Tag Archives: Goffstown New Hampshire

Someday, From This Debt, I Hope I’m Never Free

Are you a parent? Did you have parents? Did someone ever give of themselves toward your betterment in such a way as to change your life? Do you owe anyone for the piece of them they gave, just for you? Have you even thought about this? Should you do something about it? Do you need a push in the right direction?

Well this is what I have come up with, so far.

As time rolls on, the memories start to fade, with their edges frayed, the vibrant colors wash out some, and the family unit bends but doesn’t break. Time removes me from the places where we once went about our daily life knowing only what was there, sheltered in our little world. Distance puts time in between us, even if we want otherwise. What was once just down the hall, now requires a plan, accounting for all. The sweet, trusted security only separated by a flight of stairs, is somewhere in the past, or at least not so easily found, or fast. The supported now strain to support, and one longs for it all, again to be the other way around. Examples ran across our view whether we watched or not, and it seems so many times now, the lesson I forgot. I recall the good, and the things I suppose I want to see, and how much love did it take for it, that way, to be. Then the age added up but the character never changed, just the love and lessons somehow rearranged. No one kept track, as it should be, but from this debt, I hope I never feel free.

We live. Hopefully we love. We wander but never lose center. We look back, I hope, more than we look down. We look ahead, I hope, never disconnected from the past. We help, I hope, remembering from where we came. We make time, I hope, because minutes are fleeting. We linger, I hope, how much has been vested in us. We leave, better than we found, I hope, for that’s how we were taught.

I think on this matter a lot. I wonder at times how much is left in the well. When I take stock I am always astounded at how much more there is to give. It is then that I know how it once felt for those who have come before me. Then if there’s a push I need, a shove I crave; I play this song (Kayla Reeves, TSO) and listen to the emotion that is impossible to keep from spilling over all within earshot. I stir in the message shared amid the words that roll into my own personal movie playing just behind the portals I use to see. And I am reminded that, from this debt, I hope never to be free.

SOMEDAY

He won the war, in a foreign land
That was no hero, that was my old man
And he came back home, where he met his wife
And he raised his kids, while he made a life
Now he never preached, though he always knew
And we watched him close, just to pick up clues
And sometimes late, in the dead of night
I can see him there, in the pale moon light
I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell him someday

And as for this woman, my father wed
We knew we were loved, with the words unsaid
And when we were young she taught us all to read
And then one by one, she would watch us leave
Never saw her cry, for she hid her tears
As one by one, we would disappear
But of course we’d write, and of course we’d call
Just to hear her voice, whenever we would fall

I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell her someday

So I wrote these words, and I hope they last
For the years have come, and the years have passed
Think of all they gave, think of all the debt
But can’t find a way, to repay them yet
For the days still come, and the debt still mount
And do words unsaid, ever really count
But sometimes still, in the dead of night
I can see them there, in the pale moon light

I am trying
And I don’t know how
And I don’t know when
But I’ll have to tell them someday

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Kayla Reeves with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Boston 2015

Chatting with Baltimore Orioles Prospect, Riley Palmer (Goffstown, NH)

I remember the day, June 7th, 2014 for a very special reason. I was on the beautiful campus of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. My wife and I, and our family were up there to celebrate the commencement ceremonies for my oldest son, Stephen. The day was gorgeous; featuring beautiful sunshine and a clear blue sky. I remember walking across the campus to meet with Stephen that afternoon.

Meanwhile, as we made our way across the campus, and I was trying to contain the internal fatherhood glow of my oldest son just hours before graduating from one of the most prestigious schools on the planet, I heard other news that made me almost giddy.

Riley hitting at Dover High School. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2009)

Riley hitting at Dover High School. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2009)

I heard that Goffstown’s, Riley Palmer, had been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 31st round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. I sent a message to Riley’s dad and another one to Riley. I was so truly happy for all of them. What a day.

