Major League Bride
An Inside Look at Life Outside the Ballpark
by
Kathleen Lockwood
  

 

Safe At Home Base

 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again
It's so far and seems so out of sight….
I won't be happy…
                   Till I'm home again and feeling right                      

                                                                              Carole King

 

The concept of “home” conjures up so many different images…soup on the stove…a cold one in the frig…maybe a faucet that needs fixing or a shutter that needs painting.  Home is where the heart is.  It’s the pat on the back at the barber’s and a hug from an in-law. Home is unconditional love, acceptance and connection with the DNA that courses though a soldier’s mind even thousands of miles away in the Afghanistan mountains.  Home is where people come to make a life and this Sunday in Boston, home is a five sided, odd looking, plate at the end of the third base line and it’s being crossed by running, limping and battle tested feet…and a prosthesis or two …by men and women who carry their own visions of home, family and duty.  Their Home today is a base and very much within reach, not halfway across the world.

Home town heroes walk the streets in small town communities across the country. At baseball stadiums across the country fans root for the home team pitcher to paint the corner of home plate and for the batters to cross home base safely, preferably by way of a home run. 

We all inhabit stressful worlds, making ends meet, finding time for friends and juggling school drops and palates   Ducking from IED’s, riding across dirty potholes in bombed out villages only to return to MREs reheated next to eight man tents is, by definition, home to thousands of deployed military. Advertisers state-side want us to “calm down, lighten up, chill out, relax, unwind – in a daily barrage of signature line, lawyerlike, new-age commercial speak. This “don’t worry, be happy” attitude is great – so long as you’re not choking from desert flash backs and smelling the sulfur from a bomb explosion. My son-in-law just returned from Iraq and said “the Sergeant said there’s a duo” – meaning that IEDs most often come in twos – we all went head first into a ditch next to the lead vehicle as the second burst concussed the air and blackened the entire convoy. My son in law didn’t say any more … just stared at the ash of his cigar … a dim light burning inside unfocused memories.  

Not all home town heroes wear camouflage,  “civs” or dress blues…but many battle PTSD and you can see a distant country in their eyes. Today’s returning soldiers need to distress from the anxiety, pressure and trauma of combat.  The conditions of war, in which troops must be on constant alert for roadside bombs and suicide bombers, put soldiers at high risk for returning with stress-related trauma.  With less than 1% of our families serving in the military, many of the estimated 1.6 million troops who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are called back for multiple tours of duty. Thanks to better gear and medical treatment, they’re more likely to survive grievous injuries, but they’re also at greater risk for developing psychological difficulties. Almost 20% of returning soldiers have experience some degree of post traumatic stress syndrome, many of whom express guilt about disturbing details that occurred beyond their control.

PTSD has been identified by various names throughout history. During the Civil War, more than 5,000 Union soldiers were diagnosed with nostalgia—a term coined by the Swiss physician Johannes Hofer to describe psychological disorders experienced by civilians far from home and mercenaries fighting in distant lands.  During WW I, soldiers in the trenches suffered from shell shock, in WW II battle fatigue and in Southeast Asia, it was post-Vietnam syndrome. Doctors understand better today what patients diagnosed with PTSD experience, how they tend to relive an experience over and over through flashbacks or nightmares. Certain noises or smells may trigger memories, causing emotional numbness and/or hyper-arousal.

Research estimates that almost 300,000 veterans of today’s wars may suffer from psychological disorders. Many advances in treatment have been made, but the biggest obstacle that exists in treating PTSD in returning soldiers rests in their reluctance to seek help.

The Boston Red Sox organization has stepped up to the plate with a new meaning of home.  In conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital, the Red Sox Foundation has formed a Home Base Program, which addresses the health and rehabilitation needs of veterans and their families. While anxiety and distress may not be as outwardly obvious as the physical wounds of war, the scars are equally painful and deep.  The families of veterans suffering from these “invisible wounds of war” also need support and guidance and can find it through this innovative project.

On Sunday, May 22nd, over 2,500 runners will “Run to Home Base” in support of this important program. Crossing the finish line at Fenway Park’s home plate might be a dream come true for certain runners, but more importantly, the funds raised will help alleviate the nightmares of some of our returning veterans.

As the wife of a professional ballplayer and the mother of 5 I used to think I led a pretty  stressful life. That was before my daughter married a soldier, who has served two deployments in Iraq. Thanks to modern day communications, he was able to share his terrifying experiences with my daughter every day.  While I do believe this helped to alleviate some of his stress, the details that she then shared with me daily greatly bumped up my own serration level.

Every successful contest begins with one individual stepping up to bat. In turn, individuals working towards a goal make a team.  Picerne Military Housing, my daughter’s employer, is a major sponsor of the race, along with the Boston Red Sox,  my husband’s former employer.  My UNH daughter, who works with Operation Military Kids, will be cheering on my daughter–in-law, who will be running the race in support of my son-in-law, while my husband and I volunteer on the side lines.  When team members connect with other team members, miracles happen.

I believe that, like the songs in Carole King’s Tapestry Album, life is a series of interconnected threads. When an insular family joins with a military family, who connects with a medical facility who in turn joins forces with a baseball family there is no doubt that the soldiers’ families will make it “home again and feeling right.” 




The "Luck" of the Irish


Before you knew me I traveled 'round the world
I slept in castles and fell in love because I was taught to dream
I found mayonnaise bottles and poked holes on top to capture tinkerbell
They were just fireflies to the untrained eye but I could always tell

I believe in fairytales and dreamers dreams like bed sheet sails
And I believe in peter pan and miracles and anything I can to get by
And fireflies

                                                                                   Faith Hill “Fireflies”

 

 

”One of my earliest memories finds me staring into a small glass jar filled with earthy tufts of grass, covered by punctured wax paper.  Inside this container lay a little green caterpillar that required a daily misting of water and a diet of freshly picked pansy stems.  Day after day my eighty-year-old grandfather Casey and I would tend to the flowers in our rock garden as we patiently waited for this homely caterpillar to transform itself into a beautiful butterfly.  Softly singing Irish ditties to the plants under his care, while filling my young mind with mischievous tales of the  “wee people” from the old county, this gentle man taught me to believe in the wonder of nature and to enjoy the simple magic found within every moment of every day.” (p.7, Major League Bride)

 

Magic unicorns, flying fairies, leprechauns, banshees and druids have sparked the imaginations of countless dreamers, both young and old, for centuries.  Having faith in mystical mysteries is ingrained in the soul of the Irish.  This week Irish Blessings will abound as Lamb Stew and Corned Beef and Cabbage will appear on the menus of gourmet restaurants.  Adults will sip green beer, children will down McShamrock shakes and the aroma of caraway seed soda bread will fill kitchens.  Kindergarteners will construct leprechaun traps and teenagers will don “Kiss me I’m Irish” t-shirts, hoping to ensnare the illusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

 

The Irish community might be enthusiastically embraced today but this was not always the case. Recently I was offered a “black and tan” at RiRa’s.  While I enjoyed the taste, the name of the drink brought back some somber memories of tales told by my gentle grandfather.  In the early 20th Century my grandfather Casey fled the fields of Galway after one of his classmates was shot down by “Black and Tan” vigilantes. Surviving a harrowing boat trip he landed in Ellis Island and joined his famine-fleeing extended family members in America.

`

With a maiden name of Kathleen Eileen Murphy there have been times my life has felt ruled by Murphy’s Law  (as in whatever can go wrong will).  While the “luck of the Irish” has not always been of the most fortuitous variety, I’m proud to have the resilience of the Irish spirit running through my veins. . Crises and tragedy offer extraordinary opportunities for the brave and the bold and it’s the hopeful belief in miracles that help the sons and daughters of Ireland not only survive, but thrive, in this country..

