Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

My sons and I are back from Surprise, Arizona, home of the Texas Rangers' spring training. With the exception of a personal airline ticket faux pas, the trip far exceeded our loftiest expections. The three of us want to do it again now that we know the ropes, but that will mean saving for a rainy day, a weather feature that rarely occurs in Arizona. Here are the highlights of the trip:

On Monday afternoon, the players were taking the afternoon off, so we ended up at an Arizona State Park at the foothills on the western outskirts of Phoenix. Once in the park, somehow we concluded that we should follow the suggestion on the park map and hike a mile uphill to a waterfall - on a trail that was "without barriers". I guess the boys figured it would be hilarious to see their daddy get most of the way there and then have to quit. But I perservered and had no trouble making it to the waterfall.

The problem was that there was no waterfall once we arrived at the end of the trail. Just a trickle. In retrospect, we probably should have expected this since, after all, we were in a desert. We saw cool stuff, however, including bizarrely-shaped cacti and a ominous-looking lizard sunning on a rock.

One of the goals of our trip was to make contact with Josh Hamilton, the already legendary Ranger outfielder who is as well known for his Christian witness as he is his athletic prowess. A little over three years ago, Josh was a crack-head, hanging around tattoo parlors and mobile homes belonging to folks he didn't even know. But his grandmother took him in and pushed him to turn his life over to Christ. Josh did what Granny said and now he is as effective an evangelist as anyone in Christiandom and perhaps the most coveted player in the American League.

Hamilton will sign autographs for as long as his schedule permits. We saw him do this for over 75 minutes on Sunday, standing in the sun with an equipment bag slung over one shoulder. I talked to a lucky fan yesterday who had gotten Josh's signature and found out that Hamilton not only signs his name, he writes down a favorite scripture. It goes without saying that there might not be another athlete in America who doing stuff like that in these days of anti-Christian leanings in our country.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet the guy. I could have tried to force my way through the crowds, but that would have meant being rude and stepping on little 8 year-olds.

The time with my sons was great. We laughed, we shared memories, we got serious, and we laughed some more. It was an enormous family kind of a thing. And that's another thing I noticed about spring training. Everywhere, there were families who had made the spring break pilgrimage to, as a family, see and interact with the baseball team. I saw numerous dads with their young sons having the time of their lives as they got closer to their athletic heroes than they ever will again. The important thing ain't the sports part, it's the father-son part.

So we guys vowed to "Surprise" each other again sometime. Maybe not next year, but for sure not too distant in the future.

1 comment:

Lynn Leaming said...

Glad ya'll had such a great time.