The grass is getting greener, the trees are budding, and I saw my first robin this week. All of this can only mean only one thing – opening day for baseball season is here.
Yes, I am a HUGE baseball fan! My team is the St. Louis Cardinals. This love of baseball began at an early age like most little boys who try to emulate their hero-fathers. My dad was, and still is, a Cardinals’ fan and taught me everything about baseball. My mother, however, will argue that she was my first coach since she began playing toss with me from my crib at an early age. I have been blessed to have many doors open in my life due to my love of baseball. I’ve also learned many hard lessons, but I’ve used this love to inspire and teach others to follow their dreams.
Being in the right place at the right time landed me a coaching position for a small-town baseball team which led to a movie being made about me, the team, and its remarkable baseball achievements. It’s called The Final Season. Sean Astin (Rudy) portrayed me in the movie. Since then I have continued to follow my own dreams and I now travel all over the United States giving motivational speeches. I’m not finished following my dreams and don’t believe I ever will stop pursuing excellence in my life and for the lives of others, especially the lives of my children.
You’d think I’d have sons – well, I don’t. I have two wonderful daughters who like volleyball, basketball, dance, and music. That’s right – no baseball, not even softball. My goal is to guide them to make good choices in their lives and to always follow their dreams. Being a father, I couldn’t help but be touched by Molly’s March 13, 2012 entry, “Momma’s Promise,” where she blogs about the joy she felt when she first heard her son say, “MaaaaaaM,” but then felt sudden sadness as she thought about all the children who cannot talk or hug their parents.
This made me think of Kate Winslet’s newly-released book, The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism. Kate writes, “I simply couldn’t conceive of how devastating it would be not to be able to hear my children’s voices. Not to be able to communicate with them, to hear them learn, grow, and express themselves verbally. How fortunate, how blessed I am. This overwhelmed me. I can talk to my children, I can respond to their needs and comfort them when they tell me they are unwell. I can tell them stories and hear them tell theirs.”
I am inspired by all the success stories I have read on the Handicap This! website. Through these stories I understand the power of perseverance in a way I’ve never known. Will I ever know that kind of perseverance without having a handicap of my own?
I wrote a book entitled, Heading for Home: My Journey from Little League to Hollywood. It was never my plan to write a book, but after many speaking engagements, people would approach me and say, “I loved your story, I want to know more. Do you have a book?” Through many trials and tribulations, I compiled my life story and the title means more to me than anything. “Heading for Home” has many analogies, but the three that are important to me: The baseball analogy of rounding 3rd and heading for home, spending time and being at home with my wife and two daughters, and, most importantly, my faith-based analogy and ultimate goal of Heading for Home!
May you continue to follow your dreams. May you attack each day with the excitement of what is to come. May you lay your head on the pillow each night saying, “I gave it my all today and I will do it again tomorrow!”
The tag line for my movie is, “How do you want to be remembered?” I challenge you to think about this on a daily basis with every person you meet and every interaction you have.
Best Wishes and God Bless,