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A Perfect Season

6 Nov
Dad & Champ

Dad & Champ

He’s only 7 years old. His teammates match him in age, plus or minus a year. They love their bubble gum and eye black and to proudly (and loudly) cheer for their next batter from the dugout. They range in size from tiny to tall but equal each other with their love of the game.

It was their heart, teamwork and desire to make the “awesome out or hit” that set the stage for these young baseball players to do something extraordinary.

A perfect season — 11-0. That’s not all though. They carried that through to the post season tournament where they earned their champion title, going 4-0.

I tried not to think too much of it. It’s coach pitch and fall ball, I told myself. They are playing against other small ones still learning the game, like them. But then I realized, this may never happen again. What’s to come when Nate is in kid pitch? Will he still love it like he does now? Will he meet the others in skill and be able to hold a spot on the field with them? This is something to treasure and it’s not just about all the W’s. It’s about how the boys got along and worked together. The families who united to support the coaches and the team. It was a positive, pleasant season — truly perfect.

Watching Nate and those boys out there is something I’ll never forget. Some of the plays I saw Nate pull off on that dirt made me shake my head in disbelief. There was one game this season where he dove for a grounder then quickly spun around and popped up like an older player to make a fast throw from near Second to First for an out. How did he do that?! Will he be able to do it again? And again?

I can only hope because I’m quite addicted to seeing him in his element with his teammates. Sure, all the practices and games can be a big time commitment and challenge for us, but as long as he wants to keep playing, I’ll keep following his lead. He’s led himself (and his family) this far with it and we’ve made such good friends and have had a blast.

Until next season, thanks for these memories, #26 and those wonderful Red Buccaneers.

8U Red Buccaneers | Fall 2013

8U Red Buccaneers | Fall 2013

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(Not Nearly) Afternoon Delight

2 Oct

I paid to suffer and that’s not the worst of it. I would do it again.

Let me explain.

When I first told Ginger I would enjoy a family camping weekend at FD Roosevelt State Park that ended with a 13.1 mile trail run called The North Face Endurance Challenge, I don’t think I really processed the words “endurance challenge” and the race’s location of Pine MOUNTAIN. Sure, I said. Sounds fun, I said. Because it did. I love hanging out on a run with my bud. We explore, we have great talks and we feel awesome after conquering a distance and crushing some calories.

It sounded like carefree fun all the way up until she emailed that her Achilles was hurting and a specialist told her no way to running – especially no MOUNTAIN trails. First and always, I was worried about her. I know how much she enjoys her runs. They are a part of her. How will she feel not running? I just wanted her to heal so she could run again soon. In the midst of my worry though, I began to realize – I’m not going to have my buddy with me on this frolic through the woods. She suggested maybe Andrew could come with me and run my pace. He’s also a wonderful running pal and a great motivator. Of course, he agreed so it was all set – and then it all hit my ignorance.

Pre-race Pose

Endurance

This event is called an endurance challenge for a reason. It is nothing like the trail I run at Fort Yargo. There parts of it that feel like only goats should be on it – cliff side, rock covered inches of footing. Muddy rocks that serve as bridges to get you across stream after stream. Fallen trees that block narrow paths. The roots of those trees, or possibly rocks, stole my feet from me and sent me down – hard – twice.

Rocks-n-Stuff

That rock slate IS the trail.

The first collision with the ground happened within mile one and I landed like a tree. The crash knocked the wind out of me and I had to jump off to the course for a minute to decide if I remembered what my name was. Luckily, I did and kept moving forward, only to fall again around mile five. Big props to my right shoulder for taking the brunt of that body toss. Ow. I was so proud when the first aid person at the water station asked me, “Ma’am, do you need your shoulder treated?” To me, it really showed what we were enduring. The whole-body soreness days after the event helped remind us of that too though …

Shoulder Boo-Boo

Challenge

I must have said “you’ve got to be kidding” or “this is ridiculous” or “choice cuss word” at least 10 times each mile. Once we started, the challenge was to finish. The challenge was to not lose my mind. The challenge was to not damage my skull that protects that mind. The challenge was to not stop climbing the hills and to stand tall to conquer them like Andrew kept reminding me to do. At one point toward the end, I began telling myself to keep my knees and feet up, pay attention and don’t get lazy. A lot of it was out loud. So was my rendition of “Funky Town” and Andrew’s duet of “Afternoon Delight” with me. (It was prompted by Anchorman quotes after I started saying things like “I love tree. I love plant. This trail was a bad idea.”)

The fun singing didn’t last long though because sure enough, we soon had to scale a hill.

Straight up.

Mountain

Being that this was a mountain trail, it was rare to have a nice stretch for a steady running pace. I don’t know how people finished this and more (some traveled 50 miles!) with such a fast time. They are incredible. It seemed to me that just when I would start to feel like a kid running through the forest (and I actually did at one point and shouted it out through breaths to the trees and Andrew), we would encounter an obstacle from nature. You know, like a mountain. Climbing a mountain wasn’t on my bucket list but I can go ahead and pencil it in just to draw the line through it. Dang.

