Fortunately, and unfortunately at the same time, I came across this little email I wrote five years ago. It still brings tears to my eyes when I read this and reflect on that summer of baseball. I was not able to come back and coach the team in 2008, so we didn’t get to make another run at the Babe Ruth World Series, although the team did advance to Regional’s in Orange, CT. I know this piece might not mean a whole lot to those folks outside of the Goffstown School District, but this is about the kids, the game, the passion, and in my opinion, the right way to play our pastime.
This was a special team in many ways, a special group of players, parents, and coaches. In 2010 Goffstown’s American Legion team won the NH State Tournament, and four of these players who were still eligible 16-year-old Babe Ruth players, played key roles on that squad. One of them led the team in Batting Average and On Base Percentage. Another one led the team in Hits, At Bats, Runs Scored, and Triples. Two others tied for the lead in Saves, combined to go 5-1 on the season, and struck out 55 batters in 55 2/3 innings pitched. They were key players for sure.
This summer, 2012, marked the end of something very special that had started well before 2007. This group of kids, now young men, will never play baseball together again. Not as a town team, not as youth, not again. Although many of the 2007 team were no longer playing baseball by the time this season rolled around, the reality still hit me hard on the evening of July 31st this summer. Goffstown lost in the NH American Legion State Tournament Championship Game, and the game, the season, the era ended. Like that.
It started to hit me as I sat in the stands waiting for my son to come up from the field so I could chat with him and say good-bye before heading home. I heard a parent or two in the distance talking about getting “the 13’s” together one last time, in uniform, for a picture. Unfortunately, the picture didn’t happen. As I sat there and one player after another came up the cement steps, I fought back tears. I remembered the Goffstown on their chests when many of these kids started playing all-star baseball together when they were just 9 years old. I remembered the battles we endured together as 12-year-old’s in 2006, and of course the amazing run in 2007. You can read more about the final night of an era here if you would like to.
So here it is, as I wrote it in 2007 on the evening after one of the toughest days in competition that I have ever had, with only a couple of grammatical errors corrected.
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 6:18 PM
Subject: Summer of 2007 – 13-year-old team
Good evening to all –
This has been difficult for me to write and I hope I didn’t miss anyone or anything.
Please be patient as this might take a while.To the parents of my players:
Thank you for your commitment to the kids, our team, and our coaches. Thank you for re-arranging vacations, work schedules, and personal commitments for all of us. We all know the commitment to baseball in Goffstown is a big one, and I hope you all found its value this summer. We truly could not accomplish any of these things without your commitment and flexibility. I hope the boys are up for a run at the World Series next year. New England will be expecting us in the 2008 Regional and look to take us down, as it should be. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all. You made it very easy for me to coach this team this summer. I saw many different parental influences throughout the Regional, and all I can say is that I am grateful and fortunate to have been the manager of Goffstown and not another team. You folks were tremendous.To my coaches:
Tony and his stats. Do any of you know many times Danny Diaz ( Norwalk ) struck out against us, and on what kind of pitch? Tony does.
John and his ‘what are you thinking of going with here’? Good question John. Sometimes he had to tell me what I was thinking, and he was usually correct.
Matt and his trips to Burger King in Tilton. Not that any of us are superstitious or anything.
You guys are the best! Thank you for all your support, your words of advice, your time, and your hard work. Thank you for reeling me in when I was completely unconventional; ok, that’s all the time, but you kept me in check for the most part. Thank you for all the pitches you threw, the ground balls you hit, and the fly balls. Thank you Matt for pitching to us so many times, in the dugout or not, you are part of this and I appreciate your help and support. I am proud to have been announced along side Tony and John and our team 12 times this summer. I would be hard pressed to find a finer group to go to battle with the than the 2007 13-year old Goffstown Babe Ruth All-Stars and staff. It has been my pleasure and my honor to be at the helm of this group. Every coach should be so fortunate. My sincerest thanks to you.
To my players: (the best 13 yr old team in NE)
Thank you guys for your hard work and dedication to the team concept. Team concept is a nice thing to talk about and to throw around with coaches and reporters, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when it’s implemented, understood and executed. Our team was a very good example of how this works. Only 9 players get to start the game and only 9 get to play at a time, and as you know, with 12 players, the math doesn’t work. I am proud of how you all handled yourselves, in the good times (many, many), and the hard times. For each of you who came out of games, sat and waited to get into games, or just didn’t play as much as you wanted, please know this. I fully believed and trusted in every single one of you to get the job done, no matter what that job was. I know Vermont and Goffstown were the only teams in the Regional to play every player in every game, even if it was just an inning. Thank you for being ready to contribute (anywhere at anytime) and support your teammates. Several opposing coaches throughout our tournaments were impressed/amazed how well our players played from top to bottom. This is a compliment to each of you for being prepared physically and mentally and for taking pride in your own game.
I still believe we are the best 13-year-old team in New England . I don’t think I am alone on that statement either. The best team doesn’t always win as we all know. The best team does rebound and continue to be the team to beat. We will rebound, and we will be very difficult to beat in years to come. I love you guys, I really do, and I have enjoyed (very much) spending so much time together over the last 2 months. Baseball is my passion and you all let me have some fun in the sun and be a kid for 56 days this summer. I sincerely thank you for that. I hope you each have a similar passion and pursue it to its fullest. Dream big, never give up, be willing to work harder than anyone else, and success will follow you like a shadow on a sunny afternoon.
All Stars is about the kids and that’s the part I enjoy the most. Seeing the development, the friendships, the support and camaraderie of coming together and achieving success while overcoming adversity. Call me crazy or old, or both, but that sentence will mean more to you later in life. Remember what it felt like to walk into St. A’s and see your opponents for the first time. Remember what it felt like to have your name called for all to hear (except in Laconia where nobody could hear the announcer). Remember what it felt like to come home and be announced as a team in the New England Regional opener this past Friday. Remember how great it felt to watch the other outstanding players and teams, and to know you were every bit as good as they were. Remember the feeling of watching the Blue and Gold celebrate their achievement in the final, and work hard to never taste that again. Remember how it felt to put on the Red, White, and Black with GOFFSTOWN across the front. Remember too what I told you from the start, respect the game, respect your opponent, and respect yourselves. These are the days of your lives. Don’t forget these days, don’t forget these friendships, don’t forget to pat yourselves on the back, don’t forget what you achieved together. I sit here proudly to say that you 12 boys achieved more this year than any single team in Goffstown Babe Ruth Baseball history. That is something to be very proud of. Next year when we’re the first team in GBR history to go to the Babe Ruth World Series, we’ll have this chat again.
I have rambled on enough I am sure. I will close by saying this. I am truly honored and proud to have been selected as the manager of this years’ 13 yr old team. I hope that my coaches, my players, and I, represented our town, our program, and ourselves with class and dignity. I know I made a lot more mistakes than the kids did (thanks guys for bailing me out time after time).
I look forward to seeing you all soon. We will have a team party in the next week or two. I had to come back to the park today to shake the feeling I had leaving the field yesterday. We should be out here starting to throw and loosen up. I miss it already.
Manager – Goffstown
13 Yr. Old All-Stars
Goffstown Babe Ruth
2007 District 3 Champions
2007 NH State Champions
The 2007 NH State Champion 13-year-old’s having a little fun in Laconia. Sorry guys, but I had to throw this picture out there. This moment will always be ours.
Ryan and I after his last game playing for Goffstown. He will continue playing baseball at Central Connecticut State University, and I will continue to watch, cheer, and be more nervous than him. Thanks for taking a moment for the picture with me. Photo by Kris Shaw.