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Saturday, November 7, 2015

For The Love Of The Game

I don't know when my love of baseball started.  Maybe it was when I was a little girl as my dad coached little league team after team. He coached high school boys when we were little on a little bitty baseball field carved out of a corn field.  You know the field Kevin Costner makes in, "Field of Dreams?"  That's what the little field in Farley, Missouri looked like.  It was surrounded on all sides by corn except the dirt road that led to the field.  There was corn across the road too.  

My dad took a hodge podge group of boys from the area and surrounding, a Sandlot type group of boys and developed a winning team out of them.  He would have practices where if you made a mistake; you went over it and over until you got it right.  He was a tough coach when he needed to be but offered much praise when it was deserved.  You had to work for your position, no handouts was his motto.  My mom helped run the Recreation Organization and the concession stand at the time.  We worked many hours in that hot, concession stand shack.  I remember my mom creating meals that were great, no canned cheese nachos there.  She also kept score at all the games as well.  It was a family affair. 

I learned to throw a softball and pitch at that field.  My dad would catch for me and work on my throw with me.  He later went on to coach my brother and his friends in baseball.  They had great teams also.  I also know his coaching wasn't always popular with the helicopter parents that wanted everyone to have fun.  My dad was spending hours in the hot sun coaching, developing the boys to become responsible young men and teammates.  My dad coached to win.  He loved the game and the boys he coached although he never said as much.  It was an unspoken love for the kids and the game.
I adored that little field in Farley, Missouri.  It was our own little field of dreams in the middle of the corn field where many childhood memories of my own as well as my friends were being formed, little did we know it at the time.

My Mom and Dad at East Platte where they first started coaching baseball

I also remember my grandparents loving the Royals.  If the Royals were playing we were either listening to them at my grandma's kitchen table while my grandpa played cards, listening to them from the garage while my other grandpa fiddled in his garden, or me laying on my stomach, head in hands in front of the TV at my grandma's house watching the game.  We'd take a break to have a chocolate chip & 7-Up float then go back making sure not to miss a sigle play.  At home, we'd get the farm work done so we could get to the house to eat supper and watch the game.  Our family has always loved the Royals growing up outside of Kansas City, Missouri.

We'd attend games from time to time as a treat.  We'd often to go to the games when the Royals weren't any good.  It was so much fun to watch baseball win or lose.  I became a teenager playing softball and 1985 rolled around.  I remember the Royals winning the World Series.  The Kansas City area was on top the world with excitement.  I had a major crush on George Brett.  He was a major hunk to a young teenager and his picture was everywhere.  He even played saxophone at the Huey Lewis concert I went to.  He was an icon in Kansas City.

Time went by and I was pregnant with my first child.  I was going to have a little boy.  We hadn't decided or I should say agreed on a name.  I liked the name Hunter, my husband liked Woodrow, (a Lonesome dove Fanatic that he is).  We couldn't agree.   I went to a teaching conference and we had some time to kill.  We walked by a little Hallmark store in a small town in Kansas.  I saw a black and white picture with letters you could insert into the picture frame.  It was a picture of a little boy with a Royals hat on and the name, "Tucker" spelled out under it.  I had the perfect name for my little boy.  I knew he'd be a little baseball player or end up being a bull rider like his dad was.  Either way, Tuck sounded like a perfect baseball or cowboy name.  My husband loved the name too so our little Tucker Scott was born in August 1999.

Tucker playing with The Renegades Traveling Baseball

He played t-ball then little league.  He learned to love the game of baseball like I figured he would.  He also learned that there are plenty of lows to match the highs in the games.  So many lessons to be learned in the game of baseball.  
He started playing on competitive team  We spent hours and hours, weekend after weekend at the baseball field either practicing or at tournaments out of town.  I never tired of watching baseball.  I think it's safe to say it was in my blood.  Time went on and we went from one team to another.  He even got cut off the team he loved when he was in 7th grade.  He said, "I don't think I'm good enough, I'm quitting!"  At that point we gave him two choices; he could quit and disappoint both his grandpas, his parents, and everyone that still believed in him or he could stick it out, tryout for another team, learn from his mistakes and get better.  After a few days he decided to stick with it.  It was one of those life lessons that was so valuable for him.  Our family has never been quitters so I wasn't suprised when he said, "I can't quit!"

The Midwest Stix Summer Team 2013

My son continued to play Legion ball with his buddies, playing teams that were much older and loosing lots of games.  Some teams were made up of 17 & 18 year-olds.  He had to work much harder than he ever had to and learn over and over what it feels like to lose but also learn what it means to scratch and claw with every bit of determination he has to play his hardest to get a run on the board. After all he was only 14 playing much older kids but was playing with his high school friends.  They were brothers win or lose in this crazy sport!

