For Love of the Game by Nancy Mugele

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As we speak Jim and I are driving to High Point, North Carolina, and although it is Furniture Market Week, we are not going for furniture. Tomorrow night Jim is being inducted into High Point University’s Athletic Hall of Fame for baseball. I am so proud of his accomplishments (especially his Academic All American honor) although I did not know him in college or when he played for the Cincinnati Reds or Boston Red Sox in the minor leagues. Tonight our children, extended family, friends and Jim’s former HPU teammates, traveling from places near and far, will converge in High Point for a weekend of celebration. (I packed a few special bottles from the Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. just in case!)

That I should marry a baseball player was foretold to me by a psychic when I was in my early 20s. It’s true. I went to Florida with one of my close friends whose mother lived there in the mid 1980s – that is another story, but Debra and I went to the home of her mother’s friend, a psychic, on our stay. I know, it sounds lame, but it was one of those experiences that I will not forget although I can only remember one thing that she said. Sitting in the pink, overly-furnished formal living room, the soft-spoken older woman told me that I would meet and marry a baseball player. I was not dating anyone at the time so I thought it was odd that she would open the discussion with that declaration. Whatever else she told me is long forgotten, but I can still hear the clarity and conviction in her voice as she spoke about my future spouse.

Just two years later a former baseball player sat next to me on a fateful Amtrak train ride and the rest is history. With a nod to a poet during National Poetry Month, Walt Whitman said: I see great things in baseball. It’s our game – the American game. And, I could not agree more. I spent many weekend days, including a few Mothers’ Days, watching my husband coach my son in Little League baseball. Their team played in Cooperstown, New York, the epitome of Americana, and our children got to see their Dad’s minor league stats in a record book at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Those memories are forever etched in my mind and I am so grateful to have them stored away. The Major League Baseball All Star game was always an excuse for a party at our house. Anyone and everyone was welcomed as long as they were happy picking crabs in front of the television.

To me, baseball (my favorite professional sport besides ice hockey) is a metaphor for life and I think Nolan Ryan, the pitcher with the most career strikeouts in MLB history, summed it up so well. “One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something.” Don’t we all come to crossroads many times in our lives when we have to persevere and still stay standing. I also appreciate that in baseball a batter has three tries to make a difference for his team. Failure, and learning from your mistakes – perhaps a few times – makes a person resilient and strong.

Baseball is about the only sport Jim and I can agree to watch together at night. Even though I may be checking my Kent School email or playing Words with Friends while he watches the Os, I like to listen to the announcers. Baseball announcers are the best of any sport for their excitement and genuine passion for the game. And, trust me, Jim would make an incredible announcer. Several times during any given game Jim will make a comment that is then, seconds later, repeated verbatim by the announcers. It always makes me smile.

Congratulations, Jim! We are so proud of #4 on the Panthers squad. For the man you are because of your love for the game, I salute you this weekend.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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