Life in the Minors
Thanks for riding along with me
Sitting in the airport terminal at Ontario International Airport in Southern California yesterday morning, I tried my best to take inventory of all that had happened over the past three days of my life.
If my general thought process was moving a little slower than usual, I'd like to think it was justified.
After all, I had been on the move since around 3:45 AM, when I woke up to complete my packing and move out of the apartment in Blue Island, Ill., that I shared all season with our hitting coach, Ronnie Deck. With a 7:15 flight, I had to get to Chicago's Midway Airport around five o'clock, making for a very early morning.
But yesterday morning, my good mood could not be disturbed. Sure, it was a very long travel day, which began at the wee hours of the morning, but after five months on the mainland, I was finally heading home.
Best of all, I was returning home a champion.
Just two days before my all-day, cross-country travel day began, I was dog-piling on top of the pitcher's mound with the rest of the Windy City Thunderbolts at Standard Bank Stadium, where we had just captured the franchise's first Frontier League Championship with a 10-3 home victory over the Washington Wild Things.
When I won my first league championship with the Gary SouthShore RailCats in 2005, I experienced elation and exhilaration I had never felt on a baseball field. We had climbed to the mountain top and planted our flag on its peak. But there was something different about this one.
As with the 2005 RailCats, our manager, Andy Haines, and I inherited a franchise that hadn't had a winning season and took it to the ballclub's first league crown. With Gary in 2005, we won the South Division's second-half title, and shocked both the St. Paul Saints and the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks en route to the title.
This year, we were the team to beat. We led the Central Division wire to wire, setting a league mark for season wins by going 68-28. Statistically, our ballclub set the pace in numerous categories, and several of our players and staff were recognized for the accomplishments by the league.
We were one of the favorites going into the league playoffs and made quick work of our first-round opponent Rockford, sweeping three straight from the Riverhawks to earn a spot in the Frontier League's Championship Series.
Opening the best-of-five series at home, we promptly dropped both games to the Wild Things, putting us in a tight situation.
But somewhere on the road between Chicago and Washington, Penn., between the final out of game two and the first pitch of game three, our team decided we were not out of it just yet. So we won games three and four on the road to bring the series back home to Chicago, where we were earned those championship rings.
Sure this season was fun, it was great, it was unbelievable. But being able to share it with the important people in my life made it even better.
As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.