A Love Letter to Alicia Abbadessa

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I see you Alicia. I love, love, love your team-matching blue nail polish and how your hair is just slightly starting to frizz in the August heat of Williamsport, PA. I feel a sisterhood with you. How you put your head down and plug your ears as your son Jude Abedessa, one of the stars of the Maine-Endwell Little League team in this year’s Little League World Series, takes the mound. This is no regular day at the field. ESPN is here. A lot of people are watching.

We baseball moms can appreciate what it must have taken to get you and your son to this place. The years of practices, the driving, the piles of muddy baseball uniforms, the meal planning, the schedule juggling, the wins, the losses, the physical and emotional toll. You are every one of us.

I  admire how you seek to protect your own peace. In an interview with your local WBNG TV station you said:”Honestly, that’s what I always do when Jude takes the mound. I think I feel more pressure than he does.” Of course you do. You know that no matter his age or his talent, to you, that’s still a tiny tee-baller out there.

I know where you come from because I come from the same place.  A sleepy little Upstate New York town near where a little company called IBM started and changed the world. As you well know, most of IBM and many of the jobs are gone from that area now. So are most of my friends who like me, have long since moved on to bigger cities like Baltimore, Washington and New York. I think you have to be from there to understand just what it means to bring this kind of an honor to that area. How sometimes Endwell seems forgotten or past its prime. How much of a joy it is to see that from an ordinary place, come such extraordinary kids and parents.

It has to be more than just pure baseball talent that brought your son’s team to the Little League World Series. They had to have been taught to work as a brotherhood. To respect the game. To dedicate themselves. They must have learned that from parents like you.

My son’s grandmother lives just up the street from your son’s home field. Every time we drive by he says “There’s the sign, Mom. Home of Maine-Endwell Little League. New York State Little League Champions.” As a baseball brother, he always pauses with reverence and looks at the silent field saying, “I bet they dominate out there.”

Today the rest of the world got to see what your son’s team does as they became the 2016 United States Little League Champions. You know it is their victory, but it is yours too – and certainly a victory for everyone in Maine-Endwell.

Baseball can do that.

We can’t wait for the next time we drive by that sign and it reads:

“Maine-Endwell Little League. World Champions.”

But, like you said in the interview with WBNG-TV

“Win or lose, as long as they play their game, and they know they played their game and they stick together like they have, it’s a victory no matter what the outcome is. They’re winners in everyone’s eyes.”

In the meantime, I’m glad I got to know you, Alicia, if only vicariously. I felt like I was sitting next to you in those bleachers. You know us baseball moms are rooting for you. Thanks for doing us proud.

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Baseball Lessons for Life

It was so hot one day that a team waiting for the next game in the tournament removed their shirts and sat in a group in the shade of a pine tree. “Oh my God, they took of their shirts,” I said to one of the Moms who spun around but was quickly disappointed to see the scrawny chests of a group of 11-year old boys. “Ohhhhh” she said, laughing “I didn’t think you meant THEM.” Smile. I was cowering from the sun behind a tiny beach umbrella that I had fastened to my chair. My husband was leaning against the fence, melting. Someone noticed and called out “Do you need anything?” to which he replied “Yes. One more out.” A spectator was whipping around a soaked towel sending refreshing droplets of ice water all over the crowd.

“Come on EASY OUT here!” a parent yelled.”Just play catch with him. Throw it right there into his glove!” yelled another, stating the obvious. “Hey GET YER ELBOW UP BOY!” “Hey, you are COLLAPSING HERE!” “Just like in the batting cage! Come ON!” “This pitcher has nothing, you got this!”No EXCUSES.” “They do NOT RESPECT YOU out there!” “UN-believable.” Eye roll concealed behind sunglasses.

Suddenly, an errant fly ball seemed to seek out and find the most vulnerable target: the cheekbone of the seven-year old sister of one of the players who was practicing ballet pirouttes a bit too close to the foul line. Fortunately, she was OK, but her love of baseball seemed to wane after that.

That was just one day. There have been many days. Some have involved injuries with blood and purple bruises and red brush burns and concussion tests and ice packs and Band-aids.Some have involved parents screaming over the game, over the other team, over their kid, over the state of their marriage. Some days the balls flew off the bats and guys crossed the plate, kicking up a cloud of dust, one run, two runs, three runs in a row. Some days our boys hoisted shiny gold trophies and smiled for the cameras. Other days their team name was at the bottom. The tournament record 0-6 as we walked silently back to our cars. Some days were so cold that the field seemed to crack and the damp early Spring wind stabbed sharply through thick winter coats. Some were so hot that you could see the heat rise up from the infield in a clear zig-zag shimmer. Some days I was starving, thirsty, exhausted, frustrated, anxious and sunburned waiting to record that final out, only to hear “Ball four take your base.” Expletive under my breath.

As much as I love baseball, there were days that I thought “Why are we here?”

But then, I know why.

Not just to “win” (although I will admit, winning is a lot more fun than losing)

Not just to “have fun.”

But for my son to learn the invaluable life lessons offered through playing the game of baseball.

Lessons like:

How to work with others on a team towards a common goal.

How to use a strong work ethic to improve one’s skills.

How focused effort can create concrete results.

How to handle high-pressure and stressful situations.

How to handle failure, disappointment and defeat.

How to be humble and gracious in victory.

How to tune out negative comments and negative people.

How to keep emotions in check.

How to tap the strength to push through challenges.

How others opinions do not define who you are.

How there really is an objective reality that is not subject to individual interpretation.

How you must make your own name, instead of only following in the footsteps of others.

How we don’t always get what we want or think we deserve.

How to respectfully disagree with others who may have a different point-of-view.

How to learn to plan and anticipate.

How to read people.

How to adjust to quickly-changing circumstances.

How to have patience.

How to match your behavior to rules of etiquette.

How to know when to take risks (and when not to).

How to persevere through frustration, injury or loss.

Mastering these skills is so much bigger than learning to hit, throw, catch and field. And best of all, they last a lifetime.

That’s why we are out here.