Living A Dream

I truly believe we can all be almost anything we want to be.  I think it just takes hard work, perseverance, some creativity, and, maybe, a little luck.  Sometimes, I think, we also have to modify our dreams a little.  Last week, I got to live out, in a sense, one of my childhood dreams.

I always wanted to be a Major League baseball player.  As a kid, I was certain that I’d get there.  I thought that one had to love baseball, unconditionally, in order to be a Big Leaguer.  I certainly met that requirement.  I played baseball all of the time.  If I wasn’t outside having a catch or battling in an epic Wiffle Ball game, I was in my basement throwing rubber balls against the wall and living out imaginary contests as I became each of the Yankees as the ball ricocheted off the cinder blocks.  There was no one better (at least in my world) of making diving catches onto the hard cement floor.  (For some reason it never hurt to dive into the air to catch the rubber ball that was almost speeding by me.)  All of this convinced me that one day I’d be a Yankee.

It wasn’t to be.

Out on real baseball diamonds, around other kids, my baseball skills were lacking.  I didn’t hit all that well.  I had a weak arm.  And it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t even particularly good at fielding.  When I dove for balls outside on the grass and clay of the local baseball fields, I usually missed them.  Sadly, I also missed more than my fair share of balls hit right at me.

Realizing that the Yankees were never going to give me a contract, I set my sights in a different direction: sportscasting.  If I couldn’t be a player, I’d do the next best thing, I’d talk about the players.  I figured that one day I’d either be the Yankees radio play-by-play guy or the next public address announcer at Yankee Stadium.  (I have always set my sights high…for me it was only, and always, about the Yankees.)

The calling of education got in the way of my dreams of being an announcer.  I think was a good thing.  I think (I hope) I’m a better educator than I ever would have been as someone blabbering on the radio.  Still, I often wonder what it would have been like.

It’s funny, I always loved writing.  I write a lot (obviously).  But, I never pictured myself as a baseball writer.  For some reason, I never seriously considered having a job that allowed my written words do my talking about baseball.

And yet, I wrote about baseball a lot.

After some positive feedback on many of my baseball related blog posts, I began to wonder a bit about sports writing.  And, a number of months ago, I secured a position as a part-time writer for “It’s About the Money,” Yankee blog that is part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network.

And through this, I have begun living out small parts of those dreams from long ago…

I have already published a fair number of articles on the Yankees blog.  And, now that the editing of my latest book is completed, and I have finished a lot of the report writing that is the life of a school principal in the spring, I should soon have time to write a bit more.

Then, a week, or so ago, I was part of my first-ever podcast.  In other words, I talked Yankee baseball on the Internet for others to hear.  I was surprised when I received a great deal of positive feedback on my podcast performance.  It was a start.

Next came, my small, and very brief, introduction into the world of sports reporting…

I figured that I needed a venue to learn what is involved in writing about sports live at a professional venue.  And, I found just the right place to start…

My son Ethan has always loved and rooted for Tim Tebow.  We both are sad that he never really made it as a NFL quarterback.  (I tend to root for my children’s favorite players – even though my children are now all adults.  I guess there will always be a part of me that imagines them as little kids.)

For those who may not know, Tim Tebow is now attempting to make a career for himself in baseball.  He was signed by the New York Mets organization.

In order to live out his new dream, Tim Tebow is now playing Minor League baseball.

Last week, Tebow’s team, the Columbia Fireflies, played a series in Lakewood, New Jersey against the BlueClaws.  Since the game was about 90-minutes away, I decided to take Ethan to see this football star trying to make it in baseball.

Before heading down to Lakewood, I contacted the team, and requested a press pass.

I was somewhat shocked and amazed when my request was granted.  After all, this is all brand new to me.  I am figuring it all out.  This proved I was actually considered a sportswriter…

We arrived at the ballpark, purchased Ethan’s ticket (I picked up my pass, and entered the ballpark.  We arrived after the first game of a double header had started.  After all, we couldn’t leave until after school.  And then we had the long drive and the typical Garden State Parkway traffic.

Ethan and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the small stadium.  We ate some stadium food and we saw Tim Tebow bat twice.  He failed to get a hit both times.  We talked baseball together.  We laughed.  I love spending time with Ethan.  This is his last summer before he heads off to college.

