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Wednesday, December 14, 2016. 400pm @ Rinks at Exeter, Exeter, NH – Goffstown @ Portsmouth
Are all of the days this long? I’m tired to the point that my body wants to tap out.
Can’t I just sit here with my thoughts for a while longer? Must we always sleep?
Right now it’s quiet. There are no additional requirements.
Peace sits next to me and it too, is at ease. Please let this last.
Sleep, I need badly, but if only not to interrupt the balance of perpetual thought.
A soundtrack plays in the background, moods changing every few hours.
But right now, it’s all good. Ahhh, it’s good. Exhaustion starts to employ physics.
The promise of peaceful slumber hangs on my eyelids like freezing rain on twigs.
The soundtrack cranks along, and the days credits roll. I reach for the moment.
Knowing, that this one blip on the eternal timeline will never again repeat.
And, then it is over, the fight, a TKO, with sleep the winner.
And with the sleep needed, a winner, so am I.
This one goes out to the help. The volunteers. The community. The common thread found among a group. Maybe it’s a passion that you didn’t realize you had, but you couldn’t stay away knowing that things needed to be done right.
I know I have said this, maybe too many times, over the last 15 years, but I believe it, it’s all about the kids. So, when we get put to the test to host a baseball tournament at Allard Park, we do so. But we do so with a flair for the perfect. I don’t mean to say we are perfect or do everything exactly right. I will say that we come pretty close on most days. Because there’s a group of us that learned from those who came before us, then we add our creativity and our passion for getting it right.
We set the stage to the best of our abilities. We produce this little show that is the presentation of the game. But there is no agenda, in the political or personal sense, just a respect for the game. And in doing so, I, we, hope that the kids have the experience of a lifetime, playing this great game in such a beautiful setting. I equate it to something like the falling of dominoes. Everyone likes to see some elaborate design set up, only to get the enjoyment of watching the ripple effect and beautiful symmetry of one slab perfectly effecting the next, and so on, as they all fall down. Well we are the group that sets up the design, and stands one domino after the next, just so the teams can come in and enjoy the show, participating as they may. Honestly, that’s how I see it.
I cannot say enough about the folks that make these games and tournaments come together. I am truly humbled by the efforts of so many, who volunteer and work above and beyond the work that is already in their everyday lives, for the kids, for the game. I have been all over this state to more fields than I can remember, and Allard Park in its’ setting, with all the work done to present the game, is as good as it gets. Bar none.
I know that running a tournament is a lot of work. It’s tiring. There is always more to do. There are always folks to cater to. Then, we ran two tournaments in a row. Games were played on everyday between July 6th until July 19th, except our one day off, July 13th (an evening that our team practiced). 20 games in 13 days. 20 announcements of players, coaches, umpires, officials, and 20 national anthems. Every pitch, every out, every play, of every inning tracked, and recorded. Prepping the field in blistering heat, or recovering from thunderstorms and downpours. People worked at the gate, sold 50/50 tickets, and helped all over the grounds. Folks worked in the stifling hot concession stand to produce the best ballgame fare anywhere around. We restocked as we went several times. Often times, members of our volunteer crew would be at the field for 8-9 hours in a single day, when two games were played.
One thing I can say is that our kids learned a lot about running a tournament. They helped in every aspect of the production necessary to host a tournament. Even better, they saw their parents working hard to make this about the kids, and to do it right. There’s nothing wrong with the kids seeing ‘pay it forward’ right before their own eyes.
I thank Maurice Allard for his, and the Allard family’s blessing, for us to utilize the facilities and run with them. Dr. Moe was ever-present at games, all games, whether they included the home team or not. And, I would say that he was not only welcomed, but his presence was anxiously anticipated by many.
So, despite the home team being knocked out of the tournament with 3 days, and 5 potential games left to be played in the State tournament, the crew pulled it off. Yesterday, on a Tuesday afternoon, the final game was played. Somehow our volunteers found ways to Allard Park at different intervals, despite all the ‘real life stuff’ found crammed into everyday. Folks just stepped in where help was needed, often times wearing multiple hats in the various roles. The house was full. The concessions were flowing. The field looked incredible. The sky was blue, and big, puffy white clouds gently glided across the blue expanse, being pushed by crisp, dry, clean air coming down from Canada. Pretty near perfect.
Finally, for the newer volunteers, I am not kidding when I say that we (Goffstown Babe Ruth) are known for a quality venue, a quality presentation, and a quality experience for all who enter through our gates. It’s not a coincidence that Allard Park has hosted more tournament games in the last 15 years, than anywhere in the state. It’s not even close. It’s because we have wonderful people, wonderful parents and support groups, who all care about doing it right, for whatever their reason may be. It shows. Trust me, it shows. Remember I wrote about IMPACT recently, well what an impact you all had on the state of Babe Ruth Baseball in the state New Hampshire over there two weeks. Thank you all. You are truly amazing. Simply the best.