The thought of Riley being drafted sent my mind’s eye into a hyper-speed journey back through time. The Villa Fields in Goffstown, and the memory of Palmer’s Rocks in right field, out by the best concession stand in Little League baseball. I thought of the towering home run my own son Stephen had hit way up into the trees in a team practice despite being cut from that 2004 Goffstown Little League All-Star Team. I thought of the highs and lows that Stephen and Riley had shared on the diamond in 2005 when Goffstown won the first of 3-consecutive State Championships in Babe Ruth baseball, but lost in the Regional Tournament, falling just short of the World Series. I raced to 2008 when my sons, Stephen and Ryan, alongside Riley and the rest, competed on an undefeated Junior Varsity team for Goffstown High School. Some where in there, probably in 2008, I remember being at Lion’s Field in Goffstown with Stephen, Ryan, Riley, and his dad just talking about baseball after one of many impromptu gatherings we did over the years, to work on hitting, fielding, throwing, or whatever it was that day. I remember Riley talking about wanting to play baseball at Miami, and wanting to play professionally.

Ryan, Riley, and Stephen celebrate a State Title at Holman Stadium. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2010)

Ryan, Riley, and Stephen celebrate a State Title at Holman Stadium. (photo by 1inawesomewonder, 2010)

Of course, I thought of 2010 and the State Championship American Legion team from Goffstown, featuring Riley, Stephen, Ryan, and a host of other wonderful ball players. I thought of Riley’s career at SNHU and his heroics in the NCAA DII World Series. Then, I thought of just how happy I was for the young man, Riley Palmer.

If you don’t know Riley Palmer, that’s okay, a lot of people don’t, but I am guessing a lot more people will come to know him, especially those who follow baseball. I have known Riley for many years, and although I am no expert, I can shed some light on him from the perspective of a coach, a father, a family friend, and one of Riley’s biggest fans. I wrote this piece last year, before Riley was drafted, and it might help describe Riley, at least a little bit. If I had to put a single line or thought to all of this, I would put it this way. To me, Riley is one of those rare individuals who lives in a world that he has created by hard work and a relentless will, where reality and his biggest dreams coexist in close proximity with one another.

Riley Palmer hitting with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer hitting with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

For several months now I have held this idea that I would like to interview Riley and just talk with him about baseball, his career, his dreams, his reality, and just visit with him. I presented the idea to him at least a few months ago, some time last year, but I never really acted on it. He readily agreed, but I just sat on it, well for my own reasons I guess. I questioned my own ability to ask him pertinent questions and to do any of this any real justice. Even though this is just my own little space in the massive expanse of blog-o-sphere, I want to do it the best way I know how. Finally I sent over some questions to Riley and we started talking about getting together to chat. Well today is that day.

The questions might not be the best questions ever posed, that I can admit. Either way, I know the conversation will be great, and the topic will be one that Riley and I both love dearly; baseball.

Let’s get to the questions and answers.

What was MLB Draft Day like for you and your family? Draft day for myself was probably one of the longest days of my life. It was a day that I dreamed about my whole entire life. I remember the day like it was yesterday, a hot day in June and the sky was blue and the sun was shining. I woke up right away and I can tell you right now that I knew it was the last day of the draft and my heart was racing like crazy. The first half of the third day (of the MLB Draft) I was with my SNHU head coach Scott Loiseau and assistant coach Pat Austin. I remember my father telling me that he was running around like crazy trying to find me. Finally after a while we came across each others’ paths at 780 chestnut Street. We set up the computer on the back deck and listened to the draft on the computer. Now most kids are out relaxing, waiting for the call with their friends. I was sitting right in front of my computer listening to every pick in every round. One of my best friends was with me that day; Jon St Charles. Finally the 31st round came and the Orioles were up. That’s when I heard my name. I didn’t know what had happened. I had to wait to hear them repeat it to believe it. After that I was on cloud 9 and everything from there felt so magical.

Riley Palmer loosens up his arm with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer loosens up his arm with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Did you know going in that you were likely to be drafted, and by whom? In the back of my mind I knew I was going to be drafted. Whether it was a team that had spoken to me or a team out of the blue who just needed someone to take a chance on. Going into the draft I knew either that it was between the Seattle Mariners or the Baltimore Orioles.

