One At Bat

Posted in rants with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by hendu

OK, first off you can count me as one of the few people who isn’t at all impressed with Adam Greenberg and his at bat last night as a Marlin vs. the Mets.  He had his lifelong dream fulfilled seven years ago.  I’ll admit, it’s a crappy way to have your at bat end, but that’s baseball.  There are risks in the sport and that’s one of them.  I understand all the difficulties that he had to overcome and no doubt will have to battle for the rest of his life.  Just because he has overcome those obstacles does not mean he earned a chance to get one more at bat.  He worked hard to get back on the field, great.  But there are plenty of career minor leaguers that work just as hard if not harder that will never get one at bat, let alone a 2nd.  You don’t see them starting an online petition begging teams to give them a chance.  Last night, Sportscenter actually tweeted out that his at bat was inspirational.  That was hardly inspirational.

Now this is:

We had a chance to interview Anthony Robles this morning.  What an amazing kid.  Born with one leg and overcame that to become NCAA wrestling champ.  Try to do anything with one leg.  Anything at all.  Now try to go wrestle.  He’s one hell of a nice guy and a very eloquent speaker.  He is on a book tour to promote his book .  This is a kid that was raised by a single parent to believe that he could and can do anything.   He never really thought of himself as disabled.  I had a chance to talk to him very briefly and you could feel the positivity coming from him.  A great kid with a great attitude that did it the right way through hard work and perseverance.  No one ever gave him a second chance.  He was able to make the most of his one and only chance.

Now that’s a remarkable story.

20 Years

Posted in death, family, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 15, 2012 by hendu

Yesterday is always one of my least favorite days of the year, and this year it was especially difficult.  You see, September 14th 1992 my father died in a plane crash and yesterday marked 20 yrs since that dreadful day.

I would like to think that after so many years, the day just flows by like any other day.  While it has gotten easier in some respects, it is still very difficult in others.  The adage “time heals all wounds” may be true in certain aspects of life, but try telling that to a person who tragically lost a loved one unexpectedly.  I know that thousands lose love ones every day and in no way am I writing this to invoke any sympathy.  I write this as a form of therapy.  This is my release and if you’ve lost a loved one like I and my family has then you understand whole-heartedly where I am coming from.

Yesterday, I just had an odd sense of self.  The weather was eerily similar to that fateful day 20 yrs ago.  It was strange though, I woke up at 2am not realizing what day it was.  With the hours I work, many days just blend together and at that time of day I’m more robotic than human.  The wave of emotion finally hit me when I finally saw the date 9-14 in bold red numbers.  The rest of the day was spent trying to stay busy and pushing back my thoughts but they just kept pushing through.  I felt a good way to honor my father was to post pictures of some of his favorite things my Facebook timeline.  A shot of a ’69 maroon Jag XKE (his fave car), a Lear 35 (the plane he flew as his “job”), a Citabria (his private plane, his passion and ultimately what killed him) and a margarita (his favorite drink).  This was who he was: he loved his family, he loved his job, he was passionate about flying and the man knew who to relax.

I spent the rest of the day thinking where the past 20 yrs have led me. I go from being pissed off at him for not being here to see the man I’ve become. Pissed that he never met Nikki or his granddaughter. Never saw me graduate or seen me find success in a job i love. Then I start to think would I be a different person if he never died? what would I be? Where would I be?  Did his death ultimately lead me to become who I am now?  Then I remember the struggles that my mom, brother and I went through in order to survive and I feel the anger come back.  That’s hat yesterday was like.  That’s what I go through every year on that day and I suspect my mom and brother felt the same way along with the countless people who have lost loved ones.

You see, you never forget and it does get easier but it’s never easy.  I don’t think I ever want it to be easy.  I believe once the day becomes easy to get through, the memory is gone and I don’t want to forget him.  I want my daughter to understand who he was and what he was.  I think she needs to understand what her lineage is and he’s an important part of it.

On my way home from work, I stopped by the airport where he had his accident and just sat there, reflecting.  I’m not a spiritual person, but I felt him there.  I sat there and remembered all the good times we had.  I looked back on these past 20 yrs and I know he’d be proud of me and what I’ve done.  He’d love my wife and he’d adore Avery.  He’d be proud of Cam and he’d be happy my Mom found happiness.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of my father.  I hope that continues for as long as I live because as long as someone still exists in your thoughts, they never leave you.  I’m sure in a year from know these same thoughts will come flooding back but that’s a good thing I’ve realized.  It makes me appreciate where I have been and excited about where I may go.  It reminds me to look at my daughter and see the pure joy of life that she has and that my father still lives on in our mind.

