Thursday night, J's high school team played their final regular season game. It was against their cross town rivals and I'm happy to be able to report that they won, 4-1. They had a tough season, ending with a record of 5 wins and 17 losses. Throughout the season the team as a whole worked hard to improve and come together as a true team. I'm glad that they got to end their season on a high note.
As I sat watching Thursday's game, there were a lot of emotions bubbling inside. J's high school baseball years have been an experience that is hard to put into words. In fact, I've avoided doing so except to all but our closest friends(I just know Coach C is rolling his eyes reading this because he's been my sounding board throughout it all!) because I knew it was important to try and maintain a positive attitude. Now that his high school career is finished, I feel the need to share my thoughts. However, those thoughts are somewhat different than I expected.
J's four years in high school baseball have been a learning experience. Things didn't always go the way he hoped and certainly not the way I had hoped when he was a freshman, looking forward to the next step in his baseball journey. I suppose I had naively hoped that J's talent, skill, and love of the game would magically make everything fall into place for him and that he would immediately become an integral part of the team. And it did and he was, but not quite the way I had envisioned and not right away. As a freshman, he paid his dues on the bench for the majority of the season, as he should have. He made the most of each inning he got on the field and when he wasn't on the field his was the loudest voice in the dugout, cheering his teammates on. As a sophomore, he was confident that he would make varsity. At that point, he had a summer and a fall season with TP under his belt and Coach C had become both mentor and friend. He came home from the first day of practice crushed that he had been left on JV while the majority of his teammates had been taken to varsity. I admit to being furious at what I considered the unjustness of the situation. Yet J made his peace with the situation quickly and determined to have the best season he could. He went out and gave his all at every practice and game. As one of the few sophomores on JV he played the majority of the season and played well. As a junior, he made the varsity team and once again found himself on the bench. Here's where things really started to get frustrating for me because I could see how the team was doing and it wasn't great. I had a hard time understanding why J and others like him were left to sit while the same kids played every game with the same dismal results. Coach C was truly a rock for me, always lending me an ear to vent my frustrations to and talking me down when the anger became almost more than I could bear. He assured me J would get his due and that I wouldn't be doing him any favors if I expressed my anger. I bit my tongue and once again J made the best of things, never wavering in his support of his team. The first glimmer that J was important to the team came at that season's banquet when his teammates voted him as the recipient of the 110% award.
During those first three years, in addition to being frustrated over J's situation I was also dealing with my own feelings of being an outcast. I didn't feel a sense of camaraderie with the other parents and often times felt very self conscious sitting at games. I offered numerous times to help out with the team and was always shot down. There was definitely a clique and I wasn't part of it. For someone who loves volunteering and being a team mom, that was a hard pill to swallow. I cried more than once during those years, many times in private because I tried really hard to put on a positive face for J. But he knew and did everything he could to keep my spirits, as well as his, up.
When the time came for this season to begin, I was determined to stay positive no matter what happened and enjoy J's senior season. I decided to once again offer my help, knowing that a lot of the parents who had helped in the past were now gone. Once J made the team again, I offered my help to the head coach and he accepted my offer. I ran the concession stand and was pleasantly surprised by the help and support I received from the other parents. For the first time, I felt some of that camaraderie that I had been missing the previous years. Not only were people willing to help in the concession stand, they responded positively to the team photo sharing site I set up, chatted with me at games, and volunteered their help in whatever way was needed. I'm not sure what was different. Maybe my outlook and determination to be positive changed things or maybe others had felt the way I had in years past and they also wanted to make the season better. I'm just thankful for the change and can honestly say I have enjoyed getting to know everyone a little bit this year.
As for J, he had a season that made him happy. He played nearly every inning and played well. He continued to support his teammates in every way he could. When he and I arrived at the field Thursday night, he stood looking out over the field with a wistful expression. I asked him if he was okay and he said he was sadder than he thought he'd be that this chapter in his baseball career was ending, even though he knows that another chapter is ready to begin. I feel much the same. As I watched he and his teammates walk out to shake hands with the opposing team at the end of the game, the tears came. While the past four years may not have been what we envisioned at the beginning, the end is very bittersweet. These four years, bad moments, good moments, and everything in between, have helped mold J into the player he is today. I wouldn't go back and change anything about them. To do so would change the end result. And J is right where he needs to be; where he is destined to be. Whatever happens these next four years in college ball, the past four in high school ball will leave a lasting mark on J.