I was trying to develop a story for the blog, trying to get a feel for the stadium and sports reporting, when after a short while, Ethan encouraged me to head up to the press box. “That’s what you are here for Dad.”

(I may have reached the age where my kids know more than I do.)

So, I left Ethan in his element, among and with the faithful baseball crowd, and ventured off to what might be my new element.

With my press pass I was admitted into the elevator that brings one to the press box.  I got off the elevator, walked down a short hall, opened the PRESS BOX door and…

And nobody said, “GET OUT!”

Instead, they all seemed to immediately accept me.

I looked around, I saw people working, and I tried to pretend like I had done this all countless times before.  Granted, this was the low Minor Leagues, Single -A, but it was still professional baseball and it was a big step for me.

Just like Tebow, I was getting my start in the minors.

Eventually I introduced myself to the other reporters.  I told them it was my first game. They could probably tell – after all, I was wearing a suit.  I was definitely over-dressed for the occasion.  They smiled.  “Who do you write for Paul?” one reporter asked.  My reply, “The ESPN SweetSpot Network” was met with nods of approval.

I was (I am) a sportswriter.

And so, for a few innings, in the second game of a double header, before it got too late, and we had to head north on New Jersey’s favorite toll road, I sat in the booth with the writers and jotted down notes about the game.  Tim Tebow didn’t play in that second game.  His absence sent some of the reporters home early.  They were there for the big story.  An otherwise ordinary low level minor league game isn’t exactly big media worthy.  My first game wasn’t something that the New York tabloids were interested in covering.

It was an interesting dynamic to be enjoying this new experience, in and among people who were working at their profession.  For them, this wasn’t necessarily something fun, it was their occupation.  While I was able to leave my professional worries at the stadium gates, my fellow writers in the booth were hard at work.  They had stories to write, tales to tell, and deadlines on the horizon.

I crafted a story of my experience that was published on “It’s About The Money.”

Over the summer, I plan to do this as much as I can with Ethan.  We’ll go to some games.  I’ll go up in the booth, he’ll sit with the fans.  I plan to do some reporting on the Yankees minor league players for “It’s About the Money.

But, on this first occasion, I needed to just to see what the whole experience was all about.  I wasn’t quite ready for prime time.  I learned a lot.  Mostly, I learned that this is something I can do.

It was a start, but we all have to start somewhere.

We really can make our dreams a reality.  All it takes is hard work, perseverance, some creativity, and, maybe, a little luck.

Impossible really is an illusion.

The Kid, Home Runs, and Memories

The great Joe Posnanski recently wrote a blog post one of the first great book he ever read, The Kid Who Only Hit Homers.  I often relate to a lot of what Mr. Posnanski writes about, but this was other worldly… that was also the first great book I ever read.

I remember the story exactly.  I went to the Midland Park (New Jersey) Public Library. The children’s section was downstairs.  The shelves were lines with books.  There were so many that I didn’t even know how to begin looking for a book or what I even wanted to read.  To be honest, I don’t even remember why I was at the library, maybe my mother brought me there, but the task of finding anything in this warehouse of books was too overwhelming.  I didn’t even know where to start.

I sort of remember asking the librarian for help.  She asked me what I liked.  Now, that was easy.  I had only one answer – “Baseball.”  The librarian then led me to the Matt Christopher section of books.  “You’ll like these,” she said.  I believe she even handed me The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, if not, that was the book I found and took home.

I loved that book.  I read it cover to cover.  It’s the first real book I ever remember reading.  (The first book I ever read was the classic Crash!, Bang!, Boom! but that was just pictures and sounds put together.  I do remember looking at some of the illustrations, making the sounds in my head and realizing that the letters corresponded to the sounds. That is how I first learned to read.)

After reading The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, Matt Christopher became my first favorite author.  I read many more of his books, but I don’t really remember any of the others.  It was the first one that left an impact.  I’ll forever love The Kid Who Only Hit Homers.

I loved that book so much that when my best friends and I created imaginary baseball teams that played in my back yard, I chose the main character from the book, Sylvester Codmyer, as my right fielder.  (Matt Christopher spelled his last name differently.  I attribute this to my poor abilities as a kid to make the effort to spell anything correctly.)

When we played, we’d assume different batting stances for each player.  Over time these guys developed characteristics.  We’d talk about them as if they were real baseball players.  We kept their stats.  I drew pictures of them and made baseball cards for them.  (This was one serious Wiffle Ball league.)

