Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dusting off the cobwebs, and traveling backwards





It’s important to always remember where you came from, and who helped mold you into the person you are. Although childhood memories and hometowns are always the first that come to our minds, there are many places that help guide our identity and aspirations.

Josh and I were invited back to Oregon State University, both of our Alma Maters, to reunite with the baseball program and attend a fundraising dinner in honor of the new season and the new team. Admittedly, we have not been back for years. We graduated and Josh got drafted and I got accepted to graduate school, and life resumed. We left and almost rarely, if not ever, looked back. Life has a funny way of doing that to you. Taking something that was so important and replacing it with new experiences that seem to over shadow the past. Life kind of did that to us. Corvallis, Oregon was not apart of our everyday circuit, and therefore we never retraced our steps back.

So when stepping onto the campus a couple of weeks ago we both couldn’t help but grin at each other.  Wow, we actually went to school here. That wasn’t a dream. This was apart of us. It took merely seconds for us to start the “Remember, when...” chatter and from there, it all rushed back to us.                              College…what a dream life.
   
Josh with his college pitching coach, Nate Yeskie, and former teammate, Matt Boyd,
who currently pitches for the Detroit Tigers.  

Josh had to throw a bullpen the Saturday we were there, and as he pulled out his glove from his back pack it was hard not to remember the college version of the same guy. Never knowing what each day would bring, and always hoping that there would be more baseball after graduation day. As he kicked the dust from the pitching rubber, and communicated to the catcher what pitch was coming next, I didn’t even notice what was happening. The entire beaver pitching staff was all enclosed around the bullpen. Some sitting on buckets, others standing against walls, spitting seeds into the dirt, all awaiting. Waiting for this “ex-beaver” to start pitching. They watched. Their faces readjusting after every pitch. Some of them whispered to their neighbor, others listened carefully to how Josh talked through his adjustments. And just like that, it happened. Josh wasn’t just an “old player” anymore, he was someone else.

 I wanted to freeze time. I wanted to look at all of these young, aspiring baseball stars and tell them all, right at that moment as Josh’s fastball whizzed by my nose, we were just there.

We were just those kids sitting on buckets watching Darwin Barney and Jacoby Ellsbury on TV.  Watching Ex- Beavers continue their baseball journeys on TV.

 We were just there, thinking “oh my god, what if…”

We were just those people, in awe of those who had “made it,” wondering ever so inquisitively, “maybe one day that could be him.”

Your dreams are not impossible. Your injuries don’t have to be the end of everything you want. I know. I lived it.  Just ask Josh.

As he finished his bullpen, feeling confident with the placement of his strikes, the young catcher walked up to him, shook and his hand and told him it was a honor. That’s what I mean. Josh was someone else. 
Yet, if you looked really hard, he was still the freshman pitcher wondering how he would contribute to this ever-growing baseball world.


 As I boarded the plane back to Arizona preparing for another Giants season, it struck me as kind of strange. Perhaps God knew exactly what he was doing requiring us to both still wear black and orange to baseball games every season. Perhaps we always just need a reminder of where we belong, and what road we took to get there.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Perspective



I didn’t know Jose Fernandez.

We didn’t grow up together. We aren’t from the same hometown. We never crossed paths on the playground or at the local ice cream shop. Josh didn’t play against him in the minor leagues, and he never came over to our house for a Christmas party. He was just another pitcher, living his life in the lights and the glory of a ballpark. 

So when I woke up on the morning of his passing, I wasn’t hurled out of my bed with grief and despair. My stomach didn’t lurk as I saw all of the Twitter posts.

It wasn’t until I saw his face, remembered exactly why his name sounded so familiar. It wasn’t until I saw that incredibly, contagious smile, for me to finally have emotion. 

Even if you didn’t know him during his life, how is it possible not to love him after his death? I loved that every single picture that was posted of him was happy. He was smiling. Laughing. Joking around. Hugging a friend. Teasing a teammate. Changing a child’s life. What a beautiful way to be remembered; that even on a stage as big and stressful as the one he performs on nightly; life is beautiful, and enjoying it was imperative to him. What a legacy to leave behind, there is no doubt in any fans mind that Jose lived a happy life and found joy in almost everything.


The night after we found out about Jose, Josh and I were relaxing in our San Francisco apartment. Josh was reeling after his last outing. I could see his mind swarming with defeat; why did I give up that hit? What happened to me? Why am I struggling with my command? I was doing so well, and now?

