Me and My Dad

Me and My Dad

(Stories from my side of the field parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) He stands next to the car, keys in hand ready to go as the sun comes up over the Camelback Mountains. As I come out of the trailer my M’s hat on backwards he smiles at me. “Ready?” I say. He nods, hands me the keys and we climb into the truck. He doesn’t talk much anymore and the ride from my parent’s trailer in Sun City to the Peoria Sports Complex is a quiet one. As I drive I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Here we are getting ready to go watch the Mariners practice during Spring Training, something we had dreamed about and talked about for years, and we can’t really share this moment together. Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) has taken most of his speech and executive functioning now. Unlike alzheimer’s where you lose your memories, FTD affects the front of the brain and the speech pathways. The memories are there, the experiences are there he just can’t express them in any way. As I continue to drive to the sports complex I keep telling myself he knows what this means even if he can’t express it, show it, or internalize it. That we’re going to watch the Mariners practice during Spring Training together. Once we get to the sports complex, Starbucks in hand, we walk to the lower practice fields and watch the pitchers take Pitcher Fielding Practice (PFP). As I watch I’m transported back in time to my college days where every day as pitchers we worked on PFPs. So boring, so “stupid”. Pretend to throw a pitch then have the coach roll you a pretend bunted ball down the first base line so you could practice picking it up and throwing to first. The hours I spent doing this are more than I would like to remember. Yet here is Felix, Walker, Paxton and Iwakuma pitchers at the top of their game going through the same motions as millions of kids around America will be doing this year as well. If I thought I spent a lot of time doing PFPs, I wonder how many hours these guys have done? My dad is quiet, watching them next to me through the fence. I nudge him and point as Felix covers first base and then crouches down like a catcher to receive the throw from the next pitcher in line....

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Baseball Practice

Baseball Practice

(Stories from my side of the field parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) The stress and pressures of life continues on the airplane. Even though I’m headed for a vacation, I work on my laptop the full 3 hour flight, trying to get one more task completed. The stress in my upper shoulders is aching as I sit in my cramped economy middle seat trying to balance my laptop on a little tray made even smaller by the fact the person in front of me has leaned his chair back. “This is your Captain speaking….we have been cleared for landing and should be on the ground in about 20 minutes.” For the first time since we took off, I lift my head out of my laptop and look across to my wife sitting in the window seat and out the window. Below us as we start to descend is the black of the desert and the faint lights of the city below. Out in the distance there is a bright circle of lights, then another appears and yet another a little closer to us. As more and more come into view, and I realize what they are, I feel the stress in my shoulders all but disappear, a calm comes over me as I close my laptop mid sentence in an email and just stare out the window at the baseball fields lighting up the night sky. The memories of playing the game for half my life uncontrollably start to flood back into my consciousness. – My first time pitching in little league – My first home run in high school – My first time pitching in college – Making a great play as shortstop to save a run – A diving stop at 3rd base – The hot summer nights spent sitting on the bench hoping to get in the game – The hot summer nights in a game wishing I was sitting on a bench The memories continue to pour over me as more and more fields come into view. For the second year in a row now we’re headed to Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona to watch the Mariners. By the time we land I am in baseball mode. Work and the pressures of life have disappeared and all that is left is baseball. The next day we go for a run soaking in the 70 degree weather and the sunshine....

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Hot Box

Hot Box

(Stories from my side of the field parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) “Ok, let’s go play!” My dad says as the three of us jump up and down and head in three different directions. My youngest brother heads to the kichen, opens up the cupboard and grabs two white paper plates. My other brother (the middle one) hustles to the back porch and grabs an incrediball, while I run upstairs and grab our gloves. “Greg…where’s your glove?” I holler down the stairs. “In my room in the corner!” He hollers back. My mom walks over to the coat closet, opens it up and picks up her and dad’s gloves. “Let’s go boys before the sun sets.” Dad says as he opens the front door. It’s a perfect summer day in Spokane, Washington. At 8pm the sun is low on the horizon but still plenty of sunlight for a family game of hot box. As the three of us tear through the front door into the front yard, the smell of freshly cut grass hits my nostrels. That unforgettable smell of summer, of newness, of baseball. “Put one here,” dad says to my youngest brother. Bryan drops a paper plate at dad’s feet and then walks over to mom about 60 feet away and lays the other one at her feet. Hot box is a simple baseball game. Two people throw the ball back and forth while the runner tries to run safely between the bases without being tagged. It’s our family game as we rotate through being runners and base protectors. It always starts the same way, with mom and dad throwing the ball to each other while the three of us try and make it safely between the bases. I’m up first and wait for my dad to throw a high fly ball to my mom. Reading the angle of his wind up I know it’s going to be a high throw and I take off from the plate next to my mom and sprint towards my dad. By the time the ball completes its arc in the air and lands in my mom’s glove, I’m 2/3 of the way to the other plate. I take two more steps and slide into the plate before my dad can catch the ball my mom has thrown and tags me. “SAFE!” my brother yells from the sideline. That’s your job if you’re not playing...