Did the schedule at SNHU get you ready for pro ball, or do you think the two atmosphere’s are completely different? It definitely helped. Playing college baseball and the schedule at SNHU, but to be honest, they are completely different from pro ball. In Pro ball its a game every single day and then once your home stand is over you head home, pack your stuff, wake up, and get on a bus the next morning. In College you traveled a good amount, I know my sophomore, junior, and senior years we opened up in South Carolina. Summer ball was where I really got to understand long bus rides. It was a combination of summer ball and college. In Pro ball you are doing baseball all of the time. It’s 100% baseball and in college you’re worrying about other things like going to class and showing up. The part that is similar is the relationship you share with your teammates and coaches.

Who has been the one (maybe two) player you have patterned your game after? Or who is the player you try to emulate most? The player that comes to mind for me is Josh Hamilton. I loved his swing, his stance, really everything he did. I also read his book so that made me an even bigger fan of him because I know what he has overcome.

Who has played the biggest role in your development as a ballplayer, leading to an award-winning collegiate career, and now a successful start to a professional baseball career? The thing is, there isn’t just one role model, there are quite a few. The first is my dad, a man who taught me about the game and introduced me to the greatest game on earth. The second is my mom, a woman who taught me to never give up and was always there to pick me up when I needed it the most. The third is my brother who taught me everything I know. He is someone who I always looked up to and I wanted be just like him because he was such a tremendous athlete and was so good on the baseball field. I look up to both my high school coaches who made a big impact on me. My college coaches are also in this category because of everything they helped me with in my career. Probably the biggest role in my development as a player is Bobby Tewksbary and Austin Wasserman. Those two have never let me plateau  as an athlete, neither has anyone else I have mentioned in this answer. Austin and Bobby changed my life that first summer.

Riley Palmer finished his career at Southern New Hampshire University, an NCAA Division II Baseball powerhouse, in the top 20 All-Time of numerous offensive categories at SNHU despite playing only three seasons at the school.

Riley Palmer getting ready to hit for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer getting ready to hit for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

What has the off-season looked like for you? Training? Workouts? Goals? etc. What are your plans for Spring Training? Where will you be? When do you report? At the beginning of this off-season it was a lot of relaxation and time to myself. As a couple of months go by though, you start to get back in to the swing of things with lifting and hitting. For training, I go to AB Athletic Development located in Nashua, New Hampshire. I work out 5 days a week with a movement day somewhere in-between those 5 days. My goals this off-season are to become stronger and faster. From what I see and from what my trainers have seen, they will agree that, since I came in, I have become stronger, faster and become a better hitter, which is what I wanted out of this season. My plan for spring training is to go in there, stay healthy like I always do, tear it up, and show them how much of an asset I can be to the Orioles organization. I will be in Sarasota, Florida attending my first spring training as a minor league baseball player. I report March 10th but I am heading down on February 28th to get down there early and acclimate myself to the life style I love.

What is your realistic goal coming out of Spring Training this year? What would be your stretch goal coming out of Spring Training? My goal is to make a long-season team coming out of camp. I really think that I can make the Frederick Keys coming out of camp and I am really striving for that. I think that a stretch goal would be making the Double A team coming out of camp.

What have you noticed to be the biggest difference between playing ball at a nationally ranked D2 program and playing pro rookie ball? I would have to say the difference is that you see so many nice plays made in pro ball and in college you maybe see one or two a game. The competition changes a lot and its a much higher skill level. Pitching is so much better in that you have guys who throw 3 to 4 pitches for strikes consistently.

What would you say to youngsters in Goffstown Junior Baseball (or anywhere) who want to pursue baseball as a livelihood? To youngsters who want to get better and pursue it as a livelihood; Start making sacrifices because that’s what it takes. Start making baseball a life style and love it. Also, go to AB Athletic Development in Nashua, New Hampshire. Want to get better everyday. It’s a grind; understand that. You will fail but don’t let that stop you or make you quit. All of the greats have failed, never give up; That’s what has made them great and unbelievable players. Don’t ever give up. Guys you want to make baseball a life style? You do that.