I miss you everyday Pop.  I am who I am in part because of what happened and in part because of the woman you married.  She is a strong woman and continues to raise to outstanding sons.  You did good Pop and I promise that we’ll continue to make you proud.

Jim Calhoun

Posted in Uconn Basketball with tags , , , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by hendu

Today is the last day of Jim Calhoun’s remarkable career as UConn’s head basketball coach.  While the day will be spent looking back on the almost unfathomable job he did building UConn into a national power, let us not forget the about the black marks that will forever tarnish his legacy.

Now, I don’t want this to come off as a negative.  The NCAA championship in 1999 was one of my top sports moment.  The win in 2004 was as great as it could get, combined with Geno and his Husky Womens’ title, it made CT the center of the hoops world.  The 3rd and final championship was so surprising and so special in hindsight, Calhoun probably should have hung it up as soon as he cut down the net.

After the 2004 season, UConn seemed to go away from what made them great: finding hidden gems and hardworking kids who bought into what Coach was selling.  Instead, the program started to go after high risk/high reward talent.  I think Calhoun had such a run of taking any recruit and turning them into “UConn Players” he started to believe that any kid could be saved.  As it turns out, Nate Miles, a kid who never but on the husky blues, was where his legacy began to unravel.

Enough of that though.  While almost every long-lasting coach (Paterno, Bowden, etc) has some sorta skeletons in the closet, I think it’s only fair to focus on what he accomplished here.  Something that a majority of pundits thought was impossible.  He single handedly turned a mediocre regional basketball program into a top-ten program in as little as 10 yrs.  UConn went from recruiting 2nd level New England talent to some of the best in the country like Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Donyell Marshall and Kemba Walker.  He was able to go over seas and grab players like Doron Sheffer and Nadav Henefeld that helped shape his legacy.  No one can ever take away his numerous Big East titles and his three championships.  No one can ever deny the fact that He and his wife have spent countless hours giving back to the people of CT through his various charities.

Unfortunately, as much good as the man did, there are plenty of detractors and readers of my blog know I am one of them.  While he did prove me wrong last year, the previous few I thought he was done.  Between his health issues and his poor recruiting choices, I thought he had passed his prime.  Lets be real too, if it wasn’t for the miraculous play of Kemba, that 3rd ring would not be on his finger.  Here is what I wrote about 18 months ago.

While I was only four months off, it still holds true.  To use a sports term, his legacy is what it is.  With the good comes the bad.  No matter what you think of him you can’t argue with the unfounded success he leaves behind at UConn.

In my heart, we’ll always have 1999!

 

Blowing the Dust Off

Posted in back from sabbatical with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by hendu

It’s been 3 months and 12 days since I last wrote a blog post.

I’m not quite sure why I took such a long sabbatical.  It wasn’t a lack of topics to right about I think I just needed a respite.  I seemed to be getting bored with the writing process.  I was always able to find something else to do other than sit down and write.  I guess it just wasn’t the time to put anything down.

I missed it at times yet I still couldn’t get my mind motivated enough to put thoughts to keyboard.  Maybe I was looking for reasons not to write.  Maybe I was burned out a bit.  I had written almost 900 entries in just about four years.  A lot may have been mindless drivel but after reading through a few dozen entries this morning, I realized how much fun I had writing.  I know I’m not the best but I do enjoy it and in a way, it is therapeutic.

So why today?  I can tell you it’s not because of the remembrance of 9/11 that’s been all over the news this morning.  I actually think it’s because of what’s happening tonight.

As many of my loyal readers know (well, those that are left) I am a high school coach.  This time of year, I am the JV girls/varsity assistant soccer coach at Hale-Ray and tonight is our first game.  There are very few things that get me fired up all day, but the opening of any season is always a special day.  As the years have gone by, I think I have enjoyed writing about the kids I coach more than anything else.

Every team I’ve coached each seem to have their own unique personality.  This one is no different.  I’ve been around teams that truly hate one another or at least a specific few.  This team has none of that.  Each girl fits in with every other girl.  They have fun together, laugh together and work hard together.

I don’t have a crystal ball so I can’t tell what lies in store for us this season.  One thing I do know is this team has been a pleasure to coach during the preseason and have worked really hard to get better.  What they lack in talent they make up for in want.

