Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Road to State ~ for Both our Boys

Essie looked up at me, her big brown eyes bloodshot and face pale, "Mommy, you know I'm not faking feeling bad, right?"
"Oh Essie, I can tell, sweetie. You look miserable. Let's get some food and water in you."

This took place last Thursday afternoon in our hotel lobby, as I quickly ordered Hudson a sandwich for his first dinner around 5pm, knowing he would need a second in a couple of hours, as his game didn't even start until 9pm.

Branson texted me from his hotel, "Hey mom, I have Hudson's uniform shirt in my bag.”
“Huh? Which shirt? Ok, I don’t think he needs that one. Let me find out.”

Juggling food and baseball bags and a sick little girl out to the parking lot, I checked my phone one more time for directions to the field before sliding onto the highway.

Corbin flew into San Antonio from Fort Worth Friday after work, so I single-handedly got our family down to San Antonio and settled into hotels, all of us excited and a little jittery for the Texas West State Baseball tournament. Branson rode down and stayed in a different hotel with his teammates and coaches, so thankfully, I knew he was taken care of (and probably more responsive to a coach waking him up each morning than if I were doing it).

In a generous demonstration of grandparent devotion, Mama and Papa flew into San Antonio from Albequerque (!!), bringing Foster and River with them. Cappy and Daboo drove in as well, so Thursday night we met up for dinner on our way to the games. Poor Essie sat in my lap the entire time, barely able to lift her head, and quick decline added to my already stretched-baseball/ traveling alone/ keeping-all-these-details-covered nerves.

Three University Little League teams filled McAllister park Thursday evening as the tournament kicked off: the 10U, 12U and 14U all won Sectionals to advance to State. Both Branson and Hudson's games started at the same time, so our family bounced between fields and finally found a knoll right between the two outfields where we could see both games. However, lightening in the distance grew closer and both games were delayed in the third inning. Bran's team led 8-0, but Hud's team trailed 3-0. Everyone ducked for cars and sat out the storm for an hour or longer as the lightening show increased it's dance and proximity. Finally, the officials cancelled all games and sent us home around 11pm. Pulling into the hotel parking lot, the skies let loose and San Antonio found its streets - and baseball fields - flooded.

Friday we tried again. All of our boys woke up crazy early, at breakfast in full uniform and headed to the fields, only to arrive and find the infield under water. Games delayed to 1pm. Then to 3pm. Then to 4pm. As we all arrived to the fields Saturday afternoon, ready to resume these games and get the tournament under way, the rain greeted us again, coming down in torrents to re-flood the already drenched diamonds.

Branson texted, "This is terrible."
Those boys were ready to play ball.

Saturday morning greeted the city with sunshine. And even though the fields remained wet, we had to get these games in. Hud's team trudged around the bases, trying to rally but losing the first game 3-2. The second game, played immediately afterwards in the humid, post-rain sticky afternoon, also ended with us on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Hud's team's District run dissolved, and tears from a huddle of gifted, united boys splattered into the  outfield.

Branson's 14U team won their "resumed" first game big, but faced the returning State champions and lost the tied ball game in extra innings to a walk-off homerun hit by Sampson's twin. Sunday morning we got to defeat a San Antonio team (10-2) before facing the crazy Oil Belt team again. Both teams played tight and strong and left absolutely nothing on the field, but again, we came up short 4-2.

Both of our 10U and 14U teams emerged as Texas West State Runner-Ups, and in my mind, ALL of our ULL boys are champions. They played with skill and heart. I saw both of my boys' teams come together, battle hard, and encourage each other on the field.

River and Foster - great sports in the Texas' July heat


Essie got to celebrate her birthday in San Antonio

Little sisters
love this

Worth remembering:
- Sectionals - Abilene with Hudson's team was a little dream weekend: Kirk treating us all to Jason's Deli; run-ruling every game but one, which was still something like 10-2; Hud's TWO homeruns in the championship game against Midway, and six homeruns for our team that game, including Zach's walk-off.

- Midway's class. Always a little scared to play them, but they are classy. Sweet group of boys and parents.

- Coulter's catching. Game after game, hour after hour, the kid never gave in to fatigue or sore knees. After hours crouched behind the plate on Sunday's draining heat, his mom nailed it when she said, "They'd have to drag him off that field." He played with heart and gave it everything he had.

- Brayden pitching the entire San Antonio game, finishing 10-2 - against a strong team. Impressive.

- Hudson's team families - fantastic group of parents and kids: little sister / little brother goodie bags for both Abilene and San Antonio tournaments; door decorations for hotel rooms; a zillion team meals; decorating our cars - twice; parents pitching in to buy snacks and drinks for team rooms

- Bran's team families - great to see ULL and Westside come together after pitting against each other all these years. Westside boys brought much-needed skill and new blood. Deep history of boys playing together for years. They read each other on the field with a sixth sense. 

- We parents will miss the camaraderie as much as the boys will. Eating out as a team feels like being at dinner with good friends.

