It turned into the longest trip I had ever taken. Looking back the car trip was only 3 to 4 hours, but it was just the beginning of my longest journey, life.
I was 12 years old and we were on vacation. We always vacationed at the same resort in Crivitz Wisconsin (driving from our home near Chicago) and always in August you see by August, Little League was over and our family was free to enjoy our summer break before school resumed. Notice I said "the FAMILY was free", because in our family baseball is a family event. But that's another story.
Back to my longest trip. This year I had been selected to our all-star team. Dad was selected as our head coach. Because our league had never fared well in Little League tourney play, expectations for this year weren't high either. Therefore setting our vacation plans for the normal time seemed reasonable. Enter Mr. Murphy and his laws of nature.
This year we won! And won! And won! By the time vacation rolled around we had advanced to the qualifying game for the Little League World Series. We held a family meeting and discussed what we should do. This was a hard decision because on one hand, the possibility of participating in the LL World Series was huge for, not only me, but Dad as well. Mom was excited also, as she was our "soccer mom" long before the term had been coined. On the other hand, our annual vacation was the most anticipated family event of the year and we had my brothers and sister to consider. It was finally decided that we would go up to Crivitz as scheduled and then Dad and I would drive down for the game and return that night after the game.
Thinking about it now, I can't remember much of the drive down or the excitement and nervousness I must have felt. I can't even remember much of the game other than (I was told) I played pretty well and WE LOST. But I'll never forget the drive back! I was miserable. Never had I hurt so much from losing a game.
For a 12 year old ballplayer, going to the LL World Series was as big as it gets. To come up one game short was devastating. Add to that fact, that I didn't have my normal outlets to deal with the loss (you know, hanging out with my friends, watching TV, etc.) All I had to look forward to was 4 hours of riding in a car in the dark. I couldn't even watch the world go by.
After a time, Dad and I started talking. At first we talked about the game and season. He told me how proud he was of me and all the other things one would expect a father would say to his son. But a funny thing started to happen, as time went on we started talking, and I mean really talking.
At first we talked about the game, second guessing things we could have done and lamenting things we shouldn't have done – especially pitching to their big hitter when we could have walked him. He hit the game winning home run. We did manage to laugh about that. Well you know what they say: "Hindsight is always 20/20".