Dec. 24, 2004
SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS...
John Lennon wrote:
So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young
Despite Lennon's lack of faith in God, this is my favorite Christmas song. If you know his work, you realize that John Lennon preached a very similar message. He just didn't see the need for organized religion as we know it.
This time of year has always been good for reflection. I guess it's the emphasis on the coming New Year, and the need to have been good so Santa is good to you. I know, as a parent of two Santa believers, I invoke his name almost daily in the never ending battle for good behavior.
Lennon's words make me feel that the year has flown by and I need to examine my life again. Does he ask what our won - loss record was this year? Is that what he means? That's my job. I get paid to win games. Or is it something else?
If coaches don't win games they get fired. But surely, there is more than that to the coaching profession.
Oh yeah...I get to affect the lives of young men.
The problem is that sometimes, I don't like that part of the job.
Sometimes the effect is not a happy one.
Each season coaches are faced with telling players that they will no longer be part of the team. It's hard enough to face new players that aren't being kept, but often a coach has to explain to a player who has been in the program that he is finished. How do you do that? I usually agonize for days over just when and how I must break that news. It happens in the fall, so I have to decide if it's better to wait `till after Thanksgiving, and not spoil a family holiday, and then drop the bomb when school resumes.
The problem there is that exams begin right after Thanksgiving.
Great... just what a kid needs at the most important time of the semester. Exams end and everyone leaves to go home for Christmas. Nice Christmas present if I do it before they leave. So I lately break the news before Thanksgiving. That gives the kid a chance to be consoled by his family during a tough time.
There's no good time for bad news.
But one player's bad news is sometimes good news for someone else.
That's a more enjoyable experience for a coach. This fall Chris Akins came to our one day, walk - on tryout and was asked to stay for the fall. By the end of practice I had the pleasurable experience of seeing the smile on Chris' face when I told him he had made the team. It didn't replace the feeling in my stomach from those other player meetings, but it helped.
"So what have you done?"
In the FAU family, I think of the past year for all of us.
It's the first Christmas for Hannah Roig and the second for Eli Pillsbury. Kerwin Belle and his wife are sharing a cold Ontario Christmas Eve with a week old baby girl.
It was the first baseball season of my life without my Mom. Doc Schneider left the dugout for a better seat next to Chuch Richie and Robbie Widlansky's grandfather.
Tony Fossas joined our staff and has made an immediate impact on a group of unknown, inexperienced, but very talented pitchers. He also has become a good friend and will be a great role model for all our players.
My son Jim graduated college and seems to have grown into an adult in the past year. He's a Cooney, so the jury is still out.
My wife, MB, has survived another year as a stay at home Mom for Maggie and Luke. I've never encountered a more patient or understanding person. I guess that's why I'm still around.
The Cali family had a great year. Carmen will head for spring training with a chance to become Tony LaRussa's next Tony Fossas.
Tim Harikkala was rewarded for his good year by being released by the Rockies in a youth movement. But Jill and the kids will get the chance to live in California next year, as The Oakland A's signed Tim last week.
Tommy Murphy had a solid year in Double A and played on the Arizona Fall League championship team. He's now a centerfielder with a good batting average to match his other talents.
"Another year over and a new one just begun"...
What will the new year bring for FAU Baseball? That's part of the excitement of the job. You never know what kids will do. We have a lot of young men who will get the chance to carve their names into the history of our program. I envy them.
There are certain special times in our lives. Most of them only come once. I tell our guys that constantly. This is time that can't be wasted. Our young men are blessed that, at Christmas, their gift is the opportunity to be in college baseball with their friends. Not everyone is so fortunate.
"And so this is Christmas...
There's more to the song. Maybe you've heard it. Writing in the waning days of the Vietnam War, Lennon addresses race relations and the ugly specter of war and the alternative of peace.
30 years later, with young men and women losing life and limb in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lennon's message again becomes relevant.
I was watching Aaron Brown on CNN last night discussing the war with a correspondent assigned to a Marine patrol fighting door to door against the insurgents. My 20 year old son Jeff was on the couch with me. The correspondent was talking about the terror these young Marines faced each day of their young lives. He emphasized that these were kids in their late teens and early 20's; the same age as my son and the college baseball players whose lives revolve around schoolwork and preparing for another season in the pursuit of a trip to Omaha.
Something seems wrong with having so many promising young people faced with the daily prospect of staying alive. And if they survive, how different will their lives be, in light of the horror they experienced? That is the lasting price of going to war.
In this season, where millions celebrate their faith in God, we can't lose the hope that the lives lost and the damage done is not in vain. The special prayer we offer should be for a speedy end to the madness our kids endure.
May everyone find a place in their hearts to pray for the best Christmas or Hanukkah gift any soldier could want...a safe trip back home to his or her family.
Merry Christmas. KC