See all the people at the top of the hill?

Gorgeous Mountain View from a Ledge

Elevation says wha?

Finished

13.1 miles equated to 3 hours and 33 minutes of adventure for Andrew and me. I know he could’ve finished at about 2 and a half had he ventured it at his pace. He didn’t once complain or make me feel bad. He carried my sunglasses and helped me up when I fell. He kept encouraging me with pep talks and coaching me with guidance to make it through.

“You’re doing great, lady.”
“Stand up tall to get deep breaths.”
“Slow it down some, your adrenaline is tricking you right now.”
“We’re married.” (That one came after I made a goofy pose when I saw a photographer on the course. He actually claimed me!)

I’m so grateful to him for his friendship and selflessness. He even stopped to give directions to hikers along our course. He laughed at my jokes along the way and when I asked him if I earned major cool points for my falls he replied, “Not for the falls but because you got back up and kept going.”

So, would I endure it again?

No. I would enjoy it again.

Ginger's Finish Line Photo

Ginger’s Finish Line Photo

I wasn’t sore yet.

Her Latest Happy Thing

30 Sep

It all started this summer when Nate and Nia began playing wiffle ball in our driveway. Nia became interested in the sport that she’s watched her brother play season after season.

Driveway Ball

Driveway Ball

“Can I have a softball glove?” she soon asked us. Yearnings for a bat, helmet and bat bag followed next. Before we made the purchases though – we needed to know – was she going to use all this gear to play on a softball team? Or just when we go to the field as a family to play? Without hesitation, she said yes, she wanted to be on a team.

Since we were purchasing all that gear, we told her she needed to give it at least a season. Now that the season has started, it seems the gear will be used for a few more. Softball is the new “happy thing” she tells me before falling asleep most nights. She loves it. Even after a loss or a strikeout, she happily chants the dugout cheers (even hours/days after the game) and has even started teaching them to Nate.

I’m so proud of her for trying something new that’s challenging for her. She’s doing great but this isn’t coming as easily for her like many other things have. Doing well in school hasn’t been a worry at all yet. Getting along with others is going swimmingly. She feels confident during dancing and I think she really rocks at clogging. Softball is something that’s requiring her to practice hard, overcome disappointments, and understand what it’s like to be a part of a team.

I love this for her and can’t wait to watch her growing moments on the field.

Our Ball Players

Our Ball Players

Hot Pink on the Field

Ready for a Play

Me Worry?

16 Aug

You name it, chances are I’ve worried about it. In fact, I’ve written a blog or two about it. (I got four pages of results when I searched the word “worry.”)

I think I’m a pretty smart person. I realize worrying doesn’t get me anywhere. It doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t change the outcome of things. It doesn’t prevent things from happening.

Why then? Why all the worry? It’s such a waste of energy, time, sanity, happiness. It’s what I’ve been reminding myself when I feel the senseless anxiety bubbling up within me. But that’s also when I start worrying (of course) – if I don’t worry, does that mean I don’t care?

I’m not sure I know how to care about something without worrying about it. If I let go of that worry, will it change how I care about it or make it seem like I don’t care?

Ridiculous, I know. See what I mean about me worrying?!

To quiet that inner loon, I’ve been trying a few things to help ease my mind and heart. They’ve been working for me so I wanted to share because they may help a worrier you know.

When I feel the worry invade my space:

    • I think of my kids. They see me worry too much. What am I teaching them? As Nia’s sweet note shows and I’ve written about, it makes her worry. If nothing else, it can’t be fun to always hear me say something worries me. That has to change. They need to be carefree kiddos.
    • I think to myself, will this worry fix the issue? No? What will fix it? Anything? Focus on that.
    • Is this going to matter next year? Next month? Next week? No? Toss it.
    • Will this define me? In 15 years, am I going to remember this moment or issue? No? That was an easy one.
    • Will this affect my family in some way? No? Not worth an ounce of stress.
    • What happy, beautiful things am I missing out on around me because I’m stuck in the fret zone? Sucker. You are letting worry rob you of the present.

The last point actually came from something recently talked about in church. I don’t always connect with what’s taught but this spoke to me. It was about how we are only supposed to think about we need for today. “Give us this day our daily bread” refers to that. This day. Focus on today, not tomorrow. Be content and full in the present because if it was my last day I wouldn’t want it spent on worrying about what might happen. I’d want it filled with rejoicing and cherishing.

That’s what brings me to the thought that seems to soothe me the most.

Am I satisfied?

I think of my here and now and feel at peace.

All Heart

8 Jul

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

They went out there and never gave up. Never. Two games played. Two games lost. Two games full of heart.

