April 9, 2007
THAT'S MY JOB...
This past weekend found us out in Louisiana again, hoping to have a bit more success than our last venture into the Pelican State. We pulled into Monroe in time to face the Sun Belt surprise team of the year. Coach Shake's Warhawks have been as hot as this weekend's weather promised to be cold, sitting in a tie for first with their in- state rivals from Lafayette.
Our job was to keep plugging away to get ourselves back in the hunt for postseason. ULM had only one home loss this year and the forecast wasn't favorable to a warm weather team. Luckily I checked Weather Underground.com and saw the predictions of near 30 degree temps for the night games. My long johns and heavy jacket were packed.
The music mix during BP was a good one....Elvis, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Don McLean and some others made the throwing easier for me. Later I asked Bomback why he was laughing in his hitting group, only to be embarrassed to find he could hear me singing as I threw. Hey...it gets boring throwing for 40 minutes!
I suppose I should be thinking about the game out there, but usually my mind wanders, especially if some song triggers something. We do have a hitting coach, after all. His job is to coach `em up while I throw. Anyway, an old Conway Twitty song got me thinking about a lot of things.
Friday was my son Jim's 27th birthday, and he and the rest of my family were nowhere in sight this Easter and birthday weekend. His brother Jeff is our student manager, but had opted to stay home and help celebrate. It wasn't the first time I was absent, and I'm not the only father who goes through days like that, but old Conway had me thinking.
It's a song about a boy and his Dad. I'll bet that surprised you! But when the boy is young he dreams his father has died. When he wakes, the little guy goes to his Dad and asks to sleep in his bed. His Father assures him he can because
"That's my job, that's what I do
Everything I do is because of you
To keep you safe with me...
That's my job you see."
As the boy grows up, he and his Dad barely got along, fighting over the direction the young man's life should take. He wants to head West and chase his dreams; his father wants him to stay and go to college. But the father stills the boy's fears of failure, promising to be there for him and pay his way home if needed because "That's my job..."
In the end, the boy becomes a man of songs and rhyme who moves back home. One day he wakes up and his Father has died. Now it's his job to come up with a song to say how much he loved his father. The bridge of the song perfectly expresses his love for all his father did:
"Every person carves his spot- and fills the hole with life
And I pray someday I might- light as bright as he."
Listening in Monroe, Louisiana, I thought of all the times I wasn't there for my children. Sometimes my excuse was my job; most times it was because of my divorce.
All working Moms and dads have to deal with separation imposed by their jobs, but divorced parents carry a heavier burden. I wasn't always there when one of the boys had a bad dream, or needed guidance in how to chart out their lives. That was my job, but I couldn't do it the same way as the man in the song. I had to find other ways to try and always be there when, in truth I was not.
Most college coaches miss much of their kids' lives. The season includes travel, then the summer and fall recruiting periods, followed by fall practice, leaving you precious little time for the ones most important in your life. When a parent doesn't live with his kids, he has to be there any way he can. You hope the daily phone calls can keep you there for them in some measure. Only a fool would think it the same, but only a fool would fail to try.
Christians believe that the night before He died, Jesus asked His Father to help him with the fate He knew awaited. We believe the Father answered, and the Son obeyed. I don't think there was a phone in the Garden of Gethsemane, but the prayer was answered.
Those of us who have had to help raise our children in a fractured, non-traditional way, Easter and birthdays sometimes hit hard. The words of the song make me hope that in my own way I did my job and had filled the hole with light.
There was a game after BP, and Mike Obradovich gave us another Friday night complete game. The Warhawks scratched out a run in the ninth, but Mike answered every challenge throughout the game, striking out seven and giving only five hits. Our guys used four doubles to get our three runs and the first game of the series.
Saturday dawned sunny and cold for our scheduled doubleheader. Unfortunately the first game was at 3:00 o'clock, so we got to spend most of our time in the coldest part of the day.
Chris Salberg had another great outing, carrying a shutout into the ninth before surrendering two runs. The lefty from Illinois was at home in the frigid temperatures, striking out 13 ULM hitters. That gives Chris 27 K's in his last two starts.
The nightcap gave us the chance to sweep the first place team at their place. But we'd have to do it without starting pitcher Justin Phillabaum who was back in Boca nursing his sprained ankle and wrenched back. Brandon Kloess got the ball and a four run lead after the first two innings. Then things started going south.
The Warhawks had two runners on in the second with two outs and a 2-2 count on Ty Rollinson. The next pitch was a fastball that looked to be the third strike. Instead it was called ball three and the next pitch to Rollinson was launched over the rightfield fence and the Warhawks were only a run behind. After taking a 6-5 lead in the fifth, ULM looked tough thanks to the solid relief of closer David Mixon. He entered in the third and did a great job on us.
Some daring baserunning was the difference.
ULM's runner broke for second with two outs, as a groundball gave Nick Arata a tough hop at short. Nick should have eaten it but tried to get the batter at first. The throw bounced past Degnan and off the brick wall behind first base. As the Warhawks' runner rounded third and headed home, Brandon Cooney grabbed the ball and fired toward the plate. We had the runner by plenty, but the ball took a bad bounce past catcher Justin Martin and the game was over.
The next day was Easter. We spent 13 hours getting home by plane! Actually it was a two hour bus ride to Jackson, Mississippi and then a flight to Atlanta where we sat for three hours before heading for West Palm, and finally home.
At about 1:30 AM I opened the door and found a home made Easter card from my daughter Maggie. On my way to her room, I peeked in on Luke snoring away in his bed with two of our cats. Maggie's bed was empty. She was on the recliner in our room sound asleep. Our 60 lb dog Trouble was spread-eagle on her back sleeping next to my wife. I grabbed my pillow and headed for Maggie's room with a promise to myself to play with them both today.
That's my job.