March 28, 2013
Trying to Get Home
I think it will be a record. After this pre-Easter trip to Seton Hall, the Huskies will have played twenty-four games away from home to begin our season. We haven’t had the whole team on J.O. Christian Field since October of 2012. If the weather cooperates on Monday, we will be out there together again for a batting practice followed by our first April home opener in a long, long time.
In spite of the time away, we have won two of every three with thirty-five contests left. We’ve set a good course. As we close in on the halfway point of our season, we are encouraged by our plate discipline, our ability to win close games, our bullpen, and our improved defense. Our decisions on the bases, holding runners, and our situational hitting have to improve in this next segment of the year, if we are to build on our early season success. So far, we’ve managed a 14-7 record, several thousand frequent flyer miles, and none of the married coaches have been served with divorce papers. That last fact is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Of course, Connie Hourigan, Isabella Podeszwa, and Brooke Penders probably could call an attorney today and have grounds to file within minutes. After all, their husbands have seemingly abandoned their families for two months. Coach Podeszwa relayed a story while we were in South Carolina recently that illustrates that case. He called to wish his daughter Sophia good luck in her state-wide gymnastics meet in Hamden, and Sophia wished her father the same with our games, by saying, “Good luck to you too, Dad, wherever you are.”
Coach Hourigan returned home for a three-night stay in his own bed to find son, Jeffrey crawling forward for the first time. Turns out the little guy had mastered the skill a while ago, but his dad hadn’t seen it happen in person.
I was gone so long, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Hank growing a mustache like most of our guys tried to do for the month of March. On Monday, all three of the Penders kids looked like they grew a few inches, and kindergartener Charlie read his 48-page Babe Ruth Saves Baseball bedtime story to me. That was a first for his dad. Then again, the last time that guy was home for bedtime was probably in January.
Coaches’ wives are a tough lot. I get a kick out of seeing all the live shots of the wives during the NCAA basketball tournament. They all look like basket-cases! I can’t help but laugh. There are a couple of times a year when Brooke doesn’t know if we’ve won or lost, and I like it that way. Don’t get me wrong, she hates when we lose, and loves when we win. However, if Brooke could sit down for three hours, I can guarantee you, she would not look like a basket-case in our bleachers. I wish she could just get a chance to sit still. She works full-time, pays the bills, shuttles three kids around to after-school activities, helps with homework, somehow feeds everyone, and makes sure everybody has clean clothes (and that doesn’t cover half of what she does that I don’t even know about). Sitting still at a spa would beat the heck out of ballgame!
The three married coaches are blessed with spouses that “get it”. We have our children, and then we have our kids. The kids are our 35 other children – our team. As much as we hate to admit it, the thirty-five take our attention away from the ones that live under our own roofs. The only way we have a chance to be good at our jobs is by knowing our spouses are so great at theirs. In truth, we’re “away” even when we are at home during the season. Tasks like cutting crusts off sandwiches take a backseat to thinking about how we’re going to set up the rotation for next week, who has exams on Friday, or what we can do to get a guy out of a slump.
Even when we are at home during the season and might think we’re not “away”, we tend to be very good at getting in the way. It is weird being home in February and March, and if we are, everybody’s rhythm gets screwed up. When we invade our own homes, it is like a foreign exchange student moving in that doesn’t know the language and is trying to help. We tend to always be standing in front of the wrong cabinet in the kitchen, driving late to pick-up for the carpool, or botching the colors in cold/whites in hot deal. When we do get home, instead of decreasing the stress level, we occasionally have the opposite effect.
I have learned a few things over my 15 seasons as a happily-wedded traveling coach. Over the course of those years, I’ve provided fewer details about the trips to my bride. For instance, if the restaurant meal includes anything more than a sandwich or soup, one should leave out what one had for dinner. For instance, a New York strip with mushrooms and onions should be referred to as a Big Mac when asked by one’s wife what one had for dinner. No need to let her know that her fourth straight supper of mac ‘n cheese is inferior to whatever your per diem got you.
Wake up times are important to leave out of conversation too. If you’re still in bed after 7, don’t share it. And, make sure that if your alarm is set for after seven, you fix it to whatever time she gets up before you get home. You don’t need that buzzing sound happening after the kids are on the bus on a Monday, and she is instantly reminded that when you’re in a hotel, you sleep in later than she ever does.
If the weather is above sixty degrees and sunny wherever the team is playing, you should leave that out of the phone call. If she knows it is above sixty and sunny, make sure you say rain is in the forecast, and that it is really windy. If you’re watching a movie, for God’s sake, don’t mention it. Be sure to tell of your proctoring study hall, who is sick on the trip, and that your flight will be delayed. Do not ever send a picture of yourself by a beach, in front of a historic site, or smiling. Don’t get a tan below your neckline. Do ask for photos of the kids hoisting trophies, wearing new clothes, and holding newspapers (proof of life). When you see the photos, don’t say any of the kids need haircuts (even if they do). When told of a new dress/top/shoe purchase, tell her that it is great she got some new stuff. Do not ever ask about how much the new wardrobe cost.
When you’re in New Jersey for a tough series at Seton Hall, and your bride is working full-time day and night, getting ready for the Easter bunny, and preparing the house and meal for a couple of dozen family members coming on Sunday, thank your lucky stars. And, above all, remember to share how much you miss everyone back home…especially the person that makes it possible for you to have the best job in the world.