Legion Summer Team 2015

He's in high school now.  He played both JV and Varsity ball.  He never got to play a game on the varsity team but he learned how to work hard and gain valuable knowledge from the older guys.  He was learning everyday what it meant to be part of the team.  That team went on to make it to the state playoff.  His grandpa had been very sick throughout the entire season and a freak accident happened at the care facility the week of playoffs.  It came down to the playoff game and I got the phone call, I needed to come to the hospital.  The boys had just won the the game and were getting ready to play for first in the state.  I made the decision to leave Tucker at the championship game knowing his grandpa was watching over him yet so sad he wasn't there to watch it.  His team ended up winning the state championship game, something his grandpa would have been so proud to see.  Tucker didn't play in the game but he was part of the team, part of the brotherhood of baseball.  His grandpa passed on early that next morning with Tucker by his side.  He received so many phone calls, texts, and messages passed on from the team.  When they were all back together, they prayed for him.  Another teammate had lost his grandma that season while another lost his grandpa.  Baseball is just one of those sports where your teammates are like your brothers.  You are together at practices day in and day out both in the season and off season.  You spend so much time together, your teammates are like your brothers.  They know you on a whole different level than other friends do.  They can tell if your swing is off, your pitch isn't quite right or wild throw has something attached to it.  They know when something is bothering you.  They are with you in the good and bad times.  No words need to be spoken, they can read your feelings by how your perform on the field and they can pick you up when life has brought you down.

Tucker's Grandpa Pete in his earlier years
The State Championship Baseball Team
State Championship Ring

We haven't had much time to go to the current Royals team games. We've been playing our own games that there's not much spare time to go watch the Royals.  The parents have kept up on the Royals games via cell phones and tablets while watching our boys play.  Baseball parents all have something in common, we all love baseball too.  You have to love it to sit in 90-100 degree weather for hours to watch game after game, stay in hotels, and get up and do it all over the next day or the next weekend. We have scrubbed many baseball pants together and went to many a car washes late at night to get that ground in red dirt out of white baseball pants!  We are in it together!
A Trip to the Carwash to wash white baseball pants

This Royals team has been special the last 2-3 years.  Everyone in the midwest has watched closely at their progress.  As we sat at games we talked about how special these boys were.  We watched, listened, checked scores live on the internet.  This past year has been so exciting!  Our Roayls team had momentum, it seemed unstoppable.  Of course there would be a loss here and there and the errors that come with baseball.  There would be some that would doubt but for those die hard baseball lovers, you could sense something special about this team.  We have watched Salvy's huge smile capture viewer's heart.  His sense of humor, playful boyish nature that is a little ornery, his selfies and Instagram videos with Cain that show a true friendship.  Hosmer's humble nature that help people connect to him.  He has that hometown boy way about him that people fall in love with and he's easy on the eyes cut jawline, perfect beard, and one of a kind haircut.  Not that I noticed, I've just taken note of that information from all the conversations I overhear from my girlfriends, well maybe not.  

We also hurt with Chris Young and Mike Moustakas as they lost parents during the season.  We felt their pain and listened over and over how they relied on their teammates to get them throughout their heartbreak.  They were playing for their parents knowing they'd want them to continue playing the sport they loved.  
We have watched Ben Zobrist and his pregnant wife Julianna along with their adorable kids celebrate victories together and how they stick together as a family.  Win or lose, Ben has said he wants his family by his side.  He flew his expecting any day wife and two young children to New York for the World Series on a private jet because he wanted them there.  Something we that have families can relate to.  They later went on to name their newborn daughter, Blaise Royal.  What a perfect name for a little girl born right after the World Series!  The Royals fans have fallen in love with this family as well, putting God first in their lives, traveling together, and showing what a true family unit is and can be!
We watched and read Edison Volquez losing his father and him not knowing it while pitching in Game 1 of the World Series.  Our hearts were broken for him.  This is something that hit home for our family since there was a similar parallel of Tucker's grandpa slipping and quite possibly not making it while Tucker was at his state championship game.  That had to be one of the hardest things Ned Yost had to do in his life.  Once again he said his teammates helped him get through the hardest moment in his life.
There was Davis, Cain, Escobar, and Colon making huge plays in the World Series.  Moustakas,  Hosmer, Cain, Gordon, Zobrist, Couto, and Perez being key players.  Hosmer said it best in his article when he wrote that this Royals team was, " No Fluke."  It's like they were brought together by some divine intervention.  They were a team of brothers destined to win.  They had each other's back even if it usually occurred in the last few innings of each game.
We fell in love with this team, we all did.  They were like family to us.  They were getting the nation's attention, not for just their athletic abilities but because we were drawn to them, all of them. This was a team we have loved watching night after night in our homes, families visiting the stadium, following on twitter, and keeping up with their Instagrams.  They made people who like baseball start to love baseball again.  They were the comeback kids, the guys not paid very much but stayed to be part of a team, they made us believe in them time and time again.  They made Kansas City proud painting the town blue, welcoming our boys home along the interstate, at the stadium, the huge 800,000 plus attendance at the parade and welcoming ceremony and cheering as Jonny Gomes pumped everyone up!  It brought friends and neighbors together, made grown men cry to see their beloved team win the World Series, and brought pride to a town that had been patiently waiting since 1985.  This part of the country loves baseball.  

I am one of those fans, Missouri born, (outside of Kansas City but live in Kansas now), raised by a small town baseball coach, and raised to love the game.  I had to share not only the love of the game with others; my children will remember this moment in time as well.  This is a unique time filled with special players that have shaped all our lives.  I hope my own son has learned more about what it means to be a teammate, a brother, the excitement and let downs that come with the game, and most importantly how to love the game in a deeper way.  It is a divine sport.   I can only say thank you to my father, "The coach", the players and coaches that have helped develop my son and been there for him in times of need, and all the parents that surround us as a baseball family.  Until next spring when we hear those familiar words, "Play ball", I will cherish the memories for the love of the game!

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