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16 July 2010

This is Beyond Baseball

It’s not every day that you get a phone call from the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
But that’s what happened to me today.
The call came from my son’s baseball coach who was in the middle of an 11-day baseball tour with his 11-year old.
About a month ago the coach told me about his plans and with each detail I became more and more envious.
The nine games they were going to see.
The trip to the real Field of Dreams.
Eleven consecutive days with just father and son.
Every detail was more perfect than the previous one.
Their trip began nearly a week ago when they hopped in the car and headed east.
One of the first stops was a minor league game in Cedar Rapids, at Perfect Game Field.
Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate, but everything else was… perfect.
Well nearly perfect.
Cedar Rapids pitcher Stephen Locke, the 681st player selected in the 2009 draft, walked one hitter, but didn’t allow any hits to treat the coach and his son to history.
There’s an old baseball saying that every time you come to the field you see something new.
But to see a no-hitter, live and in person, is something not many people experience, at any level.
Rain shortened the game to just five innings, but that didn’t take away any of the excitement.
In fact, during the long delay, the coach and his son were interviewed for more than 30 minutes by the local radio broadcast team, talking about the cross-country trip.
A no-hitter is a moment that movies are made of and when it comes to baseball and movies is there anything better than Field of Dreams?
When mapping out the trip, the coach and his son made sure the famed field in Iowa was part of their journey.
They spent nearly three hours there living out a real-life fantasy.
They played catch on the infield.
They both hit a ball into the cornfield.
Aside from a guest appearance by Joe Jackson or even Ray Liotta, it was another perfect day.
And I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.
This is a man who treats each boy on our team like they are his.
He spends countless hours passing along the 411 that helped him play at the major college level and coach several years of high school baseball.

Our coach believes that winning a game at age 11 is not nearly as important as learning how to play the game, the right way.
He believes that his greatest victory will be watching the boys play at the next level, and beyond.
His faith in the boys in only matched by his overall faith.
Those are not his words, just mine, but if you are around him for five minutes you will see a man who respects every moment of his life.
And he certainly understands how quickly it can be taken away.
During our first year with the team, our coach lost his wife to cancer.
His daughter and son lost a mom.
During that time, a time that must’ve been the most painful of his young life, I never saw anything but a smile come from his face.
I never heard and have NEVER heard a negative word come out of his mouth.
He finished that year, when nobody would’ve blamed him for doing anything but.
If Charles Barkley doesn’t want to be a role model, that’s fine with me.
My son has his.
(After me, I hope.)
Our coach has moved on in his life and has married a wonderful lady who suffered through similar misfortune.
But together they have continued to provide the love to their family (and ours) that one can only dream of.
I thought of the coach and his son last night while monitoring the game from Wrigley Field.
I knew they were there to see his favorite team.
The Cubs.
What I didn’t know is that they would see a power-packed game with 18 runs and 26 hits.
And I didn’t know they would see a game with five homers.
And I didn’t know they would see a game with a player stealing home.
You never know what’s going to happen at the ballpark.

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