I don’t know why I have a special feeling about these girls.  I’m not predicting anything.  I just got a hunch that they could do something special and that journey begins tonight.

Good Luck girls and Go Noises!

Least Favorite Day of the Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by hendu

I always dread this day and it never gets any easier.  I’m not sure if it’s because I know the coaching is done or the seniors are done but either way, this day sucks.

Yesterday, we lost to the #1 team in our class 3-0.  It proved many things.  One:  we can compete with anyone in our class.  Two: not much separates us from the best-of-the-best and three: these were a great group of seniors.

We battled up until the last out yesterday and just got beat on a good pitch.  I am in no way disappointed with my guys.  We were only really bad in one game this year.  All the rest of them seemed to hinge on one or two plays.  We lost a bunch of one run games.  The big hit just seemed to always elude us.  But hey, that’s baseball.

I feel comfortable in the fact that we gave these kids all the opportunities that our school can offer.  We gave them all tools necessary to win  and I think we did a great job preparing them for whatever awaits them.

Doubt always creeps into your head wondering if you’ve done all you can as a coach.  You always wonder if you prepared them well enough.  I feel that we did after watching what Northwest Catholic does with their players.  The #1 team ran many of the same drills, talked to them the same way and worked them just like us.  It just goes to show, that even at little ol’ Hale-Ray, our kids are preparing the same way as one of the premier high schools in the state.  But hey, we just give them the chance to learn the skills, the kids gotta execute and for the most part we did.

We out hit them 6-3 and I believe that 90 out of 100 times, we beat them with how we played.  Yesterday just wasn’t in the cards for us.

These past two years have been particularly tough.  Both senior classes were filled with great kids and great players and gave me as a coach so many good memories.  They should be proud knowing that the program is left in great hands.  Their successes will always be a standard for us and I hope we can be better because of their failings.  Whatever way it happens, these kids will have impacted our program for a long time coming and honestly, what more could you ask of them.

Once again, thanks guys!  I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did!  Good Luck and Go Noises!

 

Senior Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by hendu

This is always a bittersweet day for us as we honor our Seniors on the Hale-Ray baseball team.  Today, at 3:45 is our senior day against Somers and this year we have six kids who will be playing their last regular season game on our field.  Luckily for us and them we get at least one more next week in the state playoffs but no matter what, they’re high school athletic careers are quickly coming to a close.

Senior nights are always special nights for the kids but the spring sports offers something a little more special.  It is normally the last time that they will all be together playing.  From the time when they were young kids in tee-ball to this day, they’ve gone through everything as a group.  I don’t know, to me, it marks another huge step in their lives.

The six we honor all have taken wildly different paths to get to this point.

Captain Matt Wells came in as a freshman and started almost right away.  We has played all over the infield for us the past four years and has hit all over the lineup as well.  I don’t think I have ever coached a kid that loves the game as much as he does.  No matter what happens this next week or so, Matt should be able to look back on his career here and be proud of his accomplishments.  I hope he enjoyed his time as much as I enjoyed coaching him.

Captain Jeremy Francese had to endure his first two years being on the sidelined injured.  He finally was able to work his way into the starting lineup half way through his junior year and never looked back.  While his back has been in pain this whole time, through soccer and basketball, he hasn’t let it hurt his game nor has he ever used it as an excuse.  I know that he leaves here thinking “what if he hadn’t been hurt?” but I think it has helped him grow as a person and will only benefit him down the line.

Captain Shawn Carlson has been a quiet force for us the past three seasons.  He has hit over .300 and has been one of our starting pitchers.  We haven’t had anyone who goes after the game like he does.  He swings hard, he throws hard and he runs hard.  It’s hard to think of another kid who works as hard as he does on the field.  He’s not a rah-rah type of leader but I wish I could put his heart and desire into every other kid that comes through our program.

Harry Martin has been a consistent starter for us the past two seasons.  He’s had some pretty memorable moments for us and has just been a real solid player.  At practice, you can always find him and Shawn together working out, pushing each other to be better.  He’s a real laid back kid but when it’s time to turn it on, he’s right there ready to go.

Tyler Rand is one of those players that every good baseball team has.  You know exactly what Ty will give you day in and day out.  Never gets to high or low.  He makes the plays he needs to make and it seems like he always has a knack for coming up with a key hit in a key spot.  A generally quiet kid but with a wicked sense of humor.  If you see a bunch of guys laughing to tears, more than likely, Tyler’s the cause of it.  I’d call him sneaky-funny and it’s perfect for keeping the team loose.