Riley Palmer showing proper throwing mechanics with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer showing proper throwing mechanics with the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

What is your favorite baseball memory to date? It’s okay if you have more than one. My favorite baseball memory was my sophomore year in college, because it was my first time ever winning a Regional title. What makes it so important to me is that it was my first Regional win and my first World Series berth after so many times. Over my career, starting at a young age, I was so close to so many world series berths but always came up short. When we won the NCAA Regional title it was so amazing! I will never forget that night and waking up the next morning with the feeling of knowing you are going to your first College World Series. It is way better waking up knowing you won rather than knowing you lost. The next favorite moment on my list of 2, is winning the American Legion NH State Baseball Tournament when I was 18. That was such a special moment my last year, with a group of guys I will never forget. I will never forget any of the teams I was on because they were all so special.

What do you feel is the one thing, the most important thing, you need to do better in order to advance through the ranks of Minor League ball towards the Big Leagues? Improve everyday and get better everyday. I never want to plateau. I want to stay healthy which is another key to my success.

How would you say this past summer compared to the dreams you’ve held towards a professional baseball career? It’s the summer I have dreamed about ever since I was a little kid and made the decision I wanted to be a professional baseball player. It’s amazing because you dream about it your whole life and then the next thing you know you are living the life style you have always wanted. Every summer it was getting better and getting closer to my goal. This summer I’m living my dream but still getting better because I still have more to achieve.

Have you received any feedback from the Orioles as to what they thought of your progress this past season? If so, how did that match-up with the assessment you gave yourself? The information I have received back from the Orioles is very positive to me. In my mind I thought I had a great first year of pro ball and they noticed it. They have had very nice things to say about me and my first season. It definitely was a very big plus to hear what they had to say about me. It made the thoughts I had about myself much more of a bigger deal to me.

Riley Palmer played his rookie season of pro ball with the Aberdeen IronBirds. After being drafted in June, he joined a team made up of many players who had been rostered since Spring Training and had an outstanding campaign. He finished in the Top 5 on the team in nearly every offensive category. Aberdeen is the Short Season Single-A Affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, competing in the legendary New York-Penn League.

What is the hardest thing you face every day, week, month being a baseball player? I’m not sure because I love waking up everyday and going to the baseball field, day in and day out, no matter what. I enjoy what I do so I’m not really sure. I love this game so much.

What is your favorite baseball movie(s)? I’d have to say, Field of Dreams.

What fields, or venues, have been your favorite(s) to play on so far in your baseball career? In high school, or even Legion ball, it was Holman Stadium in Nashua, NH. In college I loved playing at our home field at SNHU. In Pro ball, it has been Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD, home to the Aberdeen IronBirds.

As it turned out, Riley and I sat and talked for two hours. We asked and answered many more questions; all of them regarding baseball. We talked about all kinds of things regarding ‘The Game’ we both love so much. More than once today, Riley told me he “was getting goose bumps just talking about it”. The ‘it’ he referred to was baseball, or Allard Park in Goffstown, or clips from Field of Dreams, or the feeling of winning the State Championship in American Legion Baseball back in 2010, or it was discussing “blackout” moments in hitting. There were a few times to say the least.

We sat and talked with nearly every other sentence leading to another subject found under the vast umbrella of ‘The Game’, that we each were excited to get to. Then, the clouds outside the windows where we sat seemed to part. The sun shone brightly and the blue skies revealed themselves. We discussed a reunion of sorts someday at Lion’s Field or Allard Park where the boys could once again, just be boys.