 

I consider it a miracle that I, the granddaughter of an Ellis Island immigrant, who was greeted in America by signs indicating IRISH OR CATHOLIC NEED NOT APPLY, was personally welcomed to the White House by President and Mrs. Gerry Ford to the 1975 Presidential Prayer Breakfast.

 

I find it even more miraculous that I have been able to maintain my sanity through 35 addresses, 5 children, 2 bouts of cancer and 40 years of marriage.  Must be “the luck of the Irish!”




Little Leaguers Embrace Big Dreams

Baseball is a team game executed by distinct individuals. The range of size and personalities is manifested most clearly in little league baseball. Composed of 10, 11 and 12-year olds, ranging from just barely qualifying to play to just squeezing under the cutoff, we find 4’5’’ midgets competing against 5’9’’ giants.  Some sport buzz cuts and braces, some flaunt Mohawks and barely visible mustaches, but all are imbued with youthful hopes, dreams, and expectations peeking out from their bright eyes, wide grins, and crooked hats.

Borrowing a line from J. M. Barrie, little leaguers believe that "All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust."

There’s chatter around the diamond as the pitcher draws a deep breath, nods to his catcher, pounds his glove and comes to a set. Every batter stepping up to the plate envisions a hit.   Some swing for the fences, others square to bunt, the adrenaline flows as another fouls off pitch after pitch. When a batter makes contact with the ball the action in the field takes over. Vertically challenged outfielders make leaping lunges, spritely short stops make cart-wheeling catches, and fearless catchers dive in to block of the plate.

Lillte league baseball games illuminate the pure joy of optimism. The feeling that maybe, perhaps, possibly we can win. The deep seeded belief that "our team" will prevail.  Statistics don’t really matter.  It’s the momentum that sets the scene. In the stand you find moms wringing their hands, dads pacing the dugouts and siblings yelling out encouragement.”Keep your head up”. “Keep focused”. “Relax”. “You can do it”.

The Portsmouth Little League All Stars enjoyed “an awfully big adventure” this summer.  Setting their sights on the second star to the right, and competing straight on till morning, they became the State Champions and competed brilliantly in the NE Regional Tournament. With their never give up attitude they laid it all out on the line and refused to quit. 

Congratulations to the players, coaches and families of the all who competted in Little League this summer for a job well done.  You will treasure these memories for years to come.


                                                                                    All Stars

All Stars

Baseball is more than just a game. Baseball legends, folklore and language are woven into the fabric of America. The spirit of baseball is embodied by the fans; it’s the daily belief that impossible dreams will come true – if not today then surely tomorrow. Men, women and children flock to stadiums across the country by groves, squeezing through the turnstiles, imbued with their individual biases and values yet sharing a common bond; entering into a new neighborhood; former strangers baking side by side in the bleachers, chasing foul ball, spilling beer and passing peanuts. Immigration laws, profiles and quotas have no place in our national pastime.  Baseball is the new melting pot with players from Northern Maine and Southern California welcoming teammates from Japan, Korea, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, the Never lands and Canada.

      While interpreters may be necessary to fill in the line-up card, the game offers a common language of boos, banter and general relief from email and twitters. The crowd stands and sings the National Anthem in unison. The announcer yells, “Play Ball!” The scoreboard stands at zero to zero and promises nine innings of endless possibilities. The action plays out with walks, run downs and Texas Leaguers, punctuated by occasional waves and tossed beach balls.  Time is measured in innings not minutes and, as we all know, “it’s never over till the fat lady sings”. Somehow amidst the din and dying quail liners certain players stand out.  Every team has its share of stars whose performances and personalities shine a little brighter and merit the title of All-Star. The fans have voted and on July 13th in Anaheim sixty six category leading players from both leagues across the country will gather for the 81st time to witness the annual All Star Game.  Team loyalties will be suspended. Red Sox fans will root for Yankee players, Phillies fans will cheer for the Mets, starting pitchers will suit up in the bullpen and fans across the country will revel in witnessing the battle between flame throwing pitchers and belligerent batters. For a few hours rivals will unite as one extended baseball community.

