Baseball Made Me Cry This Week
If you’ve followed me on social media over the past few years, you know my three passions are hockey, baseball, and my kids. Since my kids don’t play hockey (yet), there’s a lot of overlap with my love of baseball and my three sons.
For the past four years, my middle son, Bobby, has been on a travel baseball team. We started as the Chargers and then the entire squad moved over to Top Tier (a great organization). I’ve helped coach, which has been busy but also a lot of fun to watch my son and his friends develop and grow together.
We’ve had a few kids move on and added a few really good boys to the team over the past few years, and the core group of guys that has been together over the past four years (for us) has become a family. The parents have all become close; we hang out when the kids don’t have games and when we’re on the road together… let’s just say bars and/or hotel patios don’t close on time.
Bobby joined the team playing a year up, and this year they were playing 12U. If you’ve been around travel baseball, 12U is a fun year for many kids because the opportunities to play bigger tournaments – one specifically – become a reality.
Patrick has pinch hit for me on our Blackhawks coverage for the past week because I had the privilege of helping coach the boys at one of the unique experiences for a 12U team. We went to Cooperstown and played in the All-Star Village tournament.
It was an incredible week.
We had the opportunity to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday – the day before induction. I worked in a partnership with the Hall a few years ago so being able to experience touring the museum with my 11-year-old son was something I’ll never forget. He picked the plaques he took photos with and, to the surprise of nobody who knows him/me, he chose the likes of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron and Chicago legends like Ernie Banks and Luis Aparicio.
The boys played nine games in four days. There were teams in the tournament from as far away as California; in fact, it felt like half of our tournament was from California.
But tournaments don’t always end with a win. And we did not finish in first place. Our guys finished somewhere around the top 16 out of 60 teams, which is a great accomplishment for a group of 11. We lost our third game in a row on Tuesday night, getting off the field a little after 10 o’clock.
After the game came to a close, my son cried. And so did I.
Moving on is also a reality for the 12U age level of travel baseball. After 12U, many teams break up and kids move on to programs that are closer to home or more align with where they hope to play high school baseball. So the 12U season means a lot.
Bobby cried as much as he did because he realized this was the end of something that has been more than a baseball team to him – or me.
For four years we’ve spent countless hours in a gym or batting cages or in cars driving to tournaments or in hotels being kids. We’ve done life together, not just baseball. The action on the diamond was the reason we were together, but now we feel like a family.
So when the final out was made and we had to clean out the dugout as a family one last time, it crushed me to see how much this group of friends – not just teammates, but true friends – meant to Bobby.
As coaches, we were incredibly fortunate to work with good kids who worked their tails off, played through adversity and grew up a lot. To Jim, Matt, Smitty and Lyle, thank you for allowing me to come along for the ride these past few years. The dugout has been a special place for me.
And to the parents of Shea, Marco, Chase, Declan, Carter, Nicky, Gavin, Devin, Carmen, Sergio and Brody, thank you for sharing your sons with us. These boys will have a bond that will last much longer than the four years they played together. They’re all headed in different directions this fall for new teams in new places, but they’ll stay friends well into the future.
It can be cliché to ask “how can you not be romantic about baseball?” but this past week I fell in love with the game all over again watching my son have the time of his life with his best friends.