But Codmyer was the (imaginary) player I loved the most.  He batted fourth and I always gave just a little more effort when he was up.  I know that he led the “league” in home runs and that he became the All-Time Home Run King.

All because of a book…and a smart librarian who knew how to get a little boy excited about reading.

***

With this memory of a book that impacted me as a child, I started to think back and try to recall the imaginary players that were part of my youth; the stars on my Wiffle Ball team some forty years ago.  I wondered if I could still recall the heroes of a young boy’s over-active imagination…

And it proved to be all too simple.

It’s funny, I haven’t thought about these guys in ages, but I guess I’ll never forget them. in a way these guys were as much my baseball heroes as Nettles, Munson, Reggie, and Guidry.  I once had a Wiffle Ball signed by all of these legends.  (The pretend guys, not the real-life Yankees.)

The New York Red Birds

P – Righty Henderson

C – Lefty Johnson

1B- Jim Friendly

2B – Shawn Maloney

SS – Jim Duffy (He was a switch hitter, which was funny because the only kids I knew threw right-handed.)

3B – Sid Grayson (I am quite certain I got his name out of a children’s book as well, but I’d be darned if I remember which one.  I knew I also had book by John R. Tunis, The Kid Comes Back, but for whatever reason I could never get into it.  The story proved elusive to me.  I tried to read it countless times but never got past the first few pages.

LF – Sam Wings (He batted like Reggie Jackson)

CF – Joe Glass (He batted like Oscar Gamble)

RF – Sylvester Codmyer (He batted like me.)

When we played Wiffle Ball, I was, of course all the players, but I think I was mostly Sylvester Codmyer.

The fact that I remember all of this makes me think that maybe there is still a (big) part of me that never really wants to grow up.

A Sense of Wonder

I came across a passage that suggested that we should always “maintain a sense of wonder” in our lives.  I love the idea of seeking wonder, or magic, in the mundane.  

Life isn’t always about the things we have to do, and even when it is, that doesn’t preclude us from seeking the good and something special in every situation.  This is important to recognize and acknowledge because there can be good everywhere and at any time.  It’s simply about maintaining that sense of wonder.

 I think, often, that we rush through our lives.  We get so busy shuttling ourselves and our kids back and forth to so many activities and events that we often don’t stop to appreciate each of these experiences.  We get so caught up in rushing around that we really don’t even consider what it is that we are going to and from.  All we know is that we’re rushing and there is something more to do.

As I consider this, I’m not advocating doing less.  That’s not in my nature or character.  I can’t do less.  (In fact, I’m always trying to do more.)  But, I am suggesting that we add an element of attentiveness to the activities that we are participating in because when we do this, the activities become more meaningful. 

Maintaining a sense of wonder (or looking for good in the mundane) isn’t easy to do:

 – It isn’t easy to find the good as your kid is playing right field, and then striking out three times on a forty-two-degree day in early April. 

 – It isn’t easy to do when your child is struggling through word problems with a tutor. 

 – It isn’t easy to do when you are at one location and know you need to be somewhere else. 

 – And it isn’t easy to do when you have other obligations that are all screaming for your attention. 

But I am saying that we should try, because there is always another perspective:

 – That child playing right field is part of a team.  That’s something special.  She wears a uniform (or a t-shirt) that signifies that she’s on that team.  That’s also something special.  There is something good and valuable and wonderful about being on a team.  And, while it seems that teams and games will be part of your child’s life (and your lives) seemingly forever, it’s not.  It all ends, far too quickly. 

 – There’s also something special about struggling through any endeavor, even word problems.  In the example above, watching a child struggle can be frustrating for a parent.  But it is that very struggle that teaches the child such important life skills as perseverance and tenacity.  And, when the child finally succeeds; well there is magic in that.  That’s learning.  Throughout that child’s life there will always be struggles and things he has to work through in order to understand.  There is good there.  When we take the time to maintain a sense of wonder, we remember and recognize that.

 – As for the other obligations that are all screaming for our attention, the sad truth is, most often, they can wait.  The text, the phone call, the e-mail…most often, they can wait.  And there is a benefit to this because if we rid ourselves of unnecessary distractions, it allows us the space and time to maintain the sense of wonder in our lives and in our children’s lives.

