I haven't been on TFP for a couple years as I have been buying a flooring store/coaching baseball/watching baseball/basketball/installing. I have missed you guys, and now that Zach, my youngest of two kids, and only boy is packing up for college I think I will have more time to sit with my laptop and get back to my online-buddies-that-get-me... Everyone asks what it will be like to be empty nesters. I'm not too worried about it, except I will miss the baseball talk with the kid. The last legion tourney was played a few weeks ago. I woke up the next morning and was overwhelmed with emotion so I wrote this... Well...yesterday Zach closed a chapter on his life. He played in the last game of his childhood baseball career. These thoughts/moments just keep running through my head: 1. When I encouraged him to give up soccer for 1 summer when he was 10 and give baseball a try...he didn't want to. I saw the look in his eye during his first game in Roseau, playing catcher, and tagging out a kid at home to save a run and win the game. I knew he was hooked! My heart leapt when I knew we had OUR thing!! 2. The last game of our 11's State Tourney in Moorhead. It was disappointing as we lost our first two games and were out of the tournament on the first day. It was one of those perfect summer nights: 75 degrees, slight breeze, game ending at about 9PM in July. He pitched the whole game, lost 4-3, or 6-5, or something like that but was beaming as we left the fields. One of the opposing team’s dad congratulated him on a game well pitched. Stacy said as we walked into the parking lot that that must feel real good. He said “Yeah, it’s OK...but it was GREAT that we ALL got to play in the last game. These are my buddies!” 3. When he was 12 we had our State Tournament in Crookston. He threw a complete game against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton who seemed especially confident coming into the tournament. In the 3rd or 4th inning, Kobe Balmer mentioned that he thought Zach had gotten all the outs so far at the plate...all strike outs. It was so exciting to see the kids cheering him on as he got strike out after strike out. He gave up a run on a walk, passed ball, and a hit, but we won the game 3-1 to move to the next level of the tourney. In the end he pitched 18 strike outs in a 6-inning game. There were some awful proud parents, me in the dugout, Stacy in the stands. (Thank you, Hunter Tabatt, for your glove breaking at first base. If it wouldn’t have, you would have made an out, and it would have been a less-tumultuous 17- strike out game. And thank you Kaleb Flaagan, for catching a great game and keeping him in control.) 4. During all these early years, we played Whiffle in the backyard almost every day. I told him that I am very competitive, and I would never let him win. In fact, I would crush him if I could. This was obviously difficult for him early on, as I could see the frustration, and sometimes anger, that would manifest when I would hit 6 or 7 homeruns in a row to win our 3 inning games. We would ALWAYS sit on the swing and discuss our “performances” afterwards no matter how angry he was. I would explain why I was able to hit those homeruns...he would lose focus and throw hard, but straight. “You GOTTA zoom in(meaning pick a spot/aim small, miss small/FOCUS!), a fist on my forehead, simulating a telescope adjustment, was the signal to let go of the frustration and get back to work. Sometimes, I wonder if I this was bad parenting, but I saw him turn into an even-keeled competitor and young man so I think I stumbled upon something good. We will see. 5. When Zach was in 10th grade he played his first season of Varsity baseball. The VERY first game, in fact his very first at bat, Stacy and I were in the stands and decided to run back to the car for sweatshirts. As we were just walking behind the left field fence Zach came to bat. We stopped and watched. Stacy said something so WACKY I still can’t believe it. She said,”He’s gonna hit me a homerun.” I said something like, yeah right. The next pitch was a line drive to the left fielder that just kept coming, coming, coming...it cleared the fence by a foot, bounced and I caught it!! We looked at each other and thought, “...and then a million dollars fell from the sky…?” I threw the ball back in like a good coach...GAAAAAAA!! I should have stuck it in my pocket and taken it home. He ended that day making 2 great catches in left that anyone would have been proud of! We were strutting all the way back to the stands. I don’t think we needed sweatshirts after that. 6. I have grown up with this kid, as much as he has grown up. Me as a coach and a dad, him into a young man. He’s always the last one out of the dugout...I still don’t know why but I’m guessing it’s where he wants to be, so what’s the hurry? It’s how I feel also. 7. I coached other teams during this “career” of his. I don’t know how he felt about that but he never complained when I missed a game, and I’m hoping he is a more self-reliant, confident kid because of it. 8. Zach has played baseball with a group of kids that he considers HIS team. He played basketball all the way through, also, but it wasn’t the same. These kids are forever in my heart, also. I coached, or helped coach them as 10’s, 11’s, 12’s, 8th graders, and 15 year old’s. The group of parents have been normal. Fun, but normal ...advocating for their own kid, but team players, none the less. It’s been a blast, and I hope I didn’t disappoint as a coach and fellow parent. 9. He ended his last Legion season game taking over for Hunter at first. He hadn’t played first before, ever. He now played every position!! Sweet! He caught a couple pop-ups, made a diving catch and doubled up the runner at first. OMG, it was cool. His last at bat he got plunked in the ribs by the pitch. He trotted down to first. Oh well...it’s a way to get on, I can hear him say. I hope he takes that attitude with him in life, as well as all the other little life lessons that baseball provides. He’s very coachable and he’s been paying attention. He’s gonna be fine. That's him pitching in the Detroit Lakes, MN tourney 2 weeks ago.