Isn’t there another chance to learn that play? A chance to show the new skill being mastered? When can we cover this again? Why does it always have to end?
Those who are closest to me in the baseball circles that I tread upon, they know how the last day of the season means to me. How much it affects me. And they probably know how much I have written on the subject over the years.
But this year was different. Aren’t they all.
When my Dad died on April 14th this year, it was baseball season. When I couldn’t bring myself around the team or the game for 3 weeks afterward, our coaches and parents picked up my slack. And when I did return, the game was there, like it always is, to rescue me and lift me slowly to my feet.
Then when the playoffs ended, we started the all-star season. Our first team practice was on June 27th, just 20 days ago. We practiced for 7 straight days. We had the 4th of July off, then another practice on the 5th. On the 6th the District tournament started. We hosted the tournament in Goffstown, at Allard Park. Then another practice on the 13th. Bang, the State tournament started on the 14th. Again, we hosted (we are still hosting).
On Friday the 15th, I drove to Canada for a family commitment. I drove back, nearly 400 miles on Saturday, hoping to get back to Allard Park before our game was done. I missed. So close.
So did we. We missed, as a team. So close. We lost the final game of our season, 3-1. Just writing the words makes me cringe, and reminds me how difficult sports are, as only ONE team finishes the season with a win. Yes, just ONE.
I pulled in among the pines as the crowds were just starting to disperse following our game. I felt the pain that I always feel when there is no competitive tomorrow. I felt bad for having missed the game. But as much as I love baseball, family is more important, and that’s where I was needed.
Knowing me I will write too much and blow some readers out. But, as I usually do, I give the feeling of the good, or the bad, the great, or the disappointing, a chance to wash over me. A chance to resonate. Because the taste left in your mouth doesn’t always have to be bad even when things don’t go your way. And I do that by staring the reality right in the face, and I feel the pangs, while taking accountability for the parts I caused, corrected, or corrupted. So take away what you will.
Last year we had 27 days. This year it was just 20 days. So much work. So many throws, and swings. So many words and methods of communication. So much heat and frustration. So much fun. So much improvement. So much effort. So many lessons. So many chances to grow and learn, together. So many positive results that always seem to get less attention than the ones we stop to correct. I hate that about baseball because there is so much failure in the game. But then when skills are being mastered, appreciation should absolutely soar. Most kids are done playing baseball by the time they reach the age of 12.
Ya it was a different year. We had 3 players who practiced regularly with us as to improve their games while not being on the roster at all. I am thoroughly impressed with them for showing up and taking reps all in the name of improvement. Thank you to those kids and their families. You helped us all get better.
It probably goes without saying far too often, so I will say it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. To the parents, the families, the players, the coaches, the volunteers, and the entire support group we all count on. You all are second to none. As one Dad from another team said to me last week, “Hey coach, you guys have a great facility here. What really stands out, is all the work you all do to make this a great experience for all of us. (Laughing, he added) And you look like you have so much fun working together”. I thanked him sincerely for taking a moment to share that with me. I heard a lot of similar commentary from coaches, parents, and officials who happened to spend time with us at the gem we know as Allard Park. So, again, thank you to all of you and those who support your efforts. Thank you to the Allard Family.
Finally, I point out that several folks approached me with encouragement as they relayed their own perspective of how much they thought the team had grown or improved, or both. As a coaching staff, we don’t have the effect on these young men to the level a college football coach might have over four years, but I think there’s a valid lesson in a quote from the great coach, Amos “Alonzo” Stagg when he was asked if one of his college football teams was his best team ever, he answered: “Is this my best team ever? I won’t know that for another 20 years or so.”
So many things to learn. How to improve mechanics. How to make this play or that one. What to do in a game situation. Situational thinking and execution. So many lessons. How to be a better teammate. How to overcome adversity. How to win and lose with grace. How to approach each opportunity to be on the field. How to carry yourself as a fine young man. The list goes on and on.
I am proud of the team, and how hard they worked to improve. I got to see them raise their compete level to a previously unprecedented height, without losing sight of the game, or respect for their opponent. I love the spirit shared, as they willed flawless execution for one another while working to do their best on the splendid symmetry of the diamond. It was my pleasure to work with all of you. And despite me getting fired up to make a point every once in a while, I am truly humbled and honored to walk among you all, and be called coach.
Some previous writings on this subject: