But...there has rarely been a dull moment. Especially, for Austin and baseball.
In 2007...due to career repositioning...I found myself in Seoul, Korea. I told myself I would only be staying 4 months...but deep inside I saw this as a huge opportunity.
Because I am deeply passionate about my family as well as my career, I dragged them all to Seoul...to also take part in the opportunity. To advance their education, I found art schools for my daughters and a high level baseball team for Adam and Austin...the Dongbu Eagles. It was actually a feeder team that puts boys on track to the Korean professional leagues and beyond.
This was not going to be easy...for any of us.
BTW: at least one of Dongbu alumni made it to the American MLB...Jae Kuk Ryu...and actually played for a brief time with the Chicago Cubs...
Eventually, Austin won over the hearts and minds of his team mates...as he always does.
To my relief, Austin composed himself gracefully...even though Dongbu got killed and he struck out.
The coach even let him pitch a few innings during the championship game. I would have peed my pants! Overall, I believe Dongbu ended up 4th in the nation that year.
Each year the team traveled to the south of Korea for a tournament in Pohang. Often, we found ourselves in some picturesque settings. In the background of the school yard (above) is the sacred Seoroksan National Park mountain range.
In 2009 Austin continued to be a crowd pleaser. That year, Austin is received the most improved player award.
We were all proud of him...especially his younger brother Adam who has always looked up to Austin. These were very formative years for both boys.
Coach Jung Kyung-ha is a very dedicated man of baseball. He has been coaching Dongbu since 1984 and has been totally focused on the team and the boys ever since. I do not believe he has a family other than the team. He is a baseball monk in my opinion. And I mean that in the best sense.
Though I did not know it at the time, he was the only coach in the Korean little league association to extend an offer for Adam and Austin to play. We will always be grateful for this.
Austin did great!
Austin made it through the awkwardness of the tryouts on that hot summer day and made the Cubs RBI 16 year old travel team.
During the week, Austin played in Hyde Park with his RBI training team.
BTW...The Cubs RBI program is headed by Ernest Radcliffe, who happens to the (great?) grandson of one of the greatest baseball players of all time: Double Duty Radcliffe. Coach Radcliffe an ex-ball-player himself is a great motivator and positive force to a lot troubled kids in the south side of Chicago.
After this experience, Austin was soon he was back in Portage on his high school team, the Mustangs.
One of Austin’s Portage Central High School coaches got him hooked up with an awesome team in Chicago, the Norwood Blues. They are a high level club that is a stepping stone to the collegiate leagues and above.
The Blues are a step up in competition where Austin would find himself playing with kids as old as college freshman...once again...out of his comfort zone.
Coached by Richard Pildes of Taft High School in Chicago...who I can confidently say that he is one of the best high school coaches in the US...the Norwood Blues are a class act. And Pildes has one thing in mind...winning. However, he is more of a transformational coach than a transactional coach. He helps boys find their strengths and ways they can contribute to the team. By understanding your core competencies, you are better able to make a difference to your team when it is needed.
It is not surprising that Coach Pildes has a disproportionate amount of Blues and Taft alumni at the college level and in the MLB. But I bet this is the first time he has coached someone like Austin... ;)
While not the most outstanding player...in my humble opinion, Austin is the most outstanding person on the team.
All in all...baseball has offered great experiences for Austin on his journey of self discovery...and we are are all proud of his accomplishments.
However...Austin’s interests go beyond his baseball endeavors. He spent the latter part of the 2014 summer at the Second City Improve Camp for Teens. Here he seemed to enjoy the stage...his comedy, not surprisingly, is more physical at this phase. And...this fall...Austin won a lead in the Portage Central comedy play, Midusmmer Jersey where he’ll be playing Lyle.
He is still playing baseball on a fall team in Portage...I am sure the Blues miss him...we all do.
Go Austin! Go!