My recent preparation for retirement from a career in law enforcement has graciously given me more time to reconnect with my wife and family. Athletes, especially baseball players, spend huge chunks of valuable time away from family. This is a sacrifice that is not without consequence. Perhaps the money they make helps assuage their lack of time with children and their spouse, perhaps not.
I met my wife at a local university through mutual contacts in the fraternity and sorority environment. I learned that she was majoring in elementary education with an emphasis in special education. I thought nothing of it at the time but I was drawn to her compassion for the “underdogs” if you will, in society. In high school we referred to them as “Speds” , an ignorant disrespectful combination of the very words that would be on my wife‘s college diploma. “Retard” I would learn was perhaps the worst word one could use to describe the mentally handicapped. I learned that the hard way, and repeatedly.
As a person goes through life there are milestones of achievement that occur because of outside inspiration. Many times that achievement comes and goes without immediate credit being given. Eventually, a person steps back to consider the path he chose and how he got there. I was always naturally rooting for the underdog. My cousin, was afflicted with cystic fibrosis, a particularly debilitating disease of the respiratory system. She was always battling infection and had to be “percussed”, struck on the back and sides with a cupped hand, in order to dislodge mucous in her lungs. She lived, in my mind, a rather miserable life of constant sickness and passed away at the age of fourteen. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease which became important to me when I learned that my cousin had been adopted by my aunt and uncle. The sacrifices they made for her in time and finances inspired me to take full advantage of my resources and my health.
Life lessons like this I believe gave me the ability to over achieve beyond my natural abilities. I learned to fly at the age of sixteen. I took my grandmother on her first and last airplane ride at the age of seventeen. I had a brief stint in air traffic control and then married my wife and we took a job as house parents for nine severe and profound mentally retarded clients. I then began a successful career in law enforcement. Throughout those years, my wife consistently taught and cared for the “underdogs”. She currently has a class of autistic children. Autism is a developmental disability that affects, often severely, a person’s ability to communicate and socially interact with others. It is four times more prevalent in males than females. There are numerous famous athletes who’s children or family members are afflicted with this disability. They include: Tom Bradley (Defensice Co-ordinator at Penn State University), David Eckstein, St. Louis Cardinals, Ernie Els, PGA Golfer, 1994 & 1997 US Open, Doug Flutie, former NFL Quarterback, Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves, Paul Posluzsny, Buffalo Bills, and Curt Warner, former NFL Player. There are many many more.
Perhaps you are asking, “So why are you writing this in the Off-Topic Dugout?” This entire site is dedicated to perfecting the art and science of pitching and its related topics. I am constantly amazed at the extent to which individuals have invested their time in the achievement of this goal. My hope is that you will think about those inspirations in your life as I have shared above and that those thoughts will refresh your commitment to your dreams. In that way, the “weak” in our society become strong and those who seem to lack purpose become the fuel that lights “olympic flames” worldwide.