This was the first year for Barrow County to have a 7 and under All-Star team. The first year for the 7U to place in the district tournament. The first year for the 7U to make it to the Dizzy Dean State Tournament.

No, they didn’t win. In fact, they didn’t score a single run in either game. What they did though was keep playing with all their heart. They kept that heart in the pouring rain and after a two-hour mid-game rain delay where they had their concession stand hot dogs and french fries passed to them through the dugout fence. They kept that heart as their side of the board still glowed “0” inning after inning. Diving for catches, hustling for hits to outfield, swinging away, earning each base they ran or slid to claim. In the end, Nate didn’t cry because the team lost. He cried at dinner, hours after the game, because “I don’t want my season to be over” and “I won’t get to see my friends for a long time now.”

I’m beyond proud of these boys. They had so much fun playing the sport they love and hanging out as a team. They became that team within days after playing against each other in the regular spring season. Watching them on and off the field, you would never think they were ever opponents. They swam and laughed together, hunted slugs together until way past their bedtime, enjoyed a funny movie together, ate meal after meal together … On the field, they cheered each other on during the games and always showed support and concern for each other.

Nate can’t tie his shoes. He needs help cutting his steak. He can’t reach the hotel sink to brush his teeth. He can, however, track a hit baseball in the air and know exactly how to move to make the catch. They all know what they need to do to try to stay on that dirt for just one inning more. These little boys are so remarkable. Sure, they will lose games – but I have a feeling they will never lose their heart.

He Caught That

He Caught That?!

Diamond Dreams

5 Jul

There you sleep, barely a wrinkle in the blankets of the hotel queen bed next to ours. You are so sweet and peaceful. Hours before you had batting practice at the cages, ate four pieces of pizza and pounded that kid-sized root beer while sharing a table with your team. After dinner, you played a “who could pick up who” game and begged to hit the pool “just for a little bit” before bed. We traveled two hours for this adventure. A chance to play in the Dizzy Dean State Tournament. You are an All-Star. You are seven.

What will you remember of this trip? Could this be the one time you experience something as neat as this? You were supposed to play your first game tonight. Instead, rain delayed your fun on the field and opened up another kind of bliss. Goofing off with the guys. Cannonball contests in the pool until the sky turned dark from night instead of storm clouds. Curiosity about what the other boys are doing as we headed back to the room for bed. “Where’s Bryte staying? Are they all still awake? When will we play tomorrow?”

20130705-233004.jpg

I’m sure they were all like you … eyes more than ready for sleep with baseball diamond dreams in their heads. Sleep well, Barrow County 7U All-Stars. I hope this is a weekend full of special memories for you.

Sleepy baseball boy

Sleepy Baseball Boy

All-Stars for Sure

27 Jun

They are little boys. Most of them are 7 years old. They like to pack their mouths with bubble gum and run through the mud. They make up nicknames for each other and knock hats off heads. They wear their sports drink mustaches and red dirt-coated skin with pride. They are a baseball team.

These past few weeks of summer break for Nate have been filled (happily) with baseball. The Barrow County 7U All-Stars have been practicing so hard and all that teamwork paid off for them during the Dizzy Dean Regional Tournament. They won three games and placed third and are now on their way to the State Tournament.

Watching them out there was something to see. They are little boys but they have so much courage, heart and skill that I find myself forgetting how little they are.

For some, their bat bags are bigger than they are. Some need help tying their shoes. A few saw a bird in the outfield and chased it before the inning started. Another player swatted a bee with his bat before he went for his swing at the plate. Some pounded their protective cups with their fist as they waited for batters to swing. A few escaped the dugout to get a kiss and praise from mommy or daddy. At the end of the games, they waited in hope that their name would be called for the treat bag given out for good dugout behavior or teamwork. I saw one drop his shoulders and sigh when his name wasn’t called. (Maybe next time, buddy.)

Little boys, right? But then there is so much more to these young players.

When an injured player was down on the dirt, they ran to that player and took a knee to make sure he was ok. They’ve been playing each game for a teammate who had to miss the tournament for health reasons – shouting his name after each team huddle. (We are so happy to know he is feeling better now.) They cheered each other on so adorably during the games – one even decided one thumbs-up wasn’t good enough so he dropped his glove and gave his teammate double thumbs for a great catch. They make split second actions through all the voices cheering for them or the other team. They carry on when that action didn’t pay off or the play didn’t work out like they imagined in their head. (The next play rocked, by the way.) They looked the other team’s players up and down to size them up. Sometimes, I saw them talking to each other at the base. Chatting about tv shows they like? Right.

Shaking it off. Feeling the joy. Dealing with the heartache of a hard-fought loss. Staying a team. Sliding at Home after “good game” high fives were exchanged. Taking the W or L and thinking about how they can’t wait to play the next game. These little boys have taught me so much.

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

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