 And, when it comes to our children especially, there is so much wonder there, that our focus should always be on capturing it, gathering it, and cherishing all of it in our hearts!

Always.

Where will you find the wonder today?

 

A Little Lesson in Latin

(This passage comes from my upcoming book of essays, “Impossible is an Illusion” which will be published by Ravenswood Publishers in May 2017.)

There is a Latin phrase that reads, “Crede quod habes, et habes.” 

This can be translated as, “Believe that you have it, and you have it.” 

As we look to find ways to (continually) improve student performance, the key might be in that little Latin phrase.

“Believe that you can do it.”

I have always found that by telling people they can do things, they have found that they can… do things.  It’s a pretty simple formula.  When you think you can, you can.  Confidence and belief are strong motivators.

I know when people have believed in me, I have often tried very hard to make their belief a reality.  Most often I have rewarded their belief by achieving what they thought was possible, which was not necessarily what I thought was possible.

As I think of many of my life’s “accomplishments,” each time there was a person, or people, that said, “Paul, you can do it.”  These encouragers made me believe in myself. 

Today, when I have self doubt about being able to accomplish a task, I think about the faith others have in me.  This often leads me to say to myself, “You can do it.”  And I usually do!

Next fall, I’ll be struggling on the streets of New York City as I run the New York City Marathon.  There is something glorious, magical, wonderful (and horrible, painful, upsetting, and ugly) about struggling through the New York City Marathon.  I will be ready for the race, but throughout the long training process I often have to tell myself, “You can do it.”  Along with this, I have family members and friends who encourage me in times of doubt.  And don’t be fooled, no matter how good my training, no matter how prepared I might be, there are always periods of doubt.

I have participated in many races and have been a spectator at many others.  You might be surprised but an encouraging word, even from a stranger, such as,  “YOU CAN DO IT!” or “YOU LOOK GREAT” or “I BELIEVE IN YOU” can have an amazing impact on a runner’s state of mind – even when he is in the depth of misery.  Words like that have helped me find something deep inside and push through the disbelief in myself.

BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE IT, AND YOU HAVE IT.

Could it be possible that these nine English words (or six Latin words) hold the ultimate key to success?

If strangers can impact on a runner’s performance (and I know that this helps many, not just me), imagine the impact of a child’s teacher?  We have said, often, that the teacher is one of the biggest influencers in a child’s life.  Our words are powerful.  Our actions speak volumes.

Imagine then, the power of these words spoken to individuals and groups:

BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT, AND YOU CAN DO IT.

In 1973, the New York Mets had a remarkable pennant run that was inspired, in part, from the words of pitcher Tug McGraw.  He said simply, “Ya Gotta Believe.”

The Mets did believe – and they took that belief all the way to the World Series against the longest of odds. 

As we create ignition for children, as we inspire them to learn, as we motivate them, we must remember to continually tell them:

“YOU CAN DO IT!”

Then, take it even one step further.  Tell them not just that they can do it, but, tell them

“I BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT,” and “I BELIEVE IN YOU.”

Those just might be the most powerful words any person can tell another person. 

“I believe in you.”

When we tell our students that we believe in them, they will believe us and believe in themselves.  They will give that extra effort.  They will rise above their own fears or skepticism. 

The results will be spectacular!

Birthdays

January 21 will be here soon.  It’s a big day for some people.  Many famous people were born on January 21. 

These include:

Charles V, King of France, born on January 21, in 1338

Ethan Allen, a famous American general, in 1738

John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder,” in 1813

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederate General, in 1824

Christian Dior, fashion designer, in 1905 Continue reading “Birthdays”

Impossible is an Illusion

The first published collection of my motivational writings will be titled “Impossible is an Illusion.” This work will contain more than 40 of my best essays and will be published by Ravenswood Publishing.  This book of inspiration will be available beginning May 20, 2017.

The title for the book comes from the following essay.

Impossible is an Illusion

I’m an optimist.  I always believe that good will prevail.  I look to the bright side.  The glass is half full – even when it is half-empty.  I believe in miracles.  Hope springs eternal.

Continue reading “Impossible is an Illusion”

Missing?

Some readers of this blog have wondered where I have gone.  It seems I’ve gone missing…but, in actuality, I’m right here.

When one is a writer, he writes.  And I have been writing a lot, just not on this blog.  It’s a temporary absence because of some great writing news.

Continue reading “Missing?”