What I learned in California

Aug. 04, 2013 @ 06:08 AM

When I learned that I was traveling to California to cover the local 50/70 All-Stars as they played in the Intermediate World Series, I could have never predicted what I experienced and learned this week. It would take me hours to talk about my entire trip, so I’ll just walk through some highlights.

Flying is cool, but not necessarily fun: I knew that Day 1 would be long. I knew that flying to Boston Sunday morning and then waiting five hours for a seven hour flight to San Francisco sitting between two people that had absolutely no interest in my small talk would be rough. But in the end, it wasn’t half bad considering the horror stories I heard from other parents.

One group was forced to drive to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. to catch a flight to San Francisco. Another group sat and waited in multiple airports just hoping to fill an empty seat and hit the skies.

It took a few days, but in the end the entire Rutherford County posse made it to the west coast.

California weather is amazing: My body struggled with the time change and my sleep schedule was nearly turned upside down, but I got over it all when I stepped outside the first day.

Temperatures in the mid-80’s, minimal humidity, a light breeze and clear blue skies made it hard to miss Rutherford County. A reprieve from random monsoon-type weather wasn’t turned away.

As beautiful as it is, I underestimated the extremes of the climate. The low humidity and clear skies allowing constant, direct sunlight gave me a nice burn on Monday. There’s isn’t much worse than a red face on Tuesday, a wristwatch tan line on Wednesday and a peeling forehead on Saturday.

And once the sun goes down, it cools off in the blink of an eye. You think you’re set for the day with your shorts and short-sleeve shirt, but in the evenings you start wishing that you packed more jeans and a hoodie for the trip. I was one of those shivering on dinner trips.

Parents can be a lifesaver: If you’ve ever done it, you know that renting a car is expensive … or so I hear. I’m not old enough to make that final leap into adulthood and have Hertz toss me the keys to a full-size sedan of my choice. So I’ve been catching rides all week, usually with parents.

One set of parents in particular have been more than gracious throughout the week, Michael and Angie Smith have been my honorary chauffeurs if I can’t catch a ride on the team bus.

 I hate asking someone to help me on my time, but I almost feel like the Smiths have adopted me for the week. Every morning they ask me how I’m getting to the games and after every game they find me to ask how long they need to wait on me. If I need to hang out at the fields to write on deadline, they’re more than happy to pick me up when I’m done.

I’d like to take this chance to thank Michael and Angie especially for being so kind.  And to everyone else who allowed me to hitch a ride, thank you.

Don’t encourage shenanigans to 13-year-old boys: My first two nights in the hotel I had a room to myself. It was peaceful, clean and there wasn’t the smell of dirty shoes overwhelming my every sense. That all changed on the third night when I relocated to a room with three players.

Now you can only imagine how a group of 13-year-olds act when they’re packed into a hotel and jacked up on soda and pop-tarts. So if you picture constant wrestling, giggling and mischief, you got it.

One night I made the mistake of chronicling a few dorm-room pranks I frequently participated in while in college. If you want to grab the attention of pre-teen boys, tell them how to embarrass and inconvenience their peers.

I won’t name any names or go into too much detail because as I’ve heard numerous times throughout the week, “what happens in Livermore stays in Livermore,” but I will tell you that the boys may have gotten carried away with a particular prank.

Luckily, the only prank they could carry out was harmless and who am I to discourage the kids from having a good time?

The bond with this local team is unlike anything I’ve ever seen: From the players to the parents to the coaches, this group that made the 2,600-mile journey is unbelievable and inseparable.

Everyone genuinely cares about everyone else.

The team may not have performed up to its expected standards, but the joy and love displayed throughout the week was truly heartwarming.

I made the trip to cover this group as an outsider. My goal was to give those back home in Rutherford County the chance to follow this team on its journey to the highest level of Little League baseball. I expected to work in the shadows.

But as the days went on I felt as if I was becoming a part of the group, not because I imposed myself because I needed rides and wanted to venture from the hotel on occasion, but because I was included. I was considered more than just the guy there to take pictures and writes stories.

This is a truly remarkable group of kids, coaches and families. I feel incredibly privileged to have spent a week with them.

This assignment will be one that I’ll never forget, not because I spent a week in California covering my first major even as a professional journalist, but because of the people I was surrounded by.