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.