Riley Palmer launches a rocket for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

Riley Palmer launches a rocket for the IronBirds. (photo courtesy of Riley Palmer and the IronBirds)

I asked him about the logistics of being a professional ball player and all of the when’s, the how’s, the how long’s, and the why’s. I asked about how many reps they get at throwing, fielding, taking throws, making throws, hitting, running for speed, base-running, and how often they are measured. Riley had the answers, and to his credit, he welcomes it, all of it. Baseball is now his job. Officially it’s his job, even in the adult world, he’s a professional baseball player. But really, look closely at his answer to what he would say to youngsters wanting to pursue the same dream, and you’ll realize that baseball has been Riley’s job for a long time. Until now, the majority of the adult world would have played along with this little game, this charade of “when I grow up, I want to be a baseball player”, just waiting for the reality of adulthood to bring this boy back to earth. Not Riley. Not his family. Not his closest friends and supporters. Because we all know him, and in him we see, what we have known, that baseball isn’t a job for him, it’s his true love. Just ask him about ‘The Game’ and before the sound of his voice reaches your ears, your eyes will have already seen how he feels about it.

One thing for certain when talking to Riley, today, and really anytime I have talked with him over the years I have known him; he is exuberant. He shared a story with me today from his first professional game that reminded me of a story involving a rookie in the NBA named “Magic” Johnson and the emotional toll the team game took on a young athlete. Time and leadership with help temper the emotional ebb and flow of winning, losing, performance, and constantly being measured. Then again, another word for temper would be weaken, and some things are just better left in full strength.

It happens all of the time; life tames youthful exuberance, leaving one to live out their days in a shell of their former selves. Days turn to weeks, weeks run on to months, then years, before decisions are made in an attempt to regain some of the life supposedly lost and mourned. So on it plays out; you know what I am talking about. To Riley; to my kids; to the like; don’t let another dim the light that shines from the sparkle in your eyes. Hold on to; no; better yet, cultivate youthful exuberance and carry it with you in everything you do. The world will teach you how to be an adult, a grown-up, as it were, but I suggest you get several opinions before following the masses, because nobody ever said the masses were right, for one, there’s just a lot of them and that doesn’t determine a verdict.

Riley will head south next week so that he can be ready to begin the Orioles Spring Training for Minor League ball players on March 10th. He will be in Sarasota, FL. He is optimistic and confident in the tireless work he has done to hone his skills, improve his game, and to be better equipped mentally. Last year at this time, he was heading to Myrtle Beach, SC to begin play in his senior season at SNHU. Just a year later, he has played another 130 games or so, spanning the SNHU season, the IronBirds season, and an, invite only, fall Instructional schedule. He has worked to improve his foot speed, his strength, his bat speed, his swing mechanics, and even his throwing mechanics. He eagerly awaits the next challenge. He looks for the next opportunity, and if he isn’t offered one, he just may create his own.

 

 

Spring Break

It’s the morning of April 16th, and yes, we got a little more snow. In this case, spring has taken a small break. Some 36 hours before this snow blew in with wind gusts well above 30 MPH, the temperature was in the mid 70’s. It’s the northeast, weather changes dramatically and quickly, as it does in so many places. For today, the snow will melt, the sun will shine, the temperature might hit 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but tonight will drop into the mid 20’s. Hopefully the break from spring will be short, we will just have to wait and see.

001

004

Summer of 2007

 

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.

In Summary:
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.

Respectfully,
Steve Beal
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.

 

 

Thank You to Youk’s Kids

On Saturday, August 4th, 2012, lightning struck Allard Park. It certainly wasn’t the first time lightning struck Goffstown’s hidden gem. For the most part the lightning strikes have been of a baseball nature when kids pull greatness out of the improbable. This strike, however, momentarily turned the storied Goffstown Babe Ruth Baseball program upside down. Lightning caused a fire to ignite and ultimately destroy the building we all know simply as, ‘The Barn’.

The Barn. This old building with so many stories tucked away in every nook and cranny. The building offered by the Allard family for baseball use year round. The Barn, where players worked to get better. The Barn, where so many took shelter in thunderstorms past, like the one that was its undoing. The Barn, where coaches met to get their season’s equipment. The Barn, where GBR All-Stars felt a little more important. The Barn, where any reason for a meeting was good enough. The Barn, where uniforms, equipment, first aid kits, and all things GBR Baseball were housed. The Barn, where each of us has memories we will hold forever.

