Friday, December 20, 2013

Off The Bench - Fall Champions for the 3rd consecutive year!

Off The Bench, the team I captain at Atlanta Club Sport, has done it again. I had never won a championship until the fall season of 2011. Then we won it again last year in the fall of 2012. And just last night we pulled off the 3-peat by winning 13-12 in the first game and then 17-7 in the finale. I want to congratulate my players.

McKenzie Wilson
Brandon Stapleton
Jason Szczech
Josh Brass
Ira Graiser
Jason Brooks
Scott Pharr
Kelli Estep
Katey McCandless
Jaime Grimes
Matt Skesavage
Mary Beth O'Rouke
Kelly Cutts

The Champs

Ira Graiser and myself started Off The Bench because we played on a team together who sats players for the entire length of the game. Ira and I thought that was unfair and decided to branch off and start our own team. We felt "Off The Bench" was a good name to use. In my 5+ years captaining this team, no player has sat an entire game and I was willing to lose a lot of games in order to keep that streak going. We were not very good at first as Ira, myself and Josh Brass (another long time member of the team) started finding free agents one by one. Jason Szczech and Scott Pharr were the next in line to be longtime members of the team. Eventually we grabbed a lot of free agents and people liked playing on this team and they told their friends and they told their friends and eventually we went from the back of the pack to the top team in the league. I'm more proud of our philosophy than I am the number of titles we have.

The irony is that we play our best ball when it's cold which is usually the toughest time of year for a cystic fibrosis patient. So it makes it even more special that we win during the late fall when it is frigid outside.

I want to thank my team for making me a very proud captain this morning. The championship meant a lot but the way these guys played as a team and enjoyed playing together meant even more.

On Monday we trailed 9-0 after a half-inning but came back to win 10-9. Two nights later, we won 20-10. Last night we trailed Vandalay Industries 7-1. Vandalay has more championships than Michael Jordan yet still we came back to win 13-12. Then in the final, we played our best game and pulled away 17-7.

When the game ended, I told Tom to let Joe's family know that we dedicated the championship to him. Joe loved softball and would have been proud to see us play it the right way. Joe, we miss you.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coping with Tragedy


"Play ball!"

Those words struck me yesterday as my quarterfinal playoff game started. Those were the words Joe Fontana used prior to the start of every game I'd played since joining Club Sport back in the late nineties.

Yesterday was a difficult day. For those of us who face clinical depression and anxiety, these days happen far too many times to count. Yesterday though I believe was a day that I had a right to be sad. First off, my friend Joe Fontana, an umpire at Club Sport who I'd known for nearly 2 decades, passed away earlier in the week due to a heart attack. Joe volunteered for several years at Wish for Wendy and was always one of the last people to leave the event. I didn't know Joe off the field. I'd seen him out a few times but I knew him usually a few feet behind me calling strikes or a few feet behind me when I was at second base. The guy was sarcastic. That's for sure. He reminded me of my Uncle Bobby because even as sarcastic as he got, you still cared about him and you cared about what he said. The irony was that Joe had asked about my health the last few months because I was coughing more and a lot skinnier. Joe will certainly be missed by all of us that played our games at the Brookhaven Boys and Girls Club. In fact, we had a 30 second moment of silence before our playoff game last night to remember him and to pray for his family. How strange that he died the same year that Dennis Farina died. Farina played the character Joe Fontana on Law & Order for years.

Joe Fontana - a huge Pittsburgh fan - a huge loss to the softball community


Yesterday would have been Wendy's 43rd birthday. Though I never met her, I miss her terribly. I know that's probably difficult for most of you to understand. I would trade every $1 of the $1.9 million we raised to have her back on this earth and understand what it's like to have an older sister. While part of me is very sad that she is not here, part of me takes pride in the fact that we have raised a lot of money in her memory to avenge the disease that took her from us more than four decades ago. People always think of me as the first born in my family. The truth is that I was not. I will always be the oldest brother and the oldest cousin but I will never take the title "first born." That was Wendy's title and will always be hers.

Our family's first born

The Sneiderman Case

On Monday, as many of you know, we found out that Andrea Sneiderman's bond request was denied. We were in the courtroom last Thursday and were pretty convinced that she was getting out on bond after listening to Andrea's lawyer Brian Steel. Still it wasn't to be. Hopefully by spring, Andrea will be out on parole. We'll just have to see. I'm not going to go into all of my feelings on this case. I've done so in the past and received lots of hate mail for it. With all of my emotional issues, I don't feel like going further into it would benefit me or anyone else. I will say that me and my family continue to support her and hope that she will be reunited with her family in the near future.

My Issues

A lot of my anxiety and depression surprisingly stem from my days in high school and college. I worried too much about fitting in, having cystic fibrosis and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I believe those were the days that I actually had my mid-life crisis because I didn't expect to see 30 much less 40. Some days I wake up and I don't know how I got here. I didn't expect to have a wife. I never dreamt that I'd have children. I didn't see myself having a 40th birthday party. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful that I have all of these things. I'm just surprised that all of these dreams came true. Perhaps I mourn my younger days too often. The truth is that I've learned to use these difficult memories as reasons to try and have fun now...through playing with my children, going out on the town with Andrea or just something as simple as playing softball.

The Silver Lining

The day wasn't all bad yesterday. Avery heard what happened with regards to Joe and wrote me the sweetest note when I got home last night. She's a really caring kid and I couldn't believe she did that without Andrea prompting her to do so.

She made my day.

Taking the Good from the Bad

"Life isn't about breathing. Anyone can do that. Life is about living...and sadly that's a skill that many of us fail to grasp."

That's something I coined several years ago but sometimes I forget to live by those words.

As I prepare for my final softball game of the year tonight (hopefully 2 softball games as a win in our first game means we play for the title a few hours later), I question why some people live long and other people's lives are cut short. Why am I here? Why are people like Joe and Rusty gone? Is there something I'm missing?

I guess the point isn't who is here and who isn't because we all have to go someday. The point is to enjoy every moment with the people we care about most because the memories last a lot longer than any of us will. The point isn't that we were unfortunate to lose this individual. The point was how fortunate each of us was to get to know this person and what a difference he or she made in this world. I guess it's a glass half-empty, half-full sort of thing.

Now as Joe would say with those 2 infamous words that mean as much off the softball field as they do on it..."Play ball!"

And so I will...for the rest of my life.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Winter is almost here...but that's not going to stop me!

It's been a while since I've written a blog. October and November were crazy as we were in the midst of a move PLUS we had Wish for Wendy which raised about $325K for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 14 years, we have now raised approximately $1.9 million. I'm pretty proud of that number because it's going to go a long way towards finding a cure for this disease.

Thanks everyone!

It's always tough for me to blog this time of year as winter (though it's still a week and a half from officially being winter) is a very difficult season for me.

"Why?" you ask.

First off, it is very cold (even in the south) and cold weather affects those of us with cystic fibrosis. My lungs take a beating this time of year and therefore I've had some of my worst pulmonary function results and bacterial infections during December, January and February.

Due mostly to my CF issues, I have experienced major bouts of depression in the winter. I tend to have these moments when I think about being in a dark coffin for eternity and being erased from everyone's minds. There's a part of me who thinks I'm being ridiculous and another part of me that is frightened by those very thoughts and how true they could be.

My sister Wendy died in the winter. Granted, I never met her but it was this season growing up that I could tell was a lot more difficult for my mom to handle. I can't even imagine what she and my dad had to go through.

I also can't stand the time change which means I wake up in the dark and I come home from work in the dark. For someone who loves to play outdoor sports, this is not a pleasant feeling.

Baseball season is over and by now usually all of my sports teams have let me down. This year is no exception. I know that seems silly but the Braves are a very big part of my life. They got me through some really tough times both as a child and an adult. No matter how bad things got, I could always turn on TBS at 7:35pm after an episode of Sanford and Son and there would be Skip and Pete to tell me about the pitching matchups.

Winter despair

To prevent depression from filling my mind with desperate thoughts, I am working my tail off in the gym this year. I started with a trainer a few months ago and can really see a difference. I've put on about 5 pounds of muscle and my cardio has increased drastically. I went from not being able to do the jump rope 50 times to doing 3 sets of 50 and sometimes a couple of sets of 75. I was doing the treadmill at a speed of 4.0 and now I'm up to 7.0. I'm doing two sets of 20 pullups a piece twice a week. I'm doing 10 sets of stairs once a week (up and down) and lifting more weight than I have since college.

Working out = Beating depression

The other day I had my Mr. Myagi moment when Daniel catches the fly with chopsticks. We were at the end of our workout and my trainer laughs when I wanted to try and do dips on the rings. She said one of their trainers who was a gymnast in college has been practicing for weeks and can now do one dip. I said I could try it. Seeing her mouth open in shock was priceless as I did 5.

I caught the fly!

I'm still playing softball for another few weeks as the playoffs are starting. After that, I am not participating in any sports other than taking Ethan to basketball on the weekends. Still I walk the dog most mornings and run on the treadmill every morning prior to doing the jump rope 60 times.

My next doctor's appointment is in February and I don't want to be doing OK. I always worry about doing OK. Not anymore. I am slowly becoming the old fiery Andy. I want to shock the doctors. I want to shock the statistics, the so-called experts and anyone who thinks they know what my lung function should do. I always hear that as I get older my PFTs will decline. My opinion is to be EXCEPTIONAL you have to believe that you can be the exception. I do believe that and I will continue to work my butt off until I prove them all wrong. My lung function is currently around 84%. The doctors want me to be between 82 and 87% in February. I want to be 90%. I know it's not realistic but neither was making it to my 40th birthday and here I am!

That's my goal!

I am trying to look positively as winter arrives. This February my daughter turns 8, my son is in his first basketball league and Andrea and I will soon be at 5,000 days together (It's April 20th for those of you keeping track).

So in summary, my health is vastly improved, my outlook is increasingly positive and I'm ready to shock the world come February.

Seasons greetings to all.