Monday, September 7, 2015

Welcome to the Big Leagues

It was the night of August 27, 2012 when I headed to the game with a bag packed for a two night's stay on the Chesapeake Bay and a giant smile on my face.  I couldn't wait!  Tom Cochran and his wife, Julie, invited Ty and I to spend the following off day with them at their home in Chesapeake City, MD. The Cochran's offered to drive the two of us so we graciously hopped in their truck, leaving our car at Coca-Cola Park.  We spent the following day with them out on the water, boating and jet skiing.  It reminded Tyler and I of our first summer together dating before baseball became what he did for a living. It was so much fun and really relaxing - just look at their sweet pups enjoying themselves too!

That evening, Ty and I sat out on a dock together to watch the sunset and began reminiscing about the season he'd been having. We couldn't believe it was almost over, that there was only one week left before we'd be going home!  We knew of the rumors that Tyler could potentially get a September call-up to the Big Leagues, but until we're told by the correct people that certain things are indeed true, we choose not to contemplate them too much.  We headed for bed prepared for our two hour drive back to Allentown the next day, as Tyler would be starting for the IronPigs that night.
It was 10:30am when we woke up to Ty's phone ringing.

"Who is it?" I asked.
"I don't know, I don't have the number in my contacts," he said.

With that, I knew he wouldn't be answering because he simply refuses if he doesn't know who's calling - he hates getting stuck on the phone.  As soon as his phone stopped ringing however, I received an immediate text.  It was Margaret Sandberg.

"Tell Tyler to answer his phone!!!" it read.  I showed him the text as his phone began to ring again; this time, he answered.

"You ignoring me?" joked IronPigs Manager, Ryne Sandberg.
Tyler laughed, "I guess I never saved your number to my contacts, sorry about that."
"You're still ready to pitch tonight right?" asked Ryne.
"Yes sir," replied Ty.
"Are you sure you're ready?" Ryne asked again.

Just then I received another text from Margaret.

"Goodbye :)" it read.

What the heck was going on? I looked to Tyler for help with my confusion.  He looked like a dear in the headlights as he hung up the phone.

"Uh....I'm starting tonight..."
"Yes I know," I interrupted.
....for the Phillies," he finished.


It was SUCH a shock to us!  We were informed Cole Hamels was dealing with an awful stomach virus that day so they would need Ty to make an emergency start for him.  Holy cow!  We were so excited, