Coming to an End

As my prison time comes to an end at Seagoville Federal Prison in Texas, I look back at these last 63+ months and think about all I have been through. It has definitely been a roller coaster ride; the ups and downs, the good times and the bad times, the happy times and the sad times. My prison experience wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. It is what you make of it that determines how it will go. I refused to let prison get the best of me, but instead I got the best of prison. Believe it or not, there will be things that I will miss about prison. It’s like a whole new world in here, one I’ll never get to experience again, nor do I want to.

My love for sports has always been very high. I enjoy playing them, watching them, even coaching them. With the weather somewhat decent year round in Texas, sports leagues are constantly going – from softball to sand volleyball to ultimate Frisbee to pickleball. I will actually miss playing them.

Why would I miss prison sports so much when I can do the same thing outside of prison? You’re right….. I can do all these sports outside the prison walls. But in prison, the atmosphere is completely different. It seems like 90% of the inmates enjoy seeing someone fail. The negative behavior and comments outweigh the positives by at least ten to one. Since I have always leaned toward the underdog, I always cheer for the guys and teams that are being cheered against, which most of the time are the underdogs or the not-so-popular inmates. I guess that is why I love coaching the not-so-athletically -gifted inmates. It brings me joy watching them succeed.

The leagues here are very competitive, too. Inmates will do most anything they can to win, even bending the rules or cheating if they can get away with it. Let’s not forget about the constant complaining, too! I do my best to stay away from these types of people and get on opposite teams. I absolutely love beating these people and teams. Is that a bad thing?

That is why when I coach and draft people on my teams, I don’t always pick the best athletes, but the ones who like to have fun, listen, are good sports, and will work hard. Out of the fourteen softball and sand volleyball leagues I’ve participated in while here, my teams have won the championship seven times. The other inmates wonder why I win more than most. I tell them the same thing what I just said above…..that we’re out to have a good time and to encourage each other. Most just laugh and roll their eyes at me.

One thing I do love about playing sports in prison is that it gets my mind off prison life for that short period of time. I don’t have to focus or think about getting out of here or life after prison. I don’t have to think about the nuances or the mundane prison schedule. I feel free and focused on the game at hand. Sports put my mind at ease. It’s like a relaxer, a feel-good feeling.

This past week my sports career at Seagoville came to an end. My softball team, which consisted of only three returnees from last year’s championship team, won the league title again this year. And for the third year in a row, my three-man sand volleyball team, with every year being a completely different team, won it all again, too. People say I carry the team. But I strongly disagree with them. It’s the hard work, effort, want, and drive by all members of the team, regardless of athletic ability, that results in winning.

The days remaining on my prison sentence continues to get fewer and fewer. It’s been quite the adventure, one I’ll never forget. God has definitely been with me, protecting and caring for me every step of the way. But He’s not quite finished with me yet, as He needs me to take a pit-stop in Wisconsin for a few months before heading to St. Louis to begin my real life. And all I can do is trust and obey. I know I’m in good hands.

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Coach

It was the first year I was eligible to play Little League Baseball. My dream of playing in the Big Leagues for the St. Louis Cardinals was finally underway. I was so excited! I would be wearing an actual uniform, playing with real umpires and pitchers, even playing under the lights on some occasions. The majority of the boys in my first grade class all signed up together to be placed on the same team. What a fantastic way to start my career, I thought.

The only problem…..we had no coach. Who would want to take on the daunting task of coaching a bunch of seven-year-olds how to play the game of baseball? Some of the boys in my class were natural athletes, while a few of them couldn’t even walk and chew gum at the same time. To turn the newly formed team into a success was a near impossible task.

Fortunately, there was on individual who jumped at the opportunity to teach us how to throw, hit, and run bases. He was loving, caring, and showed a whole lot of patience. He quickly jumped at this opportunity to make a difference to a bunch of scraggly kids. That person was my Dad!

As a 7-yr-old I thought my Dad knew everything and was the coolest person ever. (Actually, he still is pretty cool today, even at the young age of 68, and still does know quite a bit!) When he told me that he was going to be the coach of my baseball team, I just about jumped through the roof. I knew I was in good hands with my professional career. I was already anticipating a roster spot to open up for me in about fifteen years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Of course, that did not happen. The season came and went. I can’t remember a whole lot about my first season of baseball other than we lost more games than we won. But what I remember the most was the time and effort my Dad put into that team. It was not a paid position; all voluntary. He sacrificed countless hours out of his own time to teach us how to play the game of baseball. He didn’t coach us because he had to, but because he wanted to. He wanted to make us not only ballplayers, but also better individuals in life as well, even at the young age of 7 or 8. He taught us sportsmanship. He taught us teamwork. And most importantly, he taught us respect. He took time and helped each one of us individually to develop our skills. When one person failed, he never gave up until that player succeeded. He was loved by many and liked by all. He ended up coaching our team for six years. We had our ups and downs. But we also had a lot of fun!

Whenever a coaching opportunity arose during my grade school and middle school years, my Dad was also the first one to volunteer, not just for me, but also for my older sister and two younger brothers as well. Yes, he had a fulltime job, but was also a full-time father, putting his family first in life. He ended up coaching baseball, soccer, basketball, and track and field through many seasons for my siblings and me. Even today, when he runs into some of his old players, all grown-up now and in their 30’s, they still call him “Coach.”

He does not coach anymore. But he still is an inspiration and role model to many, especially me. Thank you, Dad, for being such an amazing father. You’ve been with me through all of life and have taught me so much. I strive to be like you someday. You truly are the #1 Dad in the entire world. Thank you for making a difference in my life. Happy Father’s Day! I love you!DSCF3972 (2)