Friday, December 19, 2014
COMING BACK STRONGER
Since I was about 7 years old, I played baseball. I started out hating it. I couldn’t hit the ball. I couldn’t catch it. I was awkward and I didn’t understand the game at all. But as I got older, I found attributes in myself that others didn’t have. I learned to run like Rickey Henderson. I learned to bunt. I learned to play shortstop as a lefty… because I wanted to play it like one of my childhood idols, Robin Yount. I learned to pitch like Ron Guirdry. I learned to play first base well, and by the time I hit high school, I had a great baseball I.Q.
I was instinctive, and eventually became the best centerfielder of all time… in my mind at least. Confidence was key, but you need to learn it, especially when you’re playing a game like baseball…a game of failure
When my oldest son took an interest in baseball, I was happy to push in him that direction. Baseball is the greatest sport in the world. Many say it’s boring, but that’s if you’re not thinking strategy. If you are, it’s fascinating and that’s how it happened for me and over time, I’ve seen my oldest son develop into a pretty darn good ball player. Now look, my son’s not the best and I know that and so does he. He plays for a club team with kids that have alittle more talent in certain categories. But as a team, they play well together, and it’s wonderful to see. Trust me, it’s nothing like town ball. Kids on town teams aim to be Alpha males. That's all bullshit. It should never be about the individual. That’s despicable.
We knew my son loved the game and had the talent and when he made the club team after being jerked around in the town team tryout full of politics, the sky was the limit. There was development, education and improvement and the mountain was being climbed every step of the way. Don’t get me wrong… there’s plenty of frustration, but at the end of the day, kids don’t tell each other they suck. They actually slap each others helmets and pick each other up. It’s a breath of fresh air and it’s something I don’t remember seeing much as a kid myself. There’s something refreshing and incredible about the team he's with these days. Over time, there’s confidence and these days he stands proud to wear his uniform with his teammates. There are even certain kids on the club that he’ll probably be friends with for life. Their bond is tight.
I’ve written about my son’s recent struggles at the plate. It’s no secret that he’s had many more failures then successes lately. Although, I still remember his first home run and that was incredible, (Read DON'T FEAR GREATNESS.) What I didn’t tell you was that that home run was the last hit he’s had. That’s right, he hasn’t had another hit since. We were confused. After all, that’s NOT our son. My wife and I asked ourselves… is he tired? Is he not into it anymore? Did he "top out"?
We asked him about it. He still loved the game. Sure, he told us he was tired some days and didn’t want to play, but he’s 12, he’s a kid, we got that. We also knew he had a commitment to his team. At the end of the day, he always suited up and always played. When he complained about soreness in his arm, we just figured he was fatigued, but didn’t exactly know why. After all, I was strict with his pitching limits, usually only allowing him to throw 40 to 60 a week. Tops. My wife and I are hardly the hardcore type, but we do love the game. That being said, when it comes to kids and arms, you can’t mess with it. My son loves the game, but even he loves to NOT play once in a while. I respect that.
My son had an MRI this past summer. The pain in his arm was too much at this point. As a father, I was worried. I mean, I coach him half the year, "Did I push him too hard?" I knew the answer was no, but maybe I missed something in his pitching delivery and messed him up. I'd never forgive myself.
What they found was shocking, yet relieving at the same time. First off, the greatest part of the news was the doctor told us that his UCL was perfect, almost like we planned it that way. Luckily for us, it wasn’t about overuse at all. Hey, as parents, at least we got that one right. But what they found was nuts… but now it all makes sense. He didn't "top out". The poor kid was hurt and all of us, including my son, had no idea...
My son had a piece of bone chip lodged in his joint. The piece chipped off some time in his life and according to his physician, had been in floating around in there for a while. But recently, it must have moved. We had no idea at the time what it was, so weeks before we restricting his swing and throwing. We couldn’t believe it. My first born… determined, willing to play any position had been hurting for a while, but didn’t realize it was pain and NOT soreness like he'd been telling us. ACTUAL PAIN. I mean, let’s be honest, how would a 12 year old know the difference?
Months later, the chip was removed. After rehab, and a long break, my son has the itch again, but you know 12 year olds, they think they can just pick up where they left off after 1 workout. He quickly learned that wasn't the case.
"How'd you do today?" I asked him after his return. "I sucked," He said. He was depressed. "Don't worry, it's December, not April. Plenty of time." He nodded and went up to change.
That’s our boy and he loves baseball. Yes, he drives us crazy sometimes, but when it comes to baseball… and where he was and where he is today, in his playing ability, with his new teammates, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world. He’s in a better place in this league, with these kids and when he’s back and fully recovered… he’ll be stronger than ever. He’ll no longer be restricted. No more overcompensating. It's exciting.
My Ichiro will be ready to roll soon enough. I can’t wait, because nothing brings me more joy these days than seeing my kids perform in something they love. It's baseball... and it's the greatest game in the world.
Go get’em kid.
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