What a summer!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Road to Sectionals

The road to Sectionals, that is, including both our boys' teams.
If you're looking for a place for your boy to play baseball, it doesn't get better than Fort Worth's University Little League.

And I would say that even if we didn't win District in ALL FIVE age groups (and really - six - with Major Softball's District win!). 

Last weekend was a banner weekend (pun intended) for ULL. Our Intermediate team has already gone on to Sectionals and the State Tournaments, but the rest of the teams are on the same schedule and are starting Sectional tournaments today.

I don't remember a sweep like this for University. Since our family has been a part of ULL, our teams have always been in competition for District, but I'm not aware of a year when all five teams won and moved onto Sectionals. Wowzers.

9-10 year old

10-11 year old

12 year old (Major)
Hudson's team
13 year old (Intermediate)

14 year old (Junior Ball)
Branson's team - our Intermediate and Junior Ball teams combined with Westside this year, forming "Fort Worth" teams
Branson is playing this year on the Junior Ball team. After winning District all three of their 10-12 years and advancing to State in 2012, the boys played a more relaxed schedule last year as 13 year olds, but the team decided again this year to go for a Little League World Series run.

For Hudson, who is forever playing in Branson's shadow, I had to remind him that just like his big brother's team, they made it to the District Championship game the past two years. The difference is, Bran's team won all three years, and Hud's team fell short the first two. Westside claimed the victory two years ago, and the Southwest Arlington last year.

This year our 12-year-olds started the season strong, winning the Jim Sundberg tournament (defeating Southwest Arlington before the District tournament even began. After a decisive win over North Arlington, a couple of days later Southwest Arlington crumpled our confidence by beating us 11-1 in an early District game.

Hudson and I sat at the kitchen counter the morning after that loss, looking at the week's daunting bracket. We looked at the games, realizing that we'd have to play - and win - Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday beat Southwest Arlington, the beat them AGAIN Saturday (double-elimination tournament) for the Championship.


I asked Hudson how he was feeling about it. He looked at me with his eyebrows furrowed and said, "Mom, we're better than all those teams."

Well, ok.

And he was right:
- Monday v. Mineral Wells (28-1)
- Wednesday v. ASW (American) (9-0)
- Thursday v. Westside (12-8)

- Fri / Sat v. ASW  (15-4)

Very happy post-game lunch at Kinkaid's. Not quite a celebratory meal, though, as we still have a tough game against ASW Sunday night
- Sun v. ASW - final game  (13-3)

Hudson knew it all along.

I'm most proud of this 12 year old team for working through their disappointment to get to this week of Sectionals tournament. This year's roster is nearly the same as last year's ~ these boys, even though missing the District win the last two years, didn't give up. They worked past the disappointment of previous years, but also through last week's loss against ASW to work their way through the loser's bracket.

Looking through some pictures of previous years, these caught my eye - two years in a row, Hud on base right next to the same first baseman from ASW. I think the other guy gained a little more height than our Hud!
Last summer
Last week
So on to the road to Sectionals.
Cars painted and ready for the I-20 caravan (and - my feeble attempt at copying Jenny's artistry - ha!)
Lots of little sister artists on the team
I hope we've got some wins ahead, but I'm most grateful at this point for all of these District wins, and what it says about ULL. And believe me, after last week's games, there's much more than winning that makes me grateful to be a part of this little league!
It's been a fun run already ~ grateful to be a part of these great ULL teams!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Practicing Gratitude 7.6.14

- Boys trying out Bran's their new toy.
Delayed gratification ~ Bran has been waiting for this fishing kayak since he turned 13. Now we just need some rain for the lake!
Training Ruby to be a fisher-pup. She looks a little freaked-out to me.
- Our backyard full of great kids. 

NickMo is the BEST.
- Bran's team's continued success. Combining ULL with Westside for a new "Fort Worth" team this year - makes for a pretty talented group. At one of last week's games, when Brock went up to bat, he said, "I bet y'all are used to winning." Reminds me how much we've been able to enjoy through this baseball run, a privilege for Bran to play for such a skilled team over the years.

- Gun show.

- My zippy little rental car - Hundai Sonata - while my car is in the shop. Thankful that our insurance covers a rental, and as much as I love my big suburban, small (and great gas mileage) has been a fun change of pace.

- Prayers over a particular meeting, open hearts and God's guidance. Riding the wave.

- That Hudson still asks permission to get popsicles for he and his friends.

- Summer swims. Essie had a playdate while mommy had a playdate
Campbell and Essie
Water routines
- Worship at church that nearly always makes me cry. Love you, Kietas, and grateful for your commitment to going to bed early every Saturday night for the past 15+ years!

- Poor choices with texts ~ continuous opportunities to train our kids. Not expecting perfection through teen years, but hopefully taking advantage of opportunities to teach and remind them of who they really are.

- Burning the midnight oil with our boys. That's when they seem to open up. We'll take it when we can get it.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12