A Year so Epic, it was 200 Years in the Making

I didn’t really think that a significant increase in the number of life flashbacks was one of the side effects of ALS, but here we are… again. Just so you know, I’m thinking this may be an ongoing issue (at least I hope for a while). 🙂

Yes, another week, another flashback, this time back to 1976. As America was celebrating its Bi-Centennial – she was 200 years young – I was celebrating one of the greatest years of my life. I was 12 years old. Hey, your uncontrollable laughter is not at all helpful in this situation… can you bring it down just a notch? I’ve already had enough of the “you peaked at 12” jokes from my offspring. 🙂

Look, I’ve definitely had some incredible years since. The year I broke the record. The year I got my first car. The year I (ahem, finally) got married. The years each of my kids were born (despite their subsequent ridicule) 🙂 The years (yes, crazy enough, multiple) that I started yet another business. All these years were great, as were many others from various parts of my life… but 1976, that was Wonder Years kind of special.

Recently seeing all the Little League All-Star updates is what caused this particular flashback and the cascade of memories.

To be honest, 1976 was epic for the entire year – there were awesome football, basketball, and track memories, even some great school moments (my questionable interactions there notwithstanding) 🙂 and an incredible roadtrip to Disneyland. But for now I am focused on the All-Star Summer of ’76 and how the game of baseball played a role in some of life’s most important lessons.

In 1976, the incredible triple play of baseball as America’s Game, the zenith of America’s Bi-Centennial celebration, and my personal All-Star Summer all collided in a perfect storm of awesomesauce.

Back then, Hazel Dell Little League was the only game on this side of town (for those who lived it, remember we played out there on those fields across from Lakeshore Elementary? Now sadly a subdivision). And, unlike today where you have multiple All-Star teams of 10, 11, and 12-year-olds, there was a single All-Star team. The entirety of your Little League existence was built on someday making that team – it was a huge deal.

When the All-Star voting dust had settled, we all looked at the roster and knew, with absolute certainty, that we were destined for a deep postseason run. We were pretty loaded. I was joined by some great ballplayers (true westsiders will know these names well), Byron Monahan, Craig Thomas, Todd Swan, Tim Wyche, Glenn Russell, Tom Effinger, Joe Kraemer, Darren Bush, David Chase (RIP, backstop).

I played First base (remember my wishful Gehrig comparison?) 🙂 We had a dominating lefty in Kraemer, a solid innings-eating righty in Effinger, and an overpowering flame thrower in Monahan. We were incredibly strong up the middle with Chase as the backstop, a slick-fielding Wyche at Second, Thomas with range and a cannon at Short, and Swan tracking everything down in Center. And boy, when we were feeling it, we could hit like nobody’s business.

We immediately went out and destroyed Central Longview 15-0 in the Area/District opener. The celebration was on! It was obvious to all of us battle-tested (not!) 12-year-olds that we were going to take this tourney by brute force. It was the worst thing that could have happened. We started believing our own press clippings, got a little out over our skis, and (in my not-so-humble opinion) didn’t start our best available guy on the bump the next game (never save him for a game you may not even play!). I would have gone with Monahan as I think the big guy scared the crap out of most 12-year-olds and we would have blown them away. But, it wasn’t my call. We got down several runs early, seemed shocked that anyone would even try to beat us, and we could never mount a comeback. And just like that, our talented team with so much promise and a ton of (maybe unwarranted?) swagger was bumped from the tourney. The loss stung. As it was not just the end of the season, but an end of an era. We had played and practiced and worked for years to even get to this point… and then so quickly, it was over.

As I think about my current situation in life, and reflect back on 1976, I realize that the old adage “all good things must come to an end” is so brutally true. In that case, we fully expected to beat everyone in our path, but we didn’t. And with that, our good thing had come to an end. Obviously, we were disappointed, but the outcome provided a good life lesson in the hard reality that you don’t always get what you think you deserve. It’s a lesson that has played out often over the years.

Throughout my life, every loss, every failure, each and every time I came away from a situation without my desired outcome, helped to galvanize beliefs that have kept me grounded, kept me centered, and allowed me to persevere. Beliefs that gave me strength when times were at their toughest and when life itself was a struggle. Beliefs that continue to provide me with the ability to power through each day, battling an incurable disease, and facing a myriad of physical and emotional challenges. Those beliefs…

Never get too high in the good times, or too low in the bad – this way you can…

Celebrate all your victories, no matter how small – because…

We are not guaranteed tomorrow.

I cherish these beliefs with the distinct knowledge that sooner than I may think I deserve… all good things must come to an end.

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