By Cassidy Dover: "What Makes An All-Star?"
I was flipping through some of Ray's old baseball cards trying to find some inspiration tonight. I found myself getting lost in those cards. We keep the cards in a frame in our "baseball room". We also have some extras in a drawer. Those are the ones I pull out and look at.It's amazing to see how Ray has grown up over the last fourteen years of our lives. The physical changes in his appearance are amazing. Holding each card, looking at it, I remember each season is similar to going through the scrapbooks I've made of Sheridan's life. I relish each photo. I laugh at the memories each card conjures up for me. Then I search in my mind and can't believe I have forgotten some of the details of those years, forgotten some of the names of those who shared that time with us. Each card brings a smile as well as a bit of sadness. The sadness comes from not having taken the time to appreciate the time we had as we lived through it.
As I tried to come up with a topic to write about I realized that the All-Star games are coming up (or some have already taken place in the lower minor leagues I believe). I saw that Jimmy had asked for friends on Facebook to vote for certain players. I realized how close Ray must be to getting named to a minor league All-Star team again. Or maybe he won't this year. Who knows for certain until those rosters are named?
I look over his cards and try to remember the honors that Ray has had over the years. There are so many and each is wonderful. I look in his trophy case and see his 1,000 strikeout ball. I look at the back of his most recent card and laugh to myself at how decorated Ray's career in the minor leagues has been. I'm so proud of him! I was trying to find a great story to tell. I even had a few planned about the different All-Star games Ray took part in. Even now, I'm trying hard not to write about one in particular nine years ago...
I began to really look at the photos of Ray. I shuffled the cards. His smile hasn't changed. It is the same genuine smile of total and complete love of the life he is leading. His eyes are what change. The look in the first card is that of a young guy with the world ahead of him. He is naive and looking at the world with wide eyes. As he experienced success, the cards revealed a pride that shines in his eyes. You can see him becoming more assured of what he is capable of and what he has accomplished over the years.
More recently, there is something that I'm not sure others would see. His eyes reflect a deep and honest love. His accomplishments aren't the ones that shine in his eyes any longer. The eyes reflect the accomplishments of our family.
There's the photo of the year before we tried to start our family. He has a ball taped to a bat and it looks like he has hit the sweet spot and that ball is on it's way out. He has a deep and honest smile and you can almost hear his laughter resonating from the small piece of cardstock. But the cards from that next season. are ones hard for me to look at. I see the shadow of disappointment. Ray was doing great in his career so that shadow can only be the one that comes from the dark place our life was that year.
The card the following season shows hope in his eyes. Ray has this amazing ability to see the best in each situation. He is the eternal child. He looks at the world as a great adventure that is about to happen to him. That joy and hope is seen in the cards.
Then there is the "missing year." That time in Ray's career when he was injured and rehabbing and his team was found at the rehab facility. There were no cards. It all came to a quick halt.
The cards I now hold in my hands are the years since he has returned. Stronger than ever and more determined. The eyes. I see the pride in his eyes of a father and a husband. His soul is reflected. You can see his smile and his eyes are reflecting two different things. That smile on his lips is a large one (that show off his straight teeth after the braces came off). He looks as happy as he did in the earlier cards. The smile in his eyes... Yes, there are some lines around the edges that show he has aged. The glimmer in them is sharper, brighter. His eyes tell the story of true success.They are the eyes of a man living his dream. His job is amazing, although at times frustrating. His home life is more often frustrating but filled with love. His daughter's success is the success he smiles for.
So as I flipped through Ray's cards thinking there had to be story in there to tell, they told me a story I hadn't ever taken the time to tell myself. I remember one time Ray had been pitching in the big leagues. He had been having a great game. His agent was there with me that night. After they took him out, the probable pitchers for the next week were shown on the board. Ray was listed. I turned to Ray's agent and said, "Wow, they're really going to keep him up here and let him start again next week?!"
"Did you just watch the same game I did, Cassidy?" his agent said.
"Yeah. I did. He did okay but I would have thought this was a one time fill-in shot and we'd be back to the minors."
His agent said something then that I've filed away. "Cassidy, you're going to be present for each of Ray's games but you're going to miss his career. Don't make that mistake. Before you know it, these will be memories you talk about rather than days to live."
His agent knew what he was talking about., a man who had played baseball for years and years and then it was taken away all at once.
Ray is the All-Star to our family and friends. Whether we spend the all-star break at the official celebrations of minor league baseball or somewhere else as a family, we will be celebrating our favorite minor league baseball player those three days. So you see, Ray's cards told me the story of both the career and the man that I have had the honor to live with and share a life with. As this year's All-Star game comes and the team is announced, I know that Ray's pitching this season has spoken for itself. Most importantly the man he has become over the past fourteen years doesn't need to be spoken of. The man he chooses to be each and every day speaks for himself.
Thanks for reading.
Cassidy Dover has been a baseball wife for more than 10 years. Her husband Ray, currently in the minor leagues, has spent part of 7 seaons in The Show. To read more of her columns, just click HERE. Cassidy lives somewhere in America with her daughter Sheridan. Right now, they're probably waiting for Ray to come home.