whose bat was almost bigger than he was.  Who first piped up in that small, four year old voice, "Mama, I'm  going to be a ball player when I grow up."  Images ran like a film reel through my mind, all of the practices, games, and moments that have molded J into the player he is today.  I tried to hide my tears from him, though he knows how sentimental and emotional I get, so I'm sure he noticed.  Just as I'm sure it won't be the last tears I shed over this showcase.  Showcases happen all the time, with talented young players taking the same steps J is taking to realize their dreams.  He's certainly not the first or last young ball player to follow this path.  But this is one of those moments that is hitting me right in the spot in my heart that is reserved for my firstborn.  I loved watching him run through drills with Coach C, watching the two of them sitting in my living room taping J's bats, and just sharing that special bond they share.  Coach C was originally supposed to go to the showcase with us.  However, he's at a crucial point in studying for his upcoming LSAT exam, so he's going to stay behind and we'll update him throughout the weekend.  While J is disappointed that Coach C won't be able to be there, he's also glad to have to the chance to offer his support to Coach C, the way Coach C has always done for him.  That makes the proud mama tears spill over, too, because while they may have become coach and player purely by chance, they've become friends and brothers by choice.  At this rate, I'm going to be a soggy mess by Sunday night! We really are all very excited about this weekend.  It's such a huge opportunity for J to go out there and hopefully catch the eye of some college coach.  No matter what though, he can be proud of the fact that he has held onto a dream that began so long ago, that is coming closer and closer to possibly becoming a reality.  I know J is strong enough to grab hold of that dream with both hands and never let go.  Good luck this weekend baby!  This is your moment and I know you're going to shine!  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Showcase Countdown

Where will you be two weeks from today?  I know where I'll be; watching J at his very first showcase.  That's right.  In two weeks, J will be out on the field, being coached and evaluated by college coaches and scouts.  All the years of hard work, training, triumphs, and disappointments, will come together in a single weekend as my baby goes out there and takes a shot at the next stage of his life's dream.  He, as always, is cool as a cucumber, quietly confident in his ability to do a good job.  I, as always, have nerves enough for both of us.  Along with the nerves comes excitement.  He's worked for this for so long and we are so proud of him for never giving up on a dream that may never happen.  The showcase is a weekend long affair.  The day before, J, hubby, myself, my dad, and Coach C will travel the four or so hours to the showcase location so we can get J settled and well rested before his big day.  That evening there is early check in, followed by a college recruiting seminar.  Then the next morning, J will report to the field for a workout and evaluation, followed by games that afternoon and the next day. Hopefully, one or more of the coaches watching will recognize everything J has to offer a team.

Back to those nerves of mine and J's lack thereof. I think he's able to bury the nerves for the most part for a couple of reasons.  First, I worry enough for everybody.  J often tells me I worry so he doesn't have to.  Second, he will have his greatest support system in tow.  J knows that hubby and I support him 110%, and will continue to do so, no matter what.  But along with us, he'll have the two most influential people in his baseball career with him.  My dad fostered the love J has for the game from the time he was a tiny baby.  He taught, coached, and encouraged for many years.  He doesn't say much but I know it means a lot to him to be there when J takes this monumental step.  Last but not least, having Coach C there is just the way it should be.  His coaching, training , and support mean the world to J, and being able to look up from that field and see Coach C there supporting him will effectively bury any lingering nerves J may have.  Hubby, my dad, and Coach C may not share my nerves when J takes the field, but I know they'll share my pride.  Pride and love for a young man who has quietly worked towards a dream that is so close he can almost reach out and grab it.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Moving Forward

J has just completed his junior season for his high school team.  It was a season that had a lot of ups and downs, both triumphs and disappointments, and as always, J handled it all with class and good sportsmanship.  Last night we attended the team banquet and J got a very pleasant and unexpected surprise. His teammates voted him the recipient of the 110% award.  This award is given to a player who goes above and beyond for his team.  J was stunned when his name called, and I don't think he's stopped smiling since being handed his plaque.  It means a lot to him to know that his teammates saw and appreciated everything he brought to the team.  Here he is with his award:

So what's next for J?   The summer was a little uncertain after the sad disbanding of TP.  But it didn't take long for Coach C to come up with a new plan of action for J.  That plan includes a lot of one on one training with Coach C once he gets home for the summer, which should be any day now.  And on the first weekend in June, J will be attending the Perfect Game Sunshine East Showcase, where he'll get the chance to be evaluated by and play in front of college coaches and scouts.  He's nervous, excited, and determined to go out there and show what he's really made of.  We talked briefly about finding him a new team to play on, but Coach C felt his bet was to spend the summer training hard, attending a showcase or two, and then joining a team in the fall.  J is looking forward to his summer, even if it will be a bit different from what he had originally planned.  So stay tuned for training updates and a report on how J's very first showcase goes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

End of an Era

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows all about J's time with TP.  Heck, anyone who knows us period, knows about TP.  Playing on the team was a tremendous opportunity for J.  He grew and developed so much as a player, and was looking forward to another fun filled summer with the team.  So it's with a heavy heart that I am writing this post to report that TP will not have a summer team this year.  What happened?  It's simple really.  In the past few days, Coach C discovered some players had decided to go play for another team, leaving us without enough players to field a competitive team.  He and the owner of the TP organization were left with a difficult decision.  Scramble and try to scrape together players or let the team go, allowing the remaining players to move on.  Hard as it is, they made the latter decision.  The official email went out tonight, though I've known for several days it was coming.  Coach C had called over the weekend to let us know what was happening.  I have such a range of emotions over this.  Sadness, because TP was like a family and will be dearly missed.  Anger, because those same players had previously committed to TP.  To me, they're letting down not only their fellow teammates, but Coach C.  But we all have to make the choices in life that seem the best for us.  I sincerely wish them well.  Or I will once I get over the mad.  I'm also feeling gratitude because without TP, J would not be where he's at in regards to baseball.  TP has been an important part of his baseball career.  One that will never be forgotten as he moves forward down the road to his most heartfelt dream.  Most importantly, I feel blessed to have come away from this team with something much more important than baseball, the love and friendship of someone who has truly become a treasured part of our family.  Coach C most certainly got more than he bargained for the day he chose J for TP.   And yet, he keeps coming back for more!  Seriously, we all love Coach C dearly and will forever be grateful for the friendship we've forged.  So even though the TP era is ending, we're remaining upbeat and positive.  And making new plans for J.  Just because he's lost the team, doesn't mean he's losing Coach C.   Coach C is planning to work intensely with J over the summer, training him, making him stronger, and taking him to a couple of showcases.  Hubby and I think J will really benefit from having such intense instruction.  J, who always responds well to Coach C's coaching, will hopefully make big strides this summer in regards to his game.  He's feeling a little raw right now.  Losing the team is a blow, but he'll ultimately be fine.  He has so much love and support behind him, plus he has a coach who's always been willing to put everything he had into developing J as a player.  I've often said that if he could  Coach C would move mountains for J and vice versa.   The two of them are a remarkable team. This summer will be different, yet exciting as we see just where the journey will take us next.  As hubby said earlier this evening, part of the journey is ending, but the most important steps could be just up ahead.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Heart of a Champion

This post has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks.  Sometimes it takes a little while for me to figure out exactly what I want to say and how to say it.  The idea for this post popped into my head during one of J's recent games, as I watched him assisting a fellow player in strapping an ice pack to his sore arm.  There are several things that college coaches, or any coach for that matter, look for in a player.  How well can he field the ball?  How well can he hit?  Is he fast or slow running the bases?  Is his arm strength good?  How well can he play the game?  All of those things are extremely important in a player.  Some players will be stronger in some areas than in others.  Some players will be equally strong in all areas.  A good team tends to be a mixture of players with different strengths that compliment each other.  But there is something else that many coaches look for.  Something that is often overlooked, though it is just as important to a team as a strong hitter.  It's an intangible quality that encompasses several traits.  Sportsmanship, effort, dedication, work ethic, and willingness to be a team player.  I suppose a simple way to describe it is heart.  Every team needs a strong heart.  Someone who boosts everyone up when they're having a rough game, is unfailingly loyal to his team, and most of all, loves the game with every fiber of his being.  As you may have guessed, the intangibles is where J shines the most.  Sure, he can play the game with the best of them.  He's a good little ball player.  But if I had to choose the one area that nobody can beat him on, it would be as the heart of the team.  I think Coach C would agree with me.  In fact, it's that very quality that led Coach C to choose J for his team in the first place.  All the other stuff, according to Coach C can be taught and honed.  But true heart is just there.  And J has it in spades.  His is always the loudest voice in the dug out, cheering his teammates on during batting.  If he's taking his turn sitting the bench, he's cheering them on in the field.  If someone makes a mistake, J is the one offering encouraging words and a pat on the back.  Likewise, he's the first one to praise a teammate for a nice play or a great hit.  He's the first one to offer to share his drinks or snacks or to help with anything that needs doing before or after a game.  To him, it doesn't matter if the team is winning or losing.  They're his team, therefore they're important to him.  J approaches every game with the attitude that it will be a win, that everyone will play great, and even if it doesn't turn out that way, he never lets it get him down.  He's always willing to do whatever his team or coach need him to do, whether it's hauling equipment or playing a position he doesn't usually play.  Whatever it is, J is always willing to step up and do his part.  He truly is the heart of any team he plays on.  And I am so proud of him for that.  As a mother, to see my child demonstrate such a winning attitude means more to me than if he were hitting home runs every game.  And it's my sincere hope that sometime in the not so distant future, some college coach will look at J and see what Coach C did.  A player who can not only play the game well, but brings with him the true heart and soul of the game.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Update From The Diamond