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Do We Build For The Now Or For the Future?

Do We Build For The Now Or For the Future?

The Baseball Winter Meetings just ended in Nashville. Which means absolutely nothing….unless you are a baseball diehard like myself…then it means everything. Today while listening to Eric Wedge, the Mariners manager, give a press conference, he spoke about building a team. He basically says there are two ways to build a baseball team…you either build for the short-term or the long-term. Building for the short-term you focus on this year, you make a run for the World Series and hope you reach the playoffs. If you build for the long term, you develop your players in the minors. In the long term, you stick with your players, you develop your young talent, you stay the course and you improve. Now in baseball we know this approach works. The Texas Rangers changed to a long-term approach after they found out buying expensive players for the short-term just doesn’t work in the long term. (See: Alex Rodriguez). Since they changed their approach here are their win – loss stats: They steadily improved as they rebuilt their minor leagues and focused on good draft picks. Five years later they make the playoffs including a World Series appearance….and they are picked to be the top of their division again this year. Since new management and Eric Wedge took over, the Seattle Mariners have been rebuilding the club for the long term. Here are their stats over the past few rebuidling years. Eric Wedge took over as manager in 2011 and we have seen steady improvement. So his comments today that the team is building for the long term makes me happy. Makes me really happy. We are going to be good again someday soon…but we need to be patient, develop our players, watch them grow, learn, and blossom into some awesome baseball players. Would I love to see a winning season this year? Absolutely! But I would take 5 winning seasons in a row over 1 any day.   So what does this have to do with Education?   I started thinking about this today and then started thinking about where we are with technology in education: Do we build for the short-term or long-term results? Here’s what I have heard from teachers: “I would love them to create movies, but iMoive takes too long to learn.” “I would love for them to create a game using Scratch, but it takes too long to learn.”...

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Reaching Their Potential

Reaching Their Potential

On Monday the MLB (Baseball) draft started and one of the Mariner Bloggers that I follow Jeff Sullivan had this to say about the draft: This afternoon or evening, the names of several future disappointments will be announced. Zero or one or two or three of the players will develop fully. Many more will develop partially, and the rest will develop not at all. It sounds so grim and makes it all seem like a complete waste of time, but the math isn’t really different in other professional fields. Most of us are destined to disappoint. High baseball draft picks just get more publicity than most of us do. That sounds down right depressing but it is so accurate and I think you could apply it to hiring anyone for any company, organization or school. You hire on potential, hopes and dreams. Much like companies baseball teams take risks on young potential players hoping they will work out. Some do, others don’t, while still some who are drafted at the very end of the day make the biggest impact for a team or company.  I think about education and students. We don’t get to hand pick our students, we’re given a class list in August/September and we’re told to develop them and help them reach their full potential. We’re not allowed half way through the season to say “Look kid you’re not cutting it here, we’re going to send you back down for more work in the minors.” We’re told to help the student reach their full potential no matter what.  I think of coaches who know they don’t have the best team, but they do the best with what they have. Helping everyone develop, staying positive, and providing support where needed. They dream of days when they’ll have that ultimate state winning team. But until then they battle through the hard years doing what they can to develop players.  Baseball General Managers get paid a lot of money to pick potential players……and fail most of the time.  Educators get paid much less are given a bunch of players and are successful most of the time.    Not sure if any of this makes sense…but that paragraph has been running through my head since I read it a couple days ago and I needed to write some of these random thoughts...

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