Amidst the rubble and the disbelief that our baseball icon was gone we came in for a look at the fire ravaged building. I went over on a quiet morning or three to visit one of my all-time favorite spots. I sat down on the ground and just remembered the scenes playing in my mind. I remembered countless times in and around The Barn. I wrote a poem inspired by the history we shared, The Barn and I. It came out in the moments I sat there, next to the rubble of The Barn. The spot where I sat, I have shoveled snow from that spot, I have parked in that spot, I have played catch with players in that spot, I have retrieved foul balls from that spot, I talked with baseball friends in that spot, I have welcomed shade from The Barn in that spot, and it was the spot I reflected from.

So, this little baseball program, from not such a baseball hot spot in Southern NH, lost it’s baseball storage and workout facility. Just another New Hampshire weather related, sad story, for a little baseball program. I dare say, this is not your average, everyday, little youth baseball program. I could be wrong, but I think that this community has, does, and will come together and rally around our national pastime unlike most. People here plan their vacations for the end of August, or not at all, so that baseball can be completed. This often times means that Goffstown has teams playing post season ball through July and into August, competing at the District, State, and Regional level. As the pictures show, there is a history of winning in this program. Over the years, I have heard many local sentiments that unknowingly refer to the Goffstown Babe Ruth baseball program as ‘too competitive’. First, as it should be, it is competitive. What meaningful part of life isn’t? Second, I have also heard many praises from many of those same folks, who did sign their teen up to play, and were blown away at how much they loved it, how much the kids learned from it, and how wonderful the experience was, even if their player wasn’t an all-star. It’s a youth baseball program, a very good baseball program, but it’s still about the kids. Kids who enjoy baseball, want to get better, and even enjoy competing. As it should be.

So, with all that said, the emotion felt and shared, the stories told, the memories shared, and the reality of loss setting in, from the smoke and the smoldering, emerged one of the good people. Kevin Youkilis. Well, Kevin Youkilis and his foundation, Youk’s Kids. Almost six weeks after Youkilis was traded some 850 miles (in a straight line) away from this area, he still responded. He wasn’t asked to respond. He, and his foundation reached out to Goffstown Babe Ruth President, Kevin Baines. The phone call they made that Monday morning is one of the biggest reasons the GBR program was turned upside down only momentarily. Youk’s Kids offered to replace the lost baseball equipment up to $20,000, as I understand it. Wow! That’s incredible. One phone call in response to the Boston and Manchester news stations that had picked up on the story in this little baseball community.

In a day and age when too many people dismiss most things as, ‘not my problem’, it would be easy to dismiss this story from a Time Zone away. Dismissed? Not a chance. Youk’s Kids stepped up to do what they do. They help kids in need. Goffstown, New Boston, and Dunbarton make up our school district and also many of our youth athletics programs, and these kids aged 13-15 were in need for someone to help. Thank you Kevin Youkilis and Youk’s Kids for stepping up and helping this baseball rich community in a time of dire need. This baseball program means everything to many people each summer and with the thankless help of people like Kevin Youkilis and organizations like Youk’s Kids, this program will rise from the ash and be strong again. Thank you to Kevin Youkilis and his foundation.

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Once this smoke cleared and the remains were left to stare at in disbelief, Kevin Youkilis and others emerged to help GBR move forward.

Allard barn fire

It’s hard to believe that this very real picture played out in our own backyard.

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GBR, where champions are made.

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Championship teams from this little community bonded together forever in triumph.

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These pictures don’t capture all the history and success, but they give you an idea of what this program means to so many people in town.

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The pines. The pines that shielded The Barn from hundreds of foul balls. The pines looking different without the back drop of The Barn.

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Our little gem took a hit, but will carry on, thanks to so many caring, wonderful people.

Dr. Moe and the group showing off the bat at Allard

Dr. Maurice Allard shares a commemorative bat with us. This picture, at the time, shows GBR players and coaches from past and present. We were there practicing baseball for the love of the game.

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Jake Glauser, now playing baseball at the University of Southern Maine, works out in The Barn a few years ago. Not much of a view in The Barn, but hard work isn’t always pretty.

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Ryan Beal, now playing baseball at Central Connecticut State University, hits in The Barn, offering a different view of this place we cherished.

