Last fall, I had the privilege of stepping in to coach the Junior Varsity baseball team at my boys’ school for the off-season program. By rule, the “real” coaches are not allowed to be on the field with the players when they are not officially in season so they recruit others: dads, past players, outside coaches, etc to step in a run the practices and games on their behalf.
Obviously, they asked about 30 others before deciding to call upon me, but in the end, they reached out and afforded me the opportunity.
The fall season was short, just a 6-game league play where — due to a field shortage — we had to play everything away. Also, just to see where our boys stacked up, our head coach of the baseball program signed us up for the JV1 division which means we would be playing against 5A and 6A schools, instead of the 2A and 3A-sized schools that we typically play against. No complaints, we had a great time.
We also got our teeth kicked in most games. Thankfully, we improved every week, ending up pulling out a win in our last game to finish the season with a 1-5 record…
I just resurrected my sorely-neglected email newsletter, maybe in 2023 I’ll be a little more regular about it. If you’re interested in reading my ramblings on a school district in disarray, you should subscribe:
Life in Grapevine, Texas during the 1920’s to 1950’s (from the Star-Telegram archive)
A while back I stumbled across this post from the Star-Telegram of photos from our little town back in the day. Because too much on the internet gets lost, I decided to grab a copy of it all as an archive for myself. Your mileage may vary.
A couple things I’ve noted looking through them:
#1: We attend this congregation though neither the building or the location are the same as this photo.
#7: This school building still stands and has been a place of education for both of my boys (currently the younger one still has 1.5 years left in it). It’s also a block from our house.
#12: We’ve had the same mayor for over 40 years. The mayor before him? His dad.
#19: The Lucas family has owned and operated a funeral home in Grapevine for decades. My current office used to be the place where they stored their caskets.
#24: Ola Mae (Black) Hodges was one of our favorite Grapevine residents for years when we first moved here. She and her husband lived in the same house for almost 60 years and amazingly enough, had the same phone number for their entire time of owning the home. Her husband Bob was a war veteran, a varsity quarterback at Grapevine HS, and has forgotten more committed-to-memory scripture than I’ll ever be able to learn.
#32: There are more cantaloupes in this picture than I’ve seen grown in this town in my entire time living here. I kind of wish I was around when we were a little more agriculture focused.
#33: The tallest building on the left side of the street in this photo is my office (right above where it says Drugs).
#36: This building is about 3 doors north of my office. No longer a bank, now it’s a steakhouse.
#37: We live in the D.E. Box neighborhood of Grapevine. Prior to this photo, I didn’t know who D.E Box was.
#43: Again, office on left side, tallest building.
#44: A little more recent view of downtown to match it up with #43.
One week ago today, I got my face readjusted by a line-drive back up the middle. I have no concrete way of knowing but based on age-specific averages, the exit velocity of the baseball was probably between 68-75mph. I was probably about 25-30 feet away from the batter when the ball was hit but it would take a much smarter math wizard than I to figure out how much time I had between bat contact and face contact. (Hint: it wasn’t much)
Just to be clear, I was standing behind an L-screen and my entire body was behind it when the ball was struck. What I wasn’t aware of, was the small hole that had opened up between the netting and the pole that it was attached to right about face-height for a pitcher as they follow through with their motion. The ball found it and my maxillofacial bones without too much trouble.
I was immediately turned and dropped with a handful of blood and a gaggle of 7th grade boys running to my side to check on me. While it happened fairly quickly, I remember most of it quite vividly.
Since I’ve made it about seven days, I figured I’d document a few things I don’t want to forget going forward:
I am a lucky/blessed man. Depending on what your belief system is, I am fortunate on multiple fronts.
It could have been a lot worse. There’s a chance this story could have never been pinned and I’ve thought about that more than once.
I have people in my life who care deeply for me and I hope I never take that for granted. My wish is the same for each and every one of you… to have this and to know this (without enduring a similar experience). The calls, texts, food, prayers, emails, texts, calls, notes, kind words, hugs, etc. Y’all are awesome.
With all of it’s faults, we do have a pretty spectacular medical system in the United States; my journey isn’t over yet but the speed, the expertise, and the technology that I have seen over the last week has been pretty impressive.
People are understanding. Everyone has deadlines and needs but most I’ve dealt with have been understanding of my situation and provided grace as I return back to full speed.
Protein shakes aren’t that tasty. I’m looking down the barrel of a 6-week soft food diet and trying to find things to keep me from wasting away. I’ve tried a couple so far and I had a buddy bring me a new mixable powder today but I can’t say that I’m ready to go all-in on a liquid diet forever, just yet.
