Wednesday, July 27, 2011

As luck would have it....

Yesterday's post focused on the topic of advice. After writing the blog, I went along my merry way and sat through two more baseball games in which my son did not pitch. I was beginning to simmer in the stands (and it had nothing to do with weather). It was Christmas in July at the ball park and the team pulled Santa and the Grinch out to entertain the fans. It was pretty cute as the kids were entranced by the big, jolly and hot man in the red fleece suit. There were no reindeer but lots of giveaways like a television set (nice). Since I am not lucky, I never win the 50-50, horse races, lottery, penny slots, or any type of raffle. Last night was no different. I should just keep my money in my pocket rather than handing it over for any type of gambling.

With that said, Buddy has sat in his bullpen for the last week without throwing a ball against a batter in a game. He is beginning to mold, collect dust, and atrophy. Yet, toward the end of the night, he was pitching in the bullpen with a catcher. The velocity was great but his location was way off. Then I saw him throw his glove and hat onto the ground and tear his shirt off....never a good sign as I have witnessed a number of memorable mound meltdowns. I was hoping that he was just hot.

As he stormed to the car and slammed the door, he began to spill his guts..."I can't throw a strike. I can't get it over the plate. I have gotten worse since I have been here. I told Stinky and he said that they will work on it. Work on it...they caused it!" The big kid was despondent and I was unhappy because he was upset and I had watched yet another game in the heat without seeing him throw a ball. Again, this blog is not about me but my perception and interventions when needed with my son Buddy. I needed to pull out some creative BP mom ingenuity to dispense advice while maintaining an objective perspective.

It does not do him any good for me to say: "Everything will be OK. Get a good night's rest." OR "Let's get out of here...this is the worst organization ever..." OR "You are stink...drop baseball and become a teacher or pharmacist..." OR "Are you sure? Your velocity was good." As his parent, I could not give in to his defeatist attitude nor could I offer any consolation. He was upset, tearful, and angry, so I knew that I had to approach this one gingerly. So I tried unsuccessfully: "Call your dad...." "Call Big T, he's up now...perhaps you can meet tomorrow..." "Take a deep breathe in and center yourself...feel better?"

Nothing. Nothing that I said was effective in helping him to see the big picture objectively. When we returned to the apartment, in a period of desperation, I pulled out some of my tennis wisdom (please don't groan...). "You know...when I have trouble with a stroke, I go back to fundamentals and work my way back to the advanced stroke. Go back to your days with Coach P. What would he say? Picture the throw in your mind...." He looked at me with a very sour face (Perhaps it was indigestion) and ignored me. An ice cream Nutty Buddy would have been perfect at that point.

After a thinking about the situation during the night, some people call this insomnia, I had an idea...a brainstorm actually...First and foremost, I knew that I had to be objective and non judgmental. Yes, he was having issues, however, it does not do any good to sugar-coat it by lying about potential or ignoring the situation. Once I completed my assessment of the pitching issue, I moved on to a plan and implementation. After plugging the computer in this morning, I found a few local baseball academies and contacted all of them. The only person to answer my call was a scout for the Yankees (yep...Yankees, as in New York!). He listened to the question, issue, and problem as I poured my frustrations out to him....."And another thing....." I told him. Coach R listened to me, heard what I had said, and invited Buddy to a camp that he was running today. As luck would have it, he has two college catchers working with him and told me to bring Buddy within the hour.

Can you believe it? How lucky are BP mom and Buddy? As a person who never wins anything, I would answer that question with "Very, very, very lucky...." and be correct. This is the kind of luck that I needed, not the luck where you win a television that you do not need or 50-50 raffle but the kind of luck that can turn your son's demeanor and confidence back into its former swagger. I prefer this kind of luck to any other kind out there.

We drove to the camp and met Coach R who is an 'old baseball salt' and has been around the sport since he was four years old. He pitched at a high level and has coached many many many big league players. He claims to have taught Andy Pettite his pick off move to first base. Coach also name dropped a few other players and Buddy was impressed. After they warmed up together, Buddy threw two balls. Immediately Coach knew what was wrong, diagnosed the problem, and spent the next hour tinkering slightly with his mechanics. This is what Stinky and Sparky could not do; Coach R fixed the problem in minutes AND he taught him the pick off move to first base. We made a plan to return on Friday then the coach offered him a camp counselor job next week. Again, this is something that Stinky, Sparky, and Mr Steinbrenner could not do in his 7 weeks here.

Meeting Coach R renewed my faith in baseball and the Midwest. He gave Buddy lots of advice. Once Buddy shared how Sparky treated him on the mound, Coach R told him that he would have punched him and left the team. This comment as well as others confirmed to Buddy that he was not off base with his comments and the way that he felt about the team and coaching staff. In fact, Coach R said that Buddy's team had a reputation for being political and was not well regarded in the region. Imagine...Buddy was right all of the time.

I am grateful to Coach R for helping Buddy to find his confidence again. As we walked away, Coach mentioned that he was fighting cancer and showed us his bald head from chemotherapy. This man is battling the Big "C" and still has time to mentor kids. In my book, this guy is a hero as my son walked through the door a wreck and walked out a new man. My faith and luck have been restored.

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