They left it on the field

It didn’t really hit me until I was caught off guard after most everyone but the parents had left the ball park. I had come over behind the dugout to say hi to Ryan and to congratulate him on his efforts. Then it hit me, this final moment hit me, I realized that I did not have my camera, so I asked a friend if they had a camera to get a picture of Ryan and I. That’s about the time that things slowed down just a little bit and when the emotion really started to tug at me.

To me, maybe a little bit selfishly too, a number of these kids will always be known to me as part of ‘my team’. When the friend asked about getting a picture of the 13’s after taking my picture with Ryan a lump started to grow in my throat. The 13’s. Goffstown’s 13 year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars from 2007, those are the 13’s. The team that came within one win of going to the World Series in 2007. The team made up of players who now have spent more than half of their young lives playing baseball together every spring and summer in little old Goffstown. Tonight that run ended. Forever.

The flood of emotion hit me like the recurring surf of the incoming tide as one player after another came up the steps from the playing field. I was totally unprepared for what happened next, but I was willing to oblige as this group is so special to me. A player who moved to our town in his 13th year, had tears running down his face as we gave each other a long hug like only those who have gone into competition together can do. We talked of the effort and emotion left on the field. We talked of the commitments made to get this far, and the commitment needed to move past tonight and on to greater things. I appreciate him taking the time to talk with me on an emotionally difficult time for him. Then it was a player I’ve known since he was 9. More tears. More hugs. More talk of the focus and determination to move forward. It’s nights like tonight that ignite a fire in the beings that want more in competition and personal standard than any dousing of water the pain of losing can throw on their flame.

Still more players, up the stairs, greeting me, hugs from each of them. Sincere, somber chats, with each of them. One of ‘my team’ had left the ball park before this unscripted moment took place but I hope I can catch up with him soon, another player I’ve known since he was 9 years old. Then a return visit to my son. A big hug, a manly embrace with my son who turns 19 this week. I told him how much I enjoy watching him play and how proud he makes me. I told him its been my pleasure to watch him. I told him that I love him.

Then it was time to go. For the second season in a row I watched a son of mine play his last baseball game for Goffstown. I know this piece won’t mean much to many, but it sure mean’s a lot to me. My boys, now young men, and I have spent countless hours together in and around the game of baseball. These players that I talked with tonight; I have spent hours and hours with, in dugouts and on ball fields competing together as a team to be the best.

I guess I knew this could happen tonight, but like any true competitor, I hadn’t planned for it or even really thought about it. I always believed, played, and coached with the idea that we play, we compete, until someone tells us the competition is over. After that, and only then, do we sort out the emotions and realities of our playing future. Maybe that’s naive, or just dumb, but I never thought that competing, with the inkling of a thought focused on anything but winning and moving on, was a good idea. Tonight it ended. These guys all turn(ed) 19 years old in 2012. There’s no more town team to play for after Legion ball ends. At least four of these players who finished playing for Goffstown tonight, have already played, or will be playing, college baseball.

Finally, it was very apparent to me that these players left everything they had, on the field. There was no effort or emotion left in these guys. They played hard, they played until the final out with all the effort they could muster. As a father, and as a coach, I filled with pride watching these young men compete like there’s no tomorrow and putting it all on the line. It’s only baseball, right? Yes, it’s baseball, and for all of us, players, coaches, parents, it’s been close to everything at some point each summer for many years. Tonight baseball ended as we’ve known it. Some of my best friends have come from the parents of these kids who are talented and driven enough to play together year after year. They start playing together because they happened to have been born in the same year, and live in the same school district. The parents come together as a result of the kids’ groupings. All these years later the same kids, ‘my team’, came off of the field together, and these same parents, my friends, were there as always. Somewhat selfishly perhaps, I hope that in some way I was a positive influence in their baseball careers or even gave them more reason to continue playing. Most definitely though, these guys have positively influenced my love for the game and demanded my best when I have coached. These are two more reasons why this means so much to me. Among my most sad days, the days when I have to say good-bye to another season.