Friday, June 20, 2003

Why we teach, coach, and parent 

Perseverance. What a lesson! Baseball. What a metaphor! With all due respect to the Fraters� love of hockey, no major team sport comes close to Abner�s game in underscoring the importance of individual effort.

Following his death earlier this week, we honor the struggles overcome by Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the American League. From the playgrounds of Patterson, NJ, Doby rose to stardom with the Cleveland Indians. He was signed by Bill Veeck just six weeks after Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today a young man from a different generation also deserves our respect for his perseverance on the diamond. Early in the spring of 1997, he was still only 14 years old when he became the best friend of our younger son. Watching him throw curves in our front yard, you knew even then that he had special athletic talent. In his high school years here in Minnesota, he won All-Conference honors in both hockey and football. But he excelled at baseball, earning All-State kudos and playing in our state�s All-Star games.

In the fall of 2000, this young man matriculated to Stanford, hoping to pitch for the Cardinal (formerly known as the Indians). During his entire Freshman year, he saw no game action. He got to travel to Omaha in June, 2001, for Stanford�s appearance in the College World Series, but he was not allowed to suit up or even sit in the dugout. The next year, the sophomore did appear in 9 games for a total of only 12 innings; and he did not see any post-season action as the Cardinal advanced again to Omaha.

But the young man would not give up his dream. Those in St. Cloud, MN, who follow the River Bats during the summer may remember this right-hander who pitched at Dick Putz Field last summer for the Rochester (MN) Honkers. Perseverance finally paid off this spring, during the young man�s junior year at Stanford. With a 6-1 regular-season record, he appeared Tuesday in the Cardinal�s CWS elimination-game win over South Carolina at Rosenblatt Stadium.

But last night his dream truly became reality. Still facing elimination by the Cal State-Fullerton Titans, the young man relieved a Freshman lefty (who scored a perfect 800 on his Math SAT) in the bottom of the sixth inning. Pitching out of jam after jam on national television, the young man scattered three hits and four walks over 4 1/3 scoreless innings, until his team finally caught up and eventually won the game 7-5 in the tenth inning.

This weekend in Omaha, Stanford faces Rice in a two-out-of-three series for the national crown. Our younger son reports that the young man�s arm is hurting big time this morning; but he thinks he should be able to contribute by Sunday. Look for Minnesota�s own #19, David O�Hagan to hurl for the Cardinal sometime against the Owls.

Perseverance pays. It�s what we teach. And living vicariously through the successes of the next generation is why we teach, why we coach, and why we parent.