Kyle Hermann is our last senior.  Kyle came in as a freshman who literally could not catch a fly ball.  Could not throw a baseball and could not hit.  Through hard work, grit and stubborn determination, he made himself into our starting right fielder, and a pretty damn good one at that.  I probably did more one-on-one coaching with Kyle than any other senior.  He was one of my JV captains last year and that really helped him develop into the kind of kid he is.  He doesn’t take himself seriously his play in right field he does.  He knows his role and works very hard at it.  We’ve gone from closing our eyes and hoping he gets a glove on the ball his freshman year to being shocked that a ball actually isn’t caught now.  That’s quite an improvement.

I think this is the closest I’ve been with any senior class and it will be sad to see them off into the next stage of life, but on the flip side, we still have a lot to accomplish.  We have a chance today to lock up a home state game and of course winning states is the ultimate prize.  I’m still not sure what lies for us but I feel comfortably knowing that these six will leave everything on the field through the last out.

Thanks guys for the memories now let’s go out there and make some more!!!

 

A Sad Revelation

Posted in baseball with tags , , on May 11, 2012 by hendu

We’ve all had those moments in our life when we realize things are just different then they used to be.  Yesterday may have been one of those days.  Here’s the timeline.

2:30- headed up to the field for practice.  I probably should have stopped there.

2:45-decided to run bases in a drill we call “situations.”  I was the only runner.  I’m 35 and not in shape.  Why do I do this too myself?

3:00-Team was split up into two teams, one with six and one with five.  OK, fine I’ll make the teams even, hell, I haven’t played baseball in a while.   I can keep pace with 17-year-olds who have been doing it non stop for almost two months.  At least that’s what I told myself.

3:01- 1st kid takes his cuts.  OK I know I can do just as good as that.

3:05- My first swing: pop-up.  Ok maybe not

3:06-line drive to left field.  Yeah baby!!!

3:10-damn, another pop-out.

3:11- Woo Hoo!  Line drive right field.  We were giving points for these swings.  I’ll take my five and be happy.  Hell, only our starting catcher got higher than me.

3:13-Ooops, misjudged that pop-up.  Oh well, it’s my 1st time reading one in a while.

3:14-Ha, got that one.

3:17-booted that groundball.  Crap, that was ugly.

3:20-Time to hit again.  Feeling good.

3:22- Not feeling so good anymore.  Weak groundball to short on the drop drill.  (coach stands in the opposite batters box and drops a ball into strike zone.  A hitter then must hit it.  Ideally)  Still a better showing then some other kids.  Still feel OK.

3:25- Crazy swing and miss.  Confidence waning.

3:26 through 3:30- Setting up for next drill.  A solid four minutes of nothing bad.  This won’t last.

3:40- My turn for cuts.

3:41-Damn, missed a bunt.  That’s bad.

3:42- Got a hit-n-run down, except it was to third base.  Still effective but not perfect.  Pissed at my self.

3:42- Swing n miss.  Shit, shoulda been more selective.

3:43- Need to drive a guy in from third with less than two outs, hit a weak flyball to center.  Fail!

3:44- Line drive up the middle.  Not great but a base hit.

3:45-Pop-up to 2nd.  This is getting ugly.

3:46-Solid line drive to left.  Hit it off the handle, still made good contact.  Wish I pured that one.  Suddenly realizing I am 35.

3:50- Catch a pop-up.  Knowing that these were always my weakness, I feel pretty good.  Then I remember this is a routine play.  Yeah me, making the average feeling exceptional.

3:52- Then it hits me, figuratively.  I completely mis-read a line drive hit to me in center.  It glances off my glove and hits the inside of my thigh.  Barely missing the, um, equipment.  Kinda pissed.  Kids thought it was funny.  It kinda was in a sad way.  Not showing my anger and frustration.  Playing it off, thankful it wasn’t two inches higher.

3:55-Shocking miss another groundball.  To my credit, it was hard hit, I was moving to my right and I did have to backhand it.  Then again, I never got my glove down.  F-me.

3:57- dive for a groundball and miss it.  A few years back, I probably make that play because I would have read it off the bat better.  Then again I am 35.  Really starting to hate this.

4:00-Mercifully it’s over.  What started out with so much promise ended with a cold slap of reality. When did the game pass me by?

4:01- I really like golf a lot more now.