J is four weeks into his junior baseball season at school.  So far the team is struggling a bit, with a record of 2 wins and 8 losses.  Hopefully that record will improve as the season moves along.  As for J, he is personally having a good season so far.  When the season first began, J didn't get to play for the first several games.  Paying your dues and doing  time on the bench is just a part of high school baseball. It's what he does with the opportunities he does get that matter and he's making the most of every minute of playing time.  He's played the last six games, and has done really well.  He's been playing second base, which is very different from first base, which is J's best position.  He's handled it well, working as hard as he can to do a good job for his team.  At the beginning he made some mistakes, but the past few games he's done really well, fielding the ball with skill and finesse.  He's settled into a rhythm with his hitting, too.  The first few games he put the bat on the ball, but ended up grounding out or flying out.  There were a couple of unfortunate strike outs.  But the last three games he's gotten legitimate hits, beautiful line drives that will hopefully keep coming.  There's still a lot of season left and J really wants to make his mark.

Last night's game was a special one for him.  Even though Coach C has coached him for close to two years, he had never been able to attend one of J's high school games since he's away at school during the school season.  He's home on spring break though, and for the first time got to attend a game last night.  We kept it a secret from J for several weeks, wanting to surprise him.  He ended up putting two and two together though since he knew Coach C was home.  He was both excited and nervous, saying it would be strange having Coach C there as a spectator rather than a coach.  And more than ever, he wanted to play well so he could make Coach C proud of him.  Happily, he did just that.  Coach C was very pleased with how J played.  An added bonus was that Coach C's roommate T and his dad, Coach P, who helped with TP last summer, also came to the game.  Not only did they help with TP, they specifically helped J when he was working to fix those bad habits he fell into.  It meant the world to J to look up from his spot at second base and see part of his TP family there to support him.

I never doubted for a minute that J would play well with Coach C there.  Not only was it his pride on the line, but he simply wants to please Coach C, who has done so much for him.  Beyond that, they just have a quiet, unshakable bond that always warms my heart.  It's been nearly two years since J decided he wanted to play travel ball.  A chance phone call to the owner of TP set it all in motion.  Not only was J lucky enough to get Coach C for a coach, they were lucky enough to forge a bond of friendship that is as strong off the field as it is on.  For Christmas, J gave Coach C a baseball with a picture of the two of them on it.  Under the picture are the words, "Coach and player by chance, friends by choice."  Those words perfectly sum up their relationship.  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Play For Him

J recently made the varsity baseball team at his school and is poised for his junior season.  For some reason, this season has me more sentimental than usual.  Perhaps because I know J only has two school seasons and two TP summers left before he hopefully makes the next step in his baseball career, partially fulfilling a dream he's had since he was tiny.  To be a ball player.  He's worked so hard to get to this point that I think he sometimes forgets some of the memories that have accumulated over the years.  I haven't forgotten a one.  I thought it would be nice, at the start of this all important junior season, to look back at J's baseball career to this point.  To share some of my favorite moments along this journey that has both the possibility of being over in a blink or taking a whole new direction that J dreams of.

J was born with a love for baseball.  Or so it seems.  I suppose it's really more accurate to say my dad nurtured that love from the cradle.  I have fond memories of J propped in my dad's lap as a baby watching the Yankees on TV.  Of my dad taking him to his first minor league game when he was about two years old and to his first Yankee game by the time he was 5.  When he was three, my dad couldn't wait any longer to get him playing and we signed him up for a little team at the Y.  They played for an hour every Sat, a half hour of practice, followed by a half hour game.  I don't think my dad could have been prouder had we been in a major league ball park somewhere.  Not too long after that J told me for the first time, "Mommy, I'm going to be a baseball player when I grow up."

Next came the Little League years.  Those were years that had too many good times to count.  For my dad and J those years are the ones that cemented the bond they share over baseball.  Every spring brought a new team, new friends, some familiar faces, and happy times spent watching J develop as a player.  During those years, we called him our tortoise because he wasn't always the fastest, or the showiest, or the best player, but he was always the most hard working and dependable. When he was young, nothing and nobody could tarnish his love for baseball.  Those years also brought J his first taste of heartbreak when he was passed over for the All Star team more than once.  Even then, our boy kept his chin up and didn't let it get him down for long.   He just kept playing, and he kept telling me that someday he'd be a ball player, just wait and see.

After the Little League years, he moved onto high school ball.   Again, there have been triumphs as well as disappointments.  It's to be expected I suppose.  If everything in life came easily, things would have less meaning.  Last year, J wrote an essay for English class about his dreams of baseball.  I posted  about it at the time and will share it again here:  In His Own Words.  And of course, along with the high school years have come the TP years.  It was at the end of his freshman season that J tried out for Coach C and began what has been one of the best parts of his baseball journey.  A year ago, Coach C did a guest post sharing his thoughts on J's training and dreams.  You can revisit that post here: A Word from Coach C.  We all continue to be so grateful that J has Coach C, who continues to train, coach, and mentor him through this phase of his baseball career.  And I sincerely hope that at some point in the not so distant future I can ask him to do another guest post.  This time sharing his thoughts on  J's successful attempt at playing college baseball.

So here we are, on the cusp of J's junior season. And he's still telling me to wait and see. That he's going to be a ball player.   Immediately after the school season ends, the TP season will begin.  And while I'm looking forward to watching all those games, it's a little bittersweet  knowing that those games are getting numbered.  That all too soon,  it will be his senior season.  And then his final TP season.  At that point I hope that all the years of  hard work pay off and J will realize the next stage of his dream.  And that he'll know that every minute he spent on a field instead of with his friends or playing video games or going to parties will have been worth it.  And even if it doesn't work out exactly as he hopes it will, he'll know that he gave it everything he had and then some.  And that all those years, all those moments, all of the triumphs and disappointments led him to where he is.  The other day I came across the following quote and it fits J perfectly.  It's something I hope he'll keep in his mind  and in his heart when he takes the field for the first game of the season.

Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little boy who fell in love with the game and never looked back.  Play for him.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Turning 7

Tomorrow A turns seven.  I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that my youngest baby is seven years old, but there it is.  The past seven years have been quite the adventure.  I thought it would be fun to do a picture review of A's life.

Here's  our princess at a month old in her baptismal gown.  Is anyone surprised to know that A screamed throughout her entire baptism?

On the beach in Ocean City, NJ as a toddler.  She's always had that boundless energy and spirit.

Visiting Disney for the first time at two years old.  Note she liked to pose even back then.

Capturing ducks at the petting farm as a three year old.   I can't remember if she was screaming or laughing in this picture.

Four years old, running tame at the Little League field.  She went to the ball field for the first time when she was three days old.  Is it any wonder she's such a little baseball fan now?

This was taken in Hawaii when she was 41/2.  It captures her sassy spirit perfectly.

For her fifth birthday, she had a princess glamour party.  

At five she met Coach C and decided he was the object of her affections.  She continues to make us laugh on a constant basis with this one.  This was the first picture ever taken of the two of them and resides in a frame on her night stand.

Her brothers have adored her from day one.  Even when she aggravates them, they can never stay mad at her for long.

Her Christmas dance recital when she was six years old.  Yet another picture that clearly captures her sauciness.

