I watched one of my friends grow up from very early elementary school through late high school...I was able to watch him play Little League baseball, junior high and varsity baseball...he pitched...and he was the best. I am so very fortunate to have memories of just how good he was. You see, my brother and boyfriend from high school played baseball, so rarely was there a game that I missed. Matt moved away at the end of our junior year, and there was an eight year span that I didn't see him or honestly even know where he was...I know it's hard for youngsters to realize, but internet wasn't as readily available, and there was no social media or text messaging. In those eight years, I know now that I missed an excellent college baseball career, lots of experiences and him really growing up to the great man he is today.
If I fast-forward you to where I sit right this very minute...I'm in surgery waiting, while he's prepped for surgery...for the last 13 years years, I've known him as my husband, and because we knew each other most of our young lives, I feel like I've known him forever, and honestly, I've known him and we've been friends for more than half of my life. To know him is to know he loves baseball...he always has...he had a drive for it, and during a very trying time in his adolescent years, it was probably one of the best things he could just hold on to. In a way, maybe baseball saved him. If I took you back to the Little League years, it was before pitch-counts and limits on how much young kids could pitch. He was one of the players, that if our team was playing, I was happy to see him headed to the mound...he was going to give absolutely everything he had to walk off that mound a winner...everyone wanted to see him out there. He struggled through those years with Tourette Syndrome...many folks not understanding what it was, what to say or do, and hearing opposing team's players say things about it from time to time wasn't endearing for him or anyone else, I'm sure my mother in law, especially. Yet, he persisted. There's no telling how many pitches or throws he's made in his 40 years...I'd hesitate to even guess, but I know it's an ungodly number. He said for as long as I can remember that he would never have another shoulder surgery, as he endured two in college, but yet a few months ago, it became evident that this is most likely where he would be. The verdict...extensive damage and some tears...what was needed?...a shoulder replacement. He coaches baseball...pitching actually, and he is really good at it...and he still loves baseball as much or maybe even more than he did all those years ago. This was a kick in the gut, but at least he would be able to throw with less pain again, right? Then, last week, we were told that he'd probably never really be able to throw batting practice again...not the same anyway...hence that kick in the gut again.
You see, 12 years ago, we had our first son...a son that been thrown that same unmeasurable number of pitches, a son that absolutely loves playing baseball with his Daddy...a son who, last week, hit a homerun on the last pitch Matt threw to him at his Allstar practice (thanks to those coaches for having Matt throw BP that day...it really meant a lot to him)...and a son, that yesterday, really felt the magnitude of Matt's last pitch to him in the cages at our home...he knows it may never be the same, and right now it hurts them both.
To some, it's silly...it's just baseball, right? For Matt, it's been his life...it wasn't a phase...it's part of his life every single day, and his love for it has never dulled. To watch Matt with kids, young or older, is something special...and in my eyes, there's not a better coach out there. It's scary to Carson...it's scary to me...and Matt may not admit it, but I'm sure it's scary for him too. There was a podcast some years ago that Matt has played for Carson, I have played for Carson, and Carson has played for himself pre-game...it's a pump-up talk...it's true. So, now when Matt is facing, what is potentially a life-changing challenge for him...it's time to get up...dust off...re-load...re-calibrate....RE-ENGAGE. For those of you who have ever seen the underside of one of Carson's hats, has seen lots of writing...one of the abbreviations on his hat is "RE"...that's what it stands for...to "re-engage". If he's struggling, he often takes a look at that hat...with a quick glance, he's reminded that he can do anything with Christ, and when he sees that RE...it's a reminder to hit that reset button and get back in there for the fight. That's what Matt will be doing now...
Last week, prior to getting the information on his future of throwing batting practice, we were sitting in bed when he just out of the blue asked "Do you think I'll be able to throw to the boys still?" My heart sort of stopped, because honestly I was thinking....new shoulder...recover and therapy and he'd be back at it...surely that was right. I told him I wasn't sure, but we could ask, then jokingly told him he better start practicing with that right arm:) He sort of huff-laughed...you know the one, where you really don't like what someone says, but you laugh because maybe your mental wheels start turning a little bit, knowing maybe they're right. About half-hour later, I was snuggling Effie on the couch when he walked in to talk, and then standing in the living room, he did the, what I call, ghost pitching motion...the motions I've watched for the last 13 1/2 years, where he acts like he's pitching, but doesn't even have a ball in his hand...except he was winding up to throw right handed. He laughed and just said, "It looks like I don't even know how to throw". I asked him how that shoulder felt...he laughed and said "What? My right one?!....no pain whatsoever". He laughed it off and went on about his way. Then, a few days ago, getting ready for bed, he scared me when he all of a sudden excitedly says, "Oh my gosh...I totally forgot to tell you! After throwing BP to Carson today, I threw him about 10 with my right arm." Immediately, I said, "Really?!! How did that go?" He kind of laughed and said, "Now don't get me wrong, I almost hit him with two, but the other 8...weren't so bad." Since that time, he has tried it again, and yesterday in the midst of some emotions for Carson, promised Carson that next spring, he WOULD be back on that mound again...throwing right-handed, instead of his normal left-handed.
If there's one thing I know about Matt, it's that he won't give up on that promise, and it should be fun to watch. Carson feels like he's taken all of these times Matt could throw to him for granted...I reassured him that it's human nature to take things for granted...as adults, we do it every single day...he's done nothing wrong. The fact that at 12 years old, he gets it...that he knows the magnitude of this on Matt and their relationship and Matt's livelihood is pretty special. So, when I say Matt will get up, dust off, re-load, re-calibrate, re-engage...that's what I'm talking about. If ever a person has done it, he will....there's not much that Matt loves more than throwing baseball with those boys...to be without that at 40 years old is not really an option in the playbook. So, get ready, to watch a fun show...I'm sure it'll be full of frustrations, laughs, successes and even some failure....but in the end, I already know the outcome...it's just what Carson wrote in his card yesterday...he'll be the "best throwing right hander in the house". I better get to shopping for that right-handed glove:)
If you need a little motivation this morning...this should do it:) Just re-engage!
This was last week when Matt got to throw BP to Carson's team...he knew it may be one of the last times on a mound for BP...Carson unloaded on his last pitch to him, and sent it over the fence:)
Carson absolutely had to get a card for Matt yesterday...he filled it with his own words and a special four-leaf clover that he had in a book:)
Cullen's not really old enough to feel the magnitude of this surgery, but watching his love for baseball flourish over the past year has been something special...he sure has two good role models to watch and follow.