Friday, April 18, 2014

Alex...the journey from the baseball mound to the tennis court

Ever since this boy was two years old he has been passionate about baseball.  He's talked for years about how he was going to grow up to be a professional baseball player.  Our family has sat in the wind, rain, sun, and cold each season while Alex played his heart out on the field.  His first coach was his dad on the YMCA summer league, soon he was playing Little League, and then Junior High ball, and then last year he made it on the C-Team for the High School.  This year he started warming up his pitching arm and weight strengthening so his shoulder would be strong enough to hold out the whole season.  Alex was elated when he made it on the JV Baseball team at high school!

Probably around the Little League years is when we started to notice a difference with some of the kids on the team.  By the time Alex was on the junior high team their was a whole lot of bad language being thrown around by the teammates and even the coach.  The bus trips brought new filth with pornography on phones.  It started to become harder to play the game and not be affected by the crud that seems to be linked with the sport of baseball.

Last year Alex had a really terrific coach and we appreciated his effort to set the bar a little higher for the teammates.  Alex had opportunities to set an example in what movies would watch and even hard choices to make in not playing a couple of games in order to attend a youth church event.

This year Alex really wanted to make the JV team.  He LOVES to pitch and has really done a great job as a lefty pitcher all these years.  On the final day of tryouts Alex came home beaming when he had made it on the JV team.  Alex has always loved uniforms and was so excited with his new JV uniform.  One night about three weeks into the season Alex was working on his homework in the kitchen while Birch and I were cleaning up after dinner.  Alex just broke down in sobs.  Through tears he explained that the filth on the team was just unbearable.  He couldn't stand the language but even more the subjects that the teammates talked about ALL THE TIME.  Baseball had gone from his favorite time of the day to a time that he absolutely dreaded.  He was in a deep emotional, mental, and spiritual conflict as he was struggling with what he should do.  He knew that we had just spent $85 on his baseball gear and had just been in team pictures.  After talking together Alex decided that he wanted to confront the team and ask them to raise the bar in their standards.

Monday afternoon Alex went early to practice and spoke with his coach.  His coach was appalled to hear what the team was doing and hadn't suspected that it was as bad as Alex depicted.  His coach went and got the other three head coaches and gave them some background to the situation.  Alex was then able to share with all of them what had been going on and his desire to quit the team.  After several days pondering what to do he was given the opportunity to join the high school tennis team mid-season.  The first few days coming home from tennis practice I seriously thought his face would crack with how huge his smile was.  Alex has been on cloud-nine ever since he followed his Christian standards.

Alex wrote this email to his grandma:

Hey Grannie,

Sorry I haven't responded yet! Well the first week of tennis was AMAZING! I love it! I am really starting to get the hang of it and I have even started practicing with the varsity a couple of times. It is such a better atmosphere for me, less pressure, and everybody is very kind and I have been making some new friends!

On (last) Wednesday I had my first practice and then Thursday and Friday I played in 3 matches total! It was defiantly a learning experience and I look forward to the next one. I had to borrow a racquet for a couple of days while my new one was coming in the mail. It is awesome!! It has been nice for the rest of my family (especially for my mother) because practices get done at 4:30 and there is much less of a time commitment.
I never ended up speaking to my teammates as a whole, but I had a very nice conversation with my coach about the issue, he was supportive of whatever decision I decided to make and then he talked with the other coaches and had me talk to them about my decision. They acted "surprised" and told be they were sickened of what they guys were talking about/doing. Part of me didn't really believe them because of course they know what they do. Anyways, they told me to take a couple of days off and think about my decision. Of course I said I would but I already knew, felt what the right decision for me is. After that I had a couple other nice conversations with my coach, he told me he wanted a tennis schedule so he could come watch me and stuff like that. I did have the opportunity to talk to some of my teammates individually about why I decided to quit. They always responded, "we need you!" It made me feel good but I knew it wasn't the right place for me to be in.
I often think about the baseball field, the grass perfectly cut and the smell of damp dirt; my old home. And sometimes I long to be on the mound, delivering a fastball to the plate, and sending the batter back to the dug out. But I have a new home, its me throwing that fuzzy green ball up in the air, then striking it with all my might, sending it over to enemy territory beginning a new journey. A journey called tennis. This is what Heavenly Father wants me and this is where I am happy.
My Dad reminded me of a scripture in D&C 9:7-9. It is explaining the process of asking/ receiving revelation. I was having a hard time being confident of the decision I made. In those verses it describes have a stupor of thought, etc..  and I realized that by being excited to play tennis and starting something new, it was the choice that Heavenly Father wanted me to make.
I am so grateful for your support and I know that The Lord hears and answers our prayers. And he has a plan for us to give us eternal happiness.

Love, Alex
And so Alex ends his "professional" dreams of baseball.  We've reminded him several times that he'll have more opportunities to play baseball on intramural college and community teams.  He was asked to share his testimony in Stake Conference (spontaneous) and he bore such a strong testimony and shared how his decision to quit baseball has really strengthened himself spiritually.  He has a great confidence about him and beams with knowing he is choosing the right.

A little trip down memory lane....

On to a new era of tennis...
After just one practice Alex played his first match.  Luckily, he had had one week of tennis lessons this past summer by a wonderful friend.  She took Alex under her wing and gave him a private lesson and even lent a tennis racket to him for the first few weeks of the season until his new racket arrived in the mail.

Alex has been able to play on the Varsity team for a few matches.  He is constantly remarking at how polite the kids are on the team.  Last weekend a couple of teammates even invited him to go see a new Christian movie at the theater.  Talk about a change in caliber of character of teammates!  Alex is loving not standing alone!  Although, it was heart-wrenching for Birch and I to see Alex is such turmoil, I'm not sure I would trade the strength that Alex has gained in character and his testimony through this experience.  Now the kids are out on the driveway in the afternoon playing tennis together and begging on Saturdays to head to the courts.

Alex is a pretty cool kid...
I'm a proud Momma!


Unknown said...

What an example he is for our ward and me! I am glad he had the courage to stand strong. Thanks for sharing!

MaryJane said...

Awesome young man. I'm proud of you, Alex.

Julie said...

This post brings tears to my eyes. He is awesome and I'm so glad he made a choice that brings him true and lasting happiness. You've every reason to be PROUD!! :)

Leah said...

You rock Alex!!