I didn’t realize how much I talked. Sorry all, maybe the next 6-8 weeks will train me to be a little slower to speak and quicker to listen. Strong verbs, short sentences. *
It was only a matter of time. It’s kind of morbid to think about but I’ve been climbing into batting cages (or fields, bullpens, sand lots) for over 11 years as a coach/father and you just have to figure with the law of averages that at some point, I was going to get hit. I’ve taken plenty of arm and leg shots, but I’m assuming this will be the one I remember the longest.
It wasn’t his fault. Note to self: You’ve reached out to both of his parents and will continue to do so, just help him to understand nothing about this was his fault. He hit a great ball and it was a total freak accident, don’t let him wear it.
I’ll be back. It’ll take a minute and I’m sure it will rattle me a little, but I love those dudes and that game too much not to saddle up and give it another go.
They know best and they mean well. There are days where your wife and your mom are probably right, even when you don’t agree with them. Let them be right sometimes.
I’ve never had orthodontia. But I guess now is as good of a time as any.
I turned down the plates and screws. It’s his job, it’s how he gets paid, obviously he’s going to recommend it. But I don’t have to do it. I’ll endure the protein shakes and mashed potatoes over metal and surgery. Sure hope I’m right.
Medical stuff wigs me out. Pretty sure that CT Scan shot lasers through my brain and I didn’t like it one bit.
Telling others is weird. Writing this post, telling people via text or phone, or generally sharing in any capacity feels odd. It feels like I’m bragging but I promise, I’m not. It’s why I haven’t posted on social media or anywhere else yet, I don’t want it to seem like I’m pandering for empathy. I know you care.
I’m glad it was me. Do you know how bad I would feel right now if I had one of my players throwing batting practice that night to the other ones? I don’t think I could sleep.
My business partner is a pretty solid dude. I’d have fired me long ago. He just rolls with it and continually picks up the slack.
“At least 3 fractures.” Bones (and our bodies) are crazy things. They break and then they heal. Hard for me to reconcile that fact with other theories out there.
I’m sure there’s more.
I’m re-adjusting. It’ll take time but I’ll get back to 100. If you want to see me in rough-ER-aftermath-shape, I’ve added a picture after the break. I don’t blame you if it’s not your thing.
I went on a bit of a tweet-tear this morning, might be easier to read in this form:
Youth sports is a machine now. It’s a money making engine. And it’s not just baseball; many of you parents do it for soccer, cheer, dance, lacrosse, swimming, basketball, etc.
I am fully aware that my family feeds into it.
There is a place for recreational sports, it doesn’t have to be ‘select’ or nothing.
My Saturday morning consisted of hosting Opening Day ceremonies for our local Rec program and it was amazing. The joy on the faces was contagious.
Parade of teams; first pitches; new uniforms; home run derby’s; T-ball kids running to the wrong base; and parents that were just excited to see little Johnny try something out.
Parents of young ones, if I have any advice, don’t look past those days.
Will there be a day that you need to move Johnny into something more competitive? Possibly. But I promise you, it’s entirely okay to allow them to play for fun.
Please don’t take the fun away. Not for an upgraded jersey or a $5 ring (or worse, your own bragging rights).
Let them dream of playing in the big leagues. Are their chances high? No. Do fractional statistics about their chances of playing SS for a living on the Yankees matter to a 10-year old? Nope. Encourage them to dream big.
Utilize team sports to teach lessons. Teamwork. Encouraging others. Dusting yourself (and others) off when you fail. Overcoming struggles and losses. Celebrating little and big wins. Building (and re-building) confidence.
I’ve seen it and said it 1 million times:
Parents ruin youth sports.
Don’t be that parent.
My rules for being a good sports (or other extra-curricular) parent:
1. Cheer for your player and their teammates.
Now, I admit that I break rule number 1. I don’t have it all figured out but I’m working on it. When I’m a grandparent, I’ll nail it.
When the game is over. Tell them you love them and that you enjoyed watching them play. Mean it.
They’re going to strike out. They’re going to make errors. They’re going to *insert every mistake you can think of for your preferred sport*.
Tell them you’re proud of them.
Some of the best lessons my boys have learned have come from things that have happened in the participation of activities with others. I’m thankful for those lessons, some of which I can’t teach on my own.
However, there are a couple I can teach; your mileage may vary…
Lessons that I have on my plate to teach them:
1. Love God
2. Know that God loves you.
3. Love your neighbor.
4. Know that your family loves you.
If I can get them to understand those, the rest has a good chance of working itself out.
If I ever make it my goal of teaching them that their worth is based on their performance, I failed. (And trust me, I have)
“I love you and I enjoyed watching you play.” – dad
If you can do that, you’re gonna nail being a sports parent.
My apologies, this tweet storm probably would have been a little more suited for an email or a blog post.
I guess the moral of the story is this: baseball is fun. Go play catch with your kid (or do whatever else it is that they love to do).