They couldn’t be any more different.
Coach and my son.
Coach spends his afternoons and weekends coaching, instructing, and developing high school athletes into skilled baseball players.
It’s his passion. He spent so much of his own life on the baseball diamond fueling his own competitive aspirations. He was drafted right out of high school by the Atlanta Braves.
He was really good. So good he even managed, at the apex of his career, to make it to the “show” with the Cincinnati Reds as Crash Davis referred to the big leagues in the movie “Bull Durham.”
He works endlessly now with young athletes honing their skills and cultivating their talents.
Every day he pours into young men challenging them, pushing them, and encouraging them with the same competitive fire he brought to his own game.
He has watched so many of the players he developed go on to further their careers playing baseball in college. That has to be so satisfying to him as a coach.
My son isn’t one of those skilled athletes. My son isn’t even one of those players.
Cerebral palsy, seizures, and autism have denied my son any opportunity life may have had for him in that arena.
I have long come to terms with that fact. I have laid down my fatherly dreams of playing catch with my son or shooting hoops in the driveway, or ever even swinging a bat together.
Those were exceedingly hard dreams to let go of as a father. A father who spent his own childhood always in the gym, or on the field, playing some form of sports himself. A father who played basketball for his own father in high school.
I still remember when I earned my first varsity letter jacket. I don’t think I took it off for the first year. I remember being measured for my first high school uniform and proudly declaring I wanted number 22.
My son will never have those same experiences. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t feel any remorse or longing whatsoever. Only his dad does.
Everyone in our little town knows the Coach that they see in the afternoons and on weekends on the baseball field.
Very few people know the Coach I see from 8-3 every school day.
Very few people know that Coach is one of my son’s classroom assistants in his Comprehensive Development Classroom. He is the one primarily working with my son all day long while he is at school.
Coach meets us at the car in the mornings to assist us in getting our son with his mobility issues into the school. He works with him throughout the day, assisting him hand-over-hand with every task, every function, and every aspect of his day. He then helps us get my son back to the car and loaded up at the end of the day.
He is my son’s eyes, his hands, his voice, his feet, and rest assured, his back.
I don’t worry about my defenseless, helpless son too much when he is at school because Coach watches out for him.
What a contrast it must be, working with my mobility-impaired, cognitively challenged son during the day, and then working with skilled young athletes in the afternoons.
Recently we all read about the high school special education student in the Midwest who was forced to quit wearing the varsity letter jacket that his parents had purchased for him. “He’s not on the team,” people cried. “He shouldn’t get to wear the jacket.”
I understand both sides of the argument. But my special-needs dad heart broke for that young man and his family.
I was reminded of that this very week.
Earlier this week, as Coach walked my son out to the waiting car, he leaned in, and simply said, “My boy needs a shirt.”
“My boy.” (Oh how I love that!)
Thanks to Coach, my son came home from school the next day with his very own Cavalier baseball t-shirt.
No it’s not a uniform. But we don’t need uniforms to show that we are on the same team.
A simple gesture, but a powerful statement. “He’s one of my boys too.”
A gift that is priceless to me.
How do you put a price on demonstrating dignity, significance, character, and honor?
Sometimes the best lessons a coach can teach don’t involve words. Sometimes, a t-shirt will suffice.
Acceptance makes us all feel like part of the same team.
Thanks Coach. You’re Hall of Fame in my book.
Life lessons for all of us, courtesy of Coach.