I don’t often wax nostalgic but it is summertime and every year around now I reflect back on some of the best years of my life. I was a road warrior. I travelled every week, which put a lot of stress on my wife and irritated the hell out of my kids. I also loved baseball and coaching baseball. And, you’re thinking to yourself, how is he going to weave baseball into this?
There is nothing quite like the first practice with a new batch of 14 and 15 year old kids. Talk about trying to herd cats! There is always a collection of kids who love baseball and have real talent, day dreamers, rebels and soon to be delinquents. The fun of doing this is figuring out how to bring the varied personalities together for 2 hours so that everybody has their head in the practice or the game. If you’ve done it you know that the task isn’t easy.
The summer of 1987 was hotter than a gangster’s pistol, which made it great for night baseball. The first night of practice was an eye opener for myself and a good friend who coached with me. We saw that we had some real talent. It was also a crazy summer of travel for me. I made up my mind that I was going to do whatever it took to make most of the games to include traveling from where I was working to home in order to coach and then leave the next day back to the city where I was working. For these mid-week travel nightmares I used frequent flyer miles. And oh what a summer it was!
We won the majority of our games. The kids and coaches were really into the experience. Some teams just have a feel for how good they are and they play to that level. The kids were having fun, they were competitive and they wanted to win. (Hmmm, kind of like a sales organization!) The championship game was a classic. The night was beautiful, the two best teams were playing for the title, we were playing under the lights on real grass. To a basaball fanatic this is as close to heaven as it gets. (Picture Field of Dreams.) To make it even better the game was a classic. People lined the fences to see what all the excitement was about. My son and the son of the other coach were best friends and both were instrumental in helping the team win this game 5-4.
After the game I just stood there and took in the moment. Fifteen happy kids and parents, dirt and sweat all over the players, two good freinds high-fiving each other, two coaches shaking hands sensing that the boys of summer have the best job on the planet earth. I caught some quiet time later that night and thought about the life of a sales manager who is on the road week in and week out. Yes, I was a little smug. I was happy knowing that I had balanced my life, successfully, between business and travel. Did it take a toll? By the end of the summer I felt like I had been ridden hard and put away wet but the smiles made it worth it!
I was fortunate to repeat the same process with my daughter who played softball. And here is the cool part of that. Her team won their championship game almost 5 years to the day that my son’s team won. How lucky can one dad be?
Footnote: Our son has two kids and although he does not travel every week he does everything humanly possible to make his daughter’s school events and other activities. I have a feeling that he’ll be doing this during future baseball seasons as well.
The Final Word: Our lives are a mixture of different roles. Most of us are doing the best we can to find whatever the right balance is. For me that balance is family, work, service. Hilary Clinton