As many know from reading more than one "Voice from the Bullpen," I enjoy looking back at times and experiences that have made up my life. Many of them are very special to me, but in remembering the special events and moments, sometimes I forget the people who made and make those memories special. This past week, I was reminded just how many people have made up this wonderful life I've been honored to live.
On most Saturdays, I spend a couple hours catching up with some very good friends over coffee at a local establishment. The time we spend together lets us talk about this or that; what's happening in our lives; who's sick; how the Yankees, Indians and Browns will do this year; but mostly it's an extension of the couple of hours a week we used to spend visiting a friend of ours whom we lost to cancer six years ago. We got so used to those two hours or so each week that we wanted to keep it going in honor of John, and it's a special time for us. Obviously though, it wouldn't matter if not for my friends being there to share that time. Those experiences with my close friends are priceless.
Back in the '80s and '90s, we hosted players in the Babe Ruth World Series. It was a blast! Our daughters were young and loved having "big brothers" for the duration of the players' stay. The other host parents of the team we housed and we became a very close-knit group and the experience was made more special because of those host parents and parents of the players who made the trip to Jamestown for the tournament. Many of those parents we've kept in contact with through these many years after those experiences. Sharing these experiences with so many special people was priceless.
Jon's high school baseball, basketball and soccer experiences and college baseball experiences gave Sally and me opportunities to meet some very wonderful people whom we've become extremely close to and continued our friendship long after the playing days have been over. These people were great with whom to share cold weather, booster club activities and the graduations of our sons. The experience of being there to watch our son play was wonderful but sharing them with all of those friends we made, and still have, was priceless.
I had the opportunity to bring three groups of youth baseball players to Cooperstown to play tournaments at the Cooperstown Dreams Park in three consecutive years. I met some terrific people associated with the teams I coached and also met some great people from all over the country representing teams playing in the same tournaments with us. Many of the friendships I shared the Cooperstown experience with continued as I coached travel teams for many years after that. I had great times with the kids on all those teams, but I also made wonderful friendships with some of the parents and coaches with whom I shared those experiences. Just being a part of those opportunities was great. Creating so many great friendships, which remain strong today, is priceless.
Since I began penning the "Voice from the Bullpen" I've made a new friend whom I've yet to meet in person, but a friend nonetheless. This woman has had some difficult times in her life but keeps fighting back and has dedicated herself to the service to others by going into adult homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, bringing gifts of music and comedy to the residents of those places. We've communicated by postal mail for about three years, as she's an avid reader of the "Bullpen" and writes to me sharing some of her experiences which relate to some of my columns. You might say we're "pen pals." She called me recently after she was printed in The Post-Journal. During our conversation, she put the phone next to her piano and played an absolutely wonderful rendition of "Oh Danny Boy." Her stories are inspiring, her music wonderful and the new friendship I made is priceless.
I belong to some social clubs in the area, some sports fan clubs, my umpires' association, I coach a high school softball team, I'm somewhat active in my church, I volunteer at the Jackson Center, and in all these situations, the enjoyment comes from interacting with so many great people who make each of those situations priceless.
Then there were and are my teaching experiences. I worked for, and with, many outstanding people. We didn't always see things eye-to-eye, but I made so many special friendships with so many wonderful, special people whom I cherish dearly. My time spent with all of these people was and is definitely priceless.
That brings me to the young people I've had the opportunity to teach and coach. I know I wasn't all those young people's "cup of tea." Some bought into what I did as a teacher and coach and some didn't. Yes, there were some trying times, but many fun times, great times, overall making my time spent with youth priceless.
And then there's my family. Definitely very priceless! Enough said!
I recently celebrated my 59th birthday. The outpouring of wishes from so many family members, friends, past classmates and colleagues, and former and current students and players was overwhelming. With every wish, I thought of one or more experiences in my life shared with each one of those people. It was definitely a chance for me to realize that the riches in my life don't include what I have, but rather who I have in it.