I haven’t written in a week because it’s been a conglomeration of emotions around here. Several times last week I opened the laptop and I couldn’t peck out a simple thought. All I thought was what happened on June 12th, 2010. PTSD was rearing it’s ugly head.
June 11th is for me the real anniversary date. Saturday June 11th, 2011 vs Saturday June 12, 2010.
June 12th, 2010 was the final day of baseball season for Douglas and I. We had already finished the season in second place . We were looking forward to receiving our 2nd place awards that day in front of hundreds of our peers during Closing Ceremonies. We were set to play a fun consolation game.
Janet never liked Baseball. She didn’t know the game. I didn’t let her have any say in how the team was being managed. When I selected someone else to be the Team Mom, that drove her over the edge. She wanted that control. And there was hell to pay.
Janet wanted to take Douglas away on the very last day of the season. I pleaded with her to delay her trip back East by one day. Let Douglas go to the Closing Ceremony so he could receive his second-place trophy. So he could enjoy the camaraderie of his team mates and friends. Janet wouldn’t hear none of it. She denied Doug and I that last day. She purposely hurt me.
This year things were different. We had been on a six-game winning streak until the “first” Championship game June 9th. We lost by one run. Because it was a double-elimination format, we were set to play a rematch – on June 11th. Exactly one year after Janet passed.
That morning I was nervous as all heck. Never in my life did I feel the need to win something so bad as this game. Yet it was tempered by the realization that I was responsible for other children’s memories. Their parents entrusted me to be their coach. I was paranoid about me projecting my own interests upon the players. I had done an excellent job so far in the season segregating my emotions from the team’s goals. And I wasn’t going to cross that threshold this day.
Savannah had left earlier to help out at a fundraiser for her X-Country team. Courtney had spent the night at a friend’s house. It was just Doug and I. After I made breakfast it came time to dress. The previous evening I had laid out his uniform but we couldn’t find his jersey. I spent 10 minutes of sheer panic looking for it, knowing that a player couldn’t take the field if he didn’t have a full uniform. It turns out that one of the girls had grabbed the jersey and put it into the dirty wash. I then go to print out the Player Awards and find that my damn HP printer was out of color ink. I search frantically for a USB stick, find it, download the docs onto it and hope that their was a printer at the Parent’s house where we were having the season-ending party that afternoon. We rush out of the house and to the field 10 minutes late. I get the team settled in, warmed up and ready to play.
We flip a coin and the Dodgers win the toss and pick home. They will bat last.
We end the first inning giving up 5 runs to the Dodgers. The second through the fourth inning I put Douglas on the mound. I see my son out there on the mound playing his heart out. He’s getting outs, and making plays. And the thing is, I don’t need to tell him a thing. He’s doing it all himself. He knows what to do. He walks a few batters and a few more get hits on him. But he doesn’t get flustered. My little son is in his own zone. He holds the Dodgers team to only 5 more runs over the next three innings. We end the fourth down 9-10.
The Umpire declares the fifth inn the last one. It’s do or die time. We manage to squeeze one run in at the top to tie it.
We’re now into the bottom of the fifth. The Dodgers get a runner on third, no outs. My emotions start to get the better of me, and I leave the dugout and start pacing behind the bleachers. It’s all in the hands of my players. All the work we put in over the season – 34 games and practices – were on the line.
Things got surreal. I looked around and realized for the first time that there were hundreds of spectators. People were arriving for the Closing Day Awards Ceremonies. The Little League Board Members were there. Most of the other Team Managers were watching, guys who I’ve played against all season. Other players were watching. Parents were watching our game, many who I knew. The scoreboard loomed large – showing 0 outs, bottom of the fifth, 10-10 score. The sky was cloudless, the wind was blowing softly, and all I could think about was damn – I need this win. I need this more that anything else in the whole world. I need it to prove to myself that we did it. To prove that my kids, all three of them, are thriving and succeeding and laying down good memories. Tears welled up in my eyes, thinking how disappointed Douglas would feel if we lost. He worked so hard all season long, and I wanted this for him, for me.
One of my Assistant Coaches came up to me and asked if the players realized the winning run was on third. I know he wanted me to yell out some directive to the players. I simply said “they know”. He said “are you sure they know”? I said “Yes, they know”. I told him to keep quite and not bark instructions to the players. He knew not to object. And I told my other Assistant Coach to keep quite. I was putting my trust into my players.
I silently stood there and watched everything around me. I saw the nervous faces of my players. I saw anticipation in the faces of the Dodger parents. I saw the lush green infield and the California blue sky. And I thought about what happened last year. Me finding Janet in the shower. Me doing CPR. The Paramedics coming over. The shock of it all. And somehow all those thoughts morphed into this one big game I was witnessing.
My pitcher threw the next pitch past the catcher and the runner started to run in. My catcher swiveled around, tore his mask off, ran to the ball, picked it up and flipped it to the pitcher. He caught it and made the tag on the runner and got him out. My Team Parents go absolutely berserk. I kept quite, emotionless. I watched my pitcher dominate the next two batters and strike them out.
We then go into extra innings needing at least one run. We get one in, just like we did the top of the fifth. Now it’s bottom of the sixth, and we’re holding a slim one-run lead. Somehow my pitcher has to repeat what he did the last inning. He strikes the first batter out. The Dodgers get the next two batters on base. Runners on first and second. One out.
Time is moving slow. I watch each pitch. The count goes up. Next pitch, it’s a solid hit, and my shortstop makes a great catch to record the second out. The runners stick on first and second base. Next batter is up. It happens to be their cleanup hitter. A big, strong kid. My outfield instinctively drops into deep field. The count goes up, balls and strikes. A pitch is thrown, the batter makes solid contact. It’s a line drive towards second base. My second baseman makes a phenomenal catch to end the game. We won!
I run out into the field whooping and yelling “we did it, we did it”! I pick up Douglas and give him a big, long hug. Waves of relief and joy swept me. Several parents remarked to me afterwards that they were touched when they saw Douglas and I in that big hug. It was a father-son moment that neither one of us will ever forget.
Janet’s funeral didn’t give me closure. I think back and I realized it opened up more wounds that it healed. It was a very confusing time for all of us, as we hadn’t know what happened to Janet.
I knew weeks ago that winning this game would give me closure. And I was right.
I look in the rear view mirror and I see my marriage receding in the past. It’s done and over with. Time to move on. It’s a whole new game.