The Comeback

February 20, 2012
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“Strike two… Now the Rangers are one strike away,” the announcer anxiously proclaimed as the St. Louis Cardinals, even after their ferocious comeback season, were down to their last strike. There I sat in my living room realizing that, this is it, this is where it ends; this is way too big of a hurdle to get over, even with two runners on. But then I remembered. I remembered back to my childhood. Back then, I dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, being in the middle of the action. Two outs, two strikes, World Series on the line. That’s where I always dreamed of being. It always seemed like I was going to get there too, but then one fateful spring season, I had Coach Hurst.

Today was tryout day for the new spring baseball season. Coming off of my first all-star appearance in as many years, I was raring to go. As I arrived at the freshly groomed 4S Ranch sports complex, I could spot, from a distance, the all too familiar baseball field. During past seasons, I’d spent many days and nights running bases, catching pop flies, working the mound, and cheering on my teammates. On this day, as I walked towards the check in table and gazed out upon the complex, I spotted all of the short askew trees that surrounded the area and a team holding soccer practice right across from the field. Although the small trees hadn’t grown much, I had. Compared to last season, I was faster, stronger, and ready to play. The sights appeared somehow both familiar yet new, possessing a somewhat strange and ominous feeling. But at that moment, the all too familiar scent of the infield dirt ventured towards my nose and greeted it as if it were an old friend.

Tryouts came and went without much incidence. I tried my best and looked forward to starting the season with a new team. Then…we received the anticipated email. I was placed on the A’s, a Major League Baseball team that I neither cared for nor took any interest in, but this was just the beginning. Skimming down the page, I saw some familiar names on the roster, noted practice times and other season logistics, but stopped in my tracks when I came across the signature line. The message came from none other than the infamous Coach Hurst. Many urban myths existed about how he worked his players so hard that they would go home crying in dismay. His reputation stemmed from many extreme instances such as forcing players to hold his cigarettes while he “relieved himself.” Supposedly, he forced many of his past players to run laps after missing grounders coming at them at high speeds. But these were only rumors, and I focused on starting the season and getting back to playing ball.

One foggy, damp February night, I geared up for the first practice and slowly trudged alone to the field, uncertain to where my fate may lie. Feeling the cold mist on my face, I sensed something lurking and suspicious, but shrugged it off as new team jitters. When I came up a bit closer to the complex, I heard a loud booming voice yell, “Son, if you throw another one in the dirt one more time, you will never be allowed to play baseball again!” The tone and words left me with quite an unsettling feeling, so I tried to ignore them and focus on where I needed to go. Unfortunately, the voices came from the exact place to where I was heading. Before I could react, I found myself face to face with the man possessing the booming voice. The man with the booming voice looked me square in the eyes, and I instinctively looked down trying to avoid his red-eyed gaze. “You Friedl? You’re late.” Confused, I replied, “But I thought I was on ti-.” “You thought wrong! Ten laps, right now, one lap for every minute that you’re late!” I was stunned. This happened so fast. “What are you waiting for? Get a move on!” Purely out of instinct, I started to run. “Wrong way you idiot! Have you ever played baseball before? It takes commitment, it takes honor, and it takes a lot of-. What kind of hustle is that?!?!?! I want to see HUSTLE, not running. God dang it Friedl you’re killing me!” Not exactly knowing the difference between hustle and running I started “hustling” faster.

The season of Coach Hurst continued at about this same rate and manner. For the rest of my final year in this age division, I kept trying my best, but my best was never good enough. Unfortunately during most of the games, I sat more than I played. And for some reason, I kept “killing” Coach Hurst. Sometime during the season, I decided this would be my last year of playing baseball. I wondered if my teammates felt some of the same suffering and anguish and how many of them would come back for more.
Startled by the loud booming voice of the World Series announcer calling the final minutes of the game, I regained consciousness as the Cardinals made one last ditch effort to achieve the greatest comeback in World Series history. As the camera zoomed in onto the batter, I couldn’t help but wonder if he ever experienced a Coach Hurst in his life. And, if so, how did he overcome that experience and end up where I always dreamed of being? Whatever the answer, I knew I made the right decision for me and became ecstatic as my favorite baseball team overcame all odds and became poised to possibly remain the last team standing. As I witnessed with my own two eyes one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history, I believed I began to embark on my own path of overcoming all of the odds. On this path, there will be many people just like Coach Hurst, but this time around, like the World Champion Cardinals, I will persevere.





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