I leaned over, obviously noticing how upset and disappointed he was in himself. “Josh, besides maybe a handful of awful people on Twitter, you’re the only one beating yourself up about this, everyone has bad days at work.” 

He didn’t say anything. That’s his tell-tale sign that he would rather just be left alone and be mad at himself.  

I turned over, and opened up my book, noticeably giving him his space and just gently said under my breath, “Imagine something tragic happened to you tomorrow, do you think the media would be able to find ONE picture of you smiling while playing this game? You need to be more like Jose.”

He smiled at me. Check.

Perspective is a hard thing to come by. You can be so fogged by your own grief, that you can't see the sun anymore. Sometimes getting out of your own way is a matter of somebody making you.

If we can learn anything from Jose’s tragedy, it needs to be about perspective. This life is such a precious entity, and it is time we start respecting exactly why we are here. Wins and losses, strike outs and walks; all so inconsequential to the fact that every single day you can get up and do whatever you want…because you are alive.

A healthy shot of perspective, that’s all anyone ever needs.

That, and maybe a smile.


#JDF2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"I did it, Babe"


July 2nd, 2015
It was a perfect day on the lake. The house smelled of fish. Not the bad kind that makes you question when the trash was last taken out, but the good kind…the kind, that indicates the 15 lobsters boiling on the stove are almost done. Laughter from the dock lingered in through the crack in the sliding glass door, and the cheer coming from the opened window revealing the end to the beer pong game. Like I said, it was the perfect day on the lake.

I have grown accustomed to enjoying my summers on Sebago lake with my family without Josh. Baseball season tends to encompass many outdoor activities; like boating season, wedding season, and most definitely lake season. So even as I sipped my skinny girl margarita from my sailboat plastic cup, I checked the MiLB app on my phone, awaiting the beginning of the RiverCats baseball game. I smirked, realizing that being three hours ahead, the game was still about 2 hours in the making. He had been called up to AAA about 9 days ago, and the entire move was exciting, however also transported me back to a conversation we had three months prior.

It was the very end of March and he had just been issued another plane ticket to Richmond. Disappointed, dejected and down on himself he finished putting his toiletries into his bag and quietly said, “If nothing positive happens this year in my career, I am going to retire in September.” Shocked, yet personally relieved that perhaps it was time to start looking at life after baseball, I looked up and said, “Whatever you want, it’s your call.”

I knew he was done with the injuries, the surgeries, the expense paid trips to the disabled list. He was exhausted; and if it wasn’t for the look on his face when I saw him, it was the tone in his voice when I spoke with him. There is one thing being away from your husband and missing him tirelessly, however it is another thing to be away from him when he is miserable, and there is nothing you can do to fix, change or alter that mentality.

So, when he called me saying that he was heading to AAA, I secretly wondered if that was enough for him. Would that change the pace of our conversation in April, would this be enough to make him work through one more season?

I sauntered into the kitchen, hoping that my nose could indicate when dinner would be ready. And almost as if my mother was reading my mind, she called the family to the old, wooden table. It was an unusually late dinner. We had been drinking and boating and sunning all day, and by the time we started to get dinner ready it was already past 8. So as the seven of us took our seats at the table, melted butter in sight and bibs tightly tied behind our necks;  our lobster feast commenced. Towards the end of the meal, sun-wiped faces beginning to quiet, wine bottles beginning to empty, it was odd to hear my phone ringing. Everyone who would be calling was sitting at the table with me, and the other, was 15 minutes away from his 7:05pm game time in California. As I dabbed my fingers on the bottoms of my running shorts and looked at my screen I stated, with a hint of panic in my tone “Hmmm, I wonder why he is calling me so close to game time?” My brother, full of both fish and Boston Lager, elbowed my sister and said “Maybe he got called up.”

The next 60 seconds are hard to remember.

I stopped talking, (Maybe even stopped breathing at a point) as I felt the tears dribble down my sun-burned face.  I remember my family cheering and screaming, not because I could hear them but because I looked around and saw their bodies reacting to the happy news. It was with such joy, such glee, such terror, as I listened to Josh on the other end of my cell phone. My fingers still smelling of crustacean and butter, as my husband happily reported, “ I did it, babe.”


***365 days later. 75 MLB appearances. 53 innings pitched. 44 strikeouts. Many triumphs, some mistakes too, and here we are on Americas’ weekend, raising our glasses to you. There is still hardly a day where I am not completely in awe of everything you have accomplished ***


(It is also safe to report that quitting has completely been taken off the table)