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Journeys of balls, strikes and life lessons well worth it

This weekend my family and I will embark on the beginning of the end of a journey that will have taken us through five summers, countless different cities, untold numbers of dollars spent and God only knows how many plates, forks and spoons washed.


My son Jake and I have been throwing baseballs around our front yard since about the time he was 3 years old. From the beginning he showed quite a bit more arm strength than I ever did, and it didn’t take long before baseball became a passion for him.


So, it only made sense that, after a couple years of T-ball and youth baseball, he would try out for the Austin All Stars traveling baseball team during the spring of 2008, when he was 10. He was selected to play for a team, and his mom and I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.



Here’s what we got ourselves into.


We have spent the past four summers watching weekend baseball tournaments from about mid May through the latter part of July. By the time August has rolled around we’re usually wondering where our summer has gone.


We have spent on hotel rooms, gas for the car, meals for the family, baseball gear and concessions at the games what just might have been enough money to take a nice bite out of Jake’s first year of college.


We have fulfilled our duty as All Star parents, working the Knights of Columbus fish fry on several occasions during which I’ve honed my dish washing skills.



Looking back, those were the reasons we had heard from some people that they had chosen not to allow their sons to try out for the All Stars when the time came. They just didn’t want to make the time or financial commitment.


We never gave it a thought. Jake wanted to compete.


So, yes, we have spent a lot of time and money, but we have also had more fun than I’m able to relate watching four teams of young baseball players represent Austin with class, hard work, discipline and sportsmanship, qualifying for state tournaments three of the four years and

winning a state title one of those years with a 34-2 record.



We have had the great fortune of spending the past four summers with a terrific group of families, not one of which has ever berated an umpire or any of the opposing players or parents.


We have been even further blessed by having top-notch coaches who have taught our boys the fundamentals of baseball and prepared them for high school baseball — and, who knows? Maybe even beyond that.


There have been some fun rides home, and there have been some miserable rides home, but whatever the outcome of the tournament preceding the ride home, they’ve all contributed positively to the character of this group of kids who have called themselves All Stars.


Most importantly of all, though, our boys have learned valuable life lessons, not the least of which are teamwork and sportsmanship as well as how to win with grace and lose with dignity while competing at a high level. These lessons will serve them well as they continue to develop into

young men.


This will be the last summer the boys will compete at this level, and one of their  tournaments will be in Omaha, Neb., where they will face competition from teams from across the country and where they will attend a College World Series game or two.

Are we going to spend money? You’re darn right we are. Everybody spends money on summer vacations. The difference is our vacations the past few summers have been to places like Albert Lea, Woodbury, Mankato, Waseca, Lakeville, Buffalo and St. Cloud.


And if I was given the opportunity to I wouldn’t change a bit of it, except for maybe these dish pan hands.

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