April 10, 2006
TRYING TO RISE ABOVE...
The Easter season is meant to remind us that we have been given the ability to rise again from the fate to which our lives lead us. We know all too well how our lives will end, but we have been promised hope beyond that final inning.
I think that the Easter promise holds out a more immediate hope for all of us. If we can rise from death, perhaps we can all find it within ourselves to rise above the hand our lives have dealt us. For many in the world, the daily struggle of life has serious and often tragic overtones. We're focusing here on college baseball, so the stakes are not quite so high, but they seem to hold serious significance for those who measure their current lives by the daily successes and failures on the field.
Before our third game against VCU this weekend, I reminded our players that though the song goes, "man's gotta learn to live with what he can't rise above", we don't have to settle for the lives we face. We need to move beyond accepting the plight of our lives and carve out a better situation for ourselves.
In the case of FAU baseball, I was referring to the loss of five of our top offensive players this season. We can continue to plod along at a .500 pace and take false comfort in the knowledge that we are doing our best under the circumstances, or we can rise above the losses and write a new ending to a story that seems to have already been scripted.
The challenge Sunday was to win the last game and take our second consecutive series. We've got six more weeks, all in conference, so setting a tone of a series win each week, will enable us to qualify for our conference tournament. Then it will take a solid week of good play to get us into another NCAA regional; a lofty goal for a team with a 5-7 conference record.
Three examples of people who rose above the difficult challenges their lives offered were given to our guys as examples. Two stories were from the bible, and one was from Scranton, PA.
My father would have been surprised to see himself in the same metaphor as Abraham and Jesus, but I think his life was another good example of what I wanted our kids to understand.
Born in 1908, my Dad had to leave school in eighth grade when his step father died. He went to work supporting his mother and his six half brothers and sisters. When he was about the age of our players, my Dad discovered that the circumstances of his birth didn't quite fit the accepted standards of the early 20th century.
He left home and went to work in Detroit for the C.C.C. which provided jobs for young men during the depression. Whether he left due to a sense of anger or shame, or because it was the best way to support his family, I don't know. He later served in WW II and lovingly raised a family in NJ. This family history was hidden his entire life, but he dealt with it in his own quiet way.
My father was a regular guy with a good sense of humor and a less than flattering habit of profanity. He taught his sons the value of hard work, and was our scoutmaster in Boy Scouts. He worked overtime each week driving a bus in Newark, and made $10,000 in his best, and last, year of work.
He never, ever, complained about his life.
He rose above it.
We had lost a heartbreaker Friday night to a real good VCU pitcher 3-1. Mickey Storey pitched great, but when you're the Friday night guy you're always locked up with the other team's ace. Runs are hard to come by for us this year. They're even harder to get on Fridays.
Saturday saw Chris Salberg, Chris Ebelhart, and Mike Crotta combine to hold VCU to four runs while our guys put together a few good offensive innings and we won 7-4. Our defense did a good job in the game turning two key double plays, and getting two big outs at the plate in the same inning.
After Sunday's pre-game speech and before the first pitch, we had a four hour rain delay. The tarp was rolled out as a storm rolled in. We avoided the hail that fell north of us, but there was a lot of wind and rain. When we finally started the game I asked Storey if I needed to repeat my speech.
He said, "What speech?"
Brandon Cooney was on the mound. Maybe he is a distant relative of my Dad. His father is from the same area of Pennsylvania, but Brandon is about a foot taller than me and throws about twenty miles an hour harder than I did on my best day. The big guy was on top of his game, striking out two batters in each of the first five innings.
The bottom of our batting order provided the offense Sunday. Travis Ozga knocked in the first run, and Danny Cook followed with a two out double that scored Travis from first. That was all we'd need, though Cook added another run later with his second double of the day.
Cooney gave up his only hit in the fifth, and the lightning and rain returned as we came in for our half of the sixth inning. The lightning prevented us from putting out the field tarp and the hard rain made the field unplayable, which brought a long day to a happy end, 3-0.
We have the week off to prepare for a weekend series at Gardner-Webb. We're sitting near the bottom of the A-Sun standings, but with six weekends to play we have the chance we need to rise above what's happened and write the ending to this season's story. KC