Nick’s Notes: Full count faith

It’s hard for athletes to take some time off.

Sports radio jocks tore into New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy when he missed the first day of the season for the birth of his son. Fans and the media chided soccer star Landon Donovan for taking some time away for a two-month sojourn in Cambodia. And Michael Jordan’s baseball experiment remains a punchline to his otherwise illustrious career.

Youth athletes are usually spared pro-level harassment, but I’m guessing a number of coaches have raised their eyebrows at requests for time away.

Our culture expects athletes to have laser focus to hone their craft, especially when they are getting paid, but it’s tough accept that athletes are also human.

16-year-old Dain LaRock of Tyler isn’t expecting a kid or getting paid for his time with the Tyler-Marshall VFW baseball team, but that didn’t make his decision to take a week off of baseball any easier. Especially since his time away coincided with the playoffs.

LaRock and teammate Ryan Fischer recently spent a week on a mission trip to Billings, Montana, where they did maintenance and repairs on houses in low-income areas. While LaRock considered it a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” he was conflicted with the decision to leave his team.

“[He] struggled with the baseball aspect of it,” said LaRock’s mother, Sheryl. However, his coach and fellow players understood. “They were fine with it. They knew it was an important thing,” said coach Jeff Moberg.

The team was down to nine players when they faced the Marshall Blue team in the playoffs last weekend. Moberg and the rest of the team missed their starting shortstop and catcher, but they didn’t hold their heads down. “We won one and stayed in the other,” said Moberg. He was proud of his kid’s effort in the games. “I told them to go out and play their best and that’s what they did,” he said.

LaRock’s trip gave him some perspective on the sport. “My time away on the trip will benefit me by allowing me to appreciate the time I get to play sports and practice. Not everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy sports and have fun, and doing service for others helps me cherish the time when I do get to practice, play, and get better,” he said in an email.

“Personally, I couldn’t have asked for a better season,” he added.

Sounds like a kid I’d want on my team.