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How was your 2023?

How was your 2023?

December 19, 2023

It is hard to believe 2023 is coming to a close with the holidays already upon us. Soon, it will be 2024, the new year, 366 days of new opportunities. That's right! 2024 is a leap year, and we all get an extra day.

My New Year's tradition at midnight is that I lift my left leg a bit to start the new year off on the right foot. That's it, no resolution, no deal with myself to watch less Netflix or lose that stubborn 20 pounds I've been trying to lose for the last ten years, etc.

However, the new year is an opportunity; every day is an opportunity to do something new, try a unique experience, and be open to what comes your way. That happened to me in 2023; an opportunity of a lifetime came my way, and I took advantage of it. The experience was life-changing enough to me that I had to write about it.

Those who know me and have been to my office know that I love the game of baseball. In my youth, those around me didn't realize that growing up on the southwest side of Chicago, I never played organized baseball in the Marquette Boy's Baseball Little League.

Mr. Domikaitis, the father of a childhood friend Stan, would regularly take us to the park to teach us how to hit and field. And, while I played sandlot ball, pick-up games in Marquette Park, street corner softball, and even beer-league Chicago-style 16-inch softball, I never played on a hardball, fast-pitch baseball team. One of my great regrets in life.

Five years ago, I joined the Orland Park Senior Softball League, a 65 and older, slow-pitch softball league. Don't let the name fool you; there is nothing soft about the ball or slow about the game. I was playing competitive ball again! And, hey, these old guys can still play and act like a bunch of twelve-year-olds. And yes, I did fib about my age to get into the league at 62 (please don't tell anyone). But it still didn't satisfy my lifelong disappointment of never having played little league ball to know if I could hit a regulation baseball, field a fly ball, or even run that 90 feet to first base.

Well, in 2023, the opportunity to fulfill my dream was presented to me through one of my closest friends, Roger Laurella, who still played baseball in the Chicagoland Roy Hobbs league. He was forming a 65 and older baseball team called the Chicago Blues. Roger had a roster spot available and asked me if I wanted to play on the Blues. My dream was coming true; I was going to play organized baseball at the age of 66!

What happened? I bought a batting helmet and a new bat and gave it my best effort. It was a little rough at first, but I quickly got into the program, attended all the practices, wasn't afraid to ask for advice from the coaches and other players, and maybe a few of those lessons taught almost sixty years ago from Mr. Domikaitis kicked in. I found that I could play and compete with the guys who have played baseball all their lives. I played first base, and hitting-wise, in nine games, I had one hit, two walks, and one RBI. Not bad for this 66-year-old rookie.

It was an opportunity, and looking back on 2023, I would have been massively regretful if I had turned down the chance to play. Thank you, Roger and Mr. Domikaitis, for your roles in making my dream a reality.

 Take the opportunity of the new year to try something new. Then tell the world about it!



 Photo credit: Paul Kuminga July 15, 2023, I am at 1st base, and Roger Laurella is at shortstop. Eisenhower HS Blue Island, IL