       It is fitting that the venue for this year’s All Star Game is being held at Angel Stadium. This year’s All Star Extravaganza will again shine a spotlight on everyday Americans who have opened their hearts and impacted the lives of others. Venerating the spirit of volunteerism across the country, the “angels amongst us” representing every major league franchise will be celebrated for their community service and charitable endeavors. These extraordinary individuals, chosen by the readers of People Magazine, represent only a fraction of the dedicated fans across the country that actively work to ensure that our country remains the “land of the free and the home of the brave.

      Every new season brings with it a constellation of new stars.  Some of these stars shine brightly for years and some burn out quickly. There are 66 Major League Baseball Players and 30 All Stars Among Us being honored this year, but there are millions of everyday Americans who shine brightly in their own communities every day and will continue to do so for years to come.  As the Red Carpet Parade carries all the All Stars and their families down Disneyland’s Main Street over an environmentally friendly red carpet in American made Chevy Silverado’s, we are reminded that “It’s a Small World After All” and we all need to do our part to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to share in this Magical Adventure.

   I have a terrible habit of procrastinating. Some years I get my Christmas cards out as early as New Year's but quite often it's more like Valentine's Day – this year I'm hoping for the 4th of July.

Although decades and distance have come between us I often thought about the impact Sr. Therese had made on my life, and always meant to drop her a line to voice that appreciation. Recently reflecting on my years at Regis, Sr. Therese's presence sprung to the forefront of my mind again and I included her in the acknowledgments of my memoir. I had planned to stop in and present her with a copy of my book the next time our reunion committee met and now it's too late.

 How many times in our lives do good intentions go by the wayside?

It is the little things in life that mean so much – a smile of encouragement, a nod that you're moving in the right direction, a nudge to push past stereotypes and view life in a different way. Anyone who had the privilege to share a classroom with Sr. Therese Higgins can appreciate the depth and intensity she brought forth. 

In an era when women were just beginning to find their voice Sr. Therese not only encouraged her students to shout out loud but led by example. She might have been short in stature but she was huge in the impact she had on a generation of Regis students. She opened up our eyes and our minds to the endless possibilities that life had to offer. Everyone who spent a semester in her poetry seminar came came out with an appreciation for John Dunne and an awareness that man was not meant to be alone on an island that “each man is my brother, each man is my friend”.

 There are people who touch our lives in such a profound way. Often we don't appreciate the gift at the time, it's only in looking back that we can see the impact of that special soul. Such was the force of Sr. Therese. Sr. Therese was one of my favorite teachers as well as my adviser. She challenged me, she encouraged me, she was a living example of how a spiritual life could impact society at large. She was a vocal proponent of the Peace Corps, brought industry to our isolated campus and inspired us to attend lectures and musical events outside of our comfort zone. She was one of the first to shed the medieval confines of her habit so that her progressive soul could shine. She became the embodiment of the spirit of Vatican II while fully immersing herself in society. While she loved Shakespeare she would never submit to his concept of retreating to a “nunnery”, her mission was taking her incredibly vital spirituality and passing it on to all she encountered. I was pretty sure that Sr. Theresa did not share my enthusiasm when I told her that I would be getting married a few days after graduation to a professional athlete, yet always the optimist, she challenged me to make a difference in the lives of the new communities I would encounter in the world of baseball.

 Life gets so busy and we all get so caught up in the daily details of our journey that we often neglect to reflect on how we arrived. Thank you Sr. Therese Higgins for sharing with me your fire and I hope I continue to live up to your challenges of living a spiritual life in a commercial world.

 


Fenway Park Bridal Festival

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Major League Bride: An Inside Look at Life Outside of the Ballpark

Purchase this book now


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