Before I perfected my benchwarming skills at Kickapoo, for the summer between junior high and high school, I practiced my benchwarming skills at Parkview. Occasionally I pitched or played middle infield or corner outfield, but mostly I benchwarmed. According to Moonlight Graham (Day #207), benchwarmers are important, too.
Austin is a Parkview graduate, class of 2004. He now coaches basketball and baseball for the Vikings and teaches the Leadership classes along with Jay (Day #218).
But before he coached, Austin had baseball dreams.
“I signed a scholarship to play ball at Fort Scott.”
Two weeks after graduation, however, Austin felt something on one of his testicles during a routine self-check.
“Just a small lump, really. But I knew it was cancer immediately.”
Doctor on Monday.
CAT scan on Tuesday.
Official diagnosis on Wednesday.
Surgery on Saturday.
Fort Scott dropped his baseball scholarship, so Austin enrolled at Ozarks Technical College. On the very first day of class, he got the results of the biopsy—eight weeks of chemotherapy.
To make a long story short, a story that has more heartbreak before happy endings, that was the end of Austin’s baseball career.
Austin walked me over to the same field where I spent a summer fielding grounders and chasing flies. Last year, they put artificial turf on the infield, making it possible to be both a softball field and a baseball field. I noticed Austin’s first baseman’s mitt and, after quickly warming up, he threw me grounders all over the middle infield. Each one, a perfect hop, even if the shredded tires slowed the pace. I kept my end of the promise and gave Austin several chances to scoop low throws and test his stretching capacity.
Austin’s baseball story isn’t over yet. He now coaches and plays in the Grip ‘N’ Rip Baseball League on Sundays at U. S. Ballpark in Ozark. His team, the A&L Electric Shockers, are tied for first after three weeks.
“I love Grip ‘N’ Rip, really. It’s my second chance to keep playing this game I love.”
In a couple weeks, I’m headed to watch the GRBL. I’m looking forward to watching Austin scoop throws from other people.
Finally, men, take note from Austin’s actions. Check yourself regularly. You just might save your life.