Taken a week ago at her baton competition, our sassy girl just shy of seven years old. Whatever she does, she does it with sass and style.  She keeps us on our toes every minute of every day.  And every day with her is a pure joy.  To know A is to love her and I for one love her to the moon and back.  Happy birthday baby girl!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Kicking Off the Baton Season

As everyone knows, I spend a good portion of my life at baseball fields, watching J play.  I truly love every minute of it.  Well, maybe not washing loads of stinky uniforms, but even that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of watching J do what he loves the most.  However, I'm a girly girl at heart, and there are times when I just need to indulge that side of my nature.  And nothing fits the bill better than spending the day with A at baton competition, dressing her up in numerous cute costumes, fixing her hair, and watching my sassy girl strut her stuff.  This is A's second year on the baton team, an activity she thoroughly enjoys.  Yesterday was the first competition of the season, and A had a fabulous time, coming home with several trophies.  For those that don't know, baton competitions are an all day affair.  The day begins with group routines, followed by individual events in marching, modeling, and twirling.  A was in three group routines yesterday: a pom routine with ten other girls, a small group twirling routine with three other girls, and a large group twirling routine with the entire team.   She then competed individually in dress modeling, costume modeling, basic and military marching, and for the title of Strut Queen, for which she had to march and model a costume.  I'm pleased to report that the girls took first place for their pom routine, and second place for both the small and large group routines.   Our team also had other small and large group routines that all placed as well.  Individually, A took third place for dress modeling, 2nd place for costume modeling and basic marching, and 1st place for military marching.  She also took 1st place for Strut Queen in her age category, which really thrilled her.  She also loves all of the costumes, hairstyles, and accessories that go along with each routine and I have to admit, I do, too.  She wore a total of six different costumes yesterday, plus a fancy dress for dress modeling.  Each one is cute in its own unique way but I do have two personal favorites, simply because they suit A's personality so well.  The first one is her baseball dress, pictured here:

A is quite the little baseball fan, as everyone knows, and this baseball dress fits her sassy personality perfectly.  She modeled this yesterday for the costume modeling portion of Strut Queen.  She decided on a sassy modeling walk and strutted right up to the judge, cocked her hip, and blew a kiss.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera ready to capture it.  But let's just say the performance cemented her title as the baseball princess.

Which brings me to my absolute favorite costume.  She got this one for Christmas, so yesterday was the first time she wore it in competition.  Here it is:

Is this not the cutest thing ever?!  Not only is A a baseball fan, she's become quite the Florida Gator fan as well.  Her daddy likes to think it's because he's a lifelong Gator fan.  But we all know it really has more to do with a certain baseball coach who attends the University of Florida.  A had been saying she wanted a Gator twirling costume and this one couldn't be more perfect for her.  I ordered it from Kenerly Kreations, who make the most beautiful custom baton and figure skating costumes. You can't see it in the picture, but she has a coordinating hair accessory in her hair.  The majorette boots were also part of her Christmas gift, and I think I love those even more than I love the costume.  The entire ensemble is just so A, if you know what I mean.  She wore this for marching yesterday, though in the future it will also be for her presentation routine, which is a short solo.  In the meantime, our little Gator girl strutted her stuff in style during her marching events.  And everyone loved the boots.

Yesterday was my 40th birthday, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending it with my little girl, indulging our girly sides.  She's becoming quite the little twirler, so I expect we'll be participating in baton for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Month of Milestones

January is going to be a big month for us.  First up, J is taking the test to get his driver's license on Thursday. Yes, he's almost 17.  I've made him wait until I felt 100% comfortable, or as close as I'm ever going to feel to 100% comfortable, before allowing him to get his license.  I can honestly say this is the scariest milestone I've faced as a parent.  The thought of him out on the road by himself scares the hell out of me.  But part of my job as a mom is to let him spread his wings.  So I'll get through it.  Somehow.

Another big milestone this month is my birthday.  I'm turning 40 in less than two weeks, which I guess is supposed to freak me out.  I can't say that it has.  Not yet anyway.  It's a bit startling to realize I'm at the tail end of another decade of living, but it's also kind of exciting to be beginning a new one.

A week and a half after my birthday, A turns 7.  This freaks me out a lot more than turning 40.  I've blinked and my youngest baby is growing up on me.  It makes me nostalgic to realize that for us, the baby days are done forever.  At the same time, how can I not be looking forward to another year filled with A's unique brand of sassiness and charm?  Whatever she has in store for me, it's sure to be entertaining!

So we're starting 2013 off with a bang.  May it be as filled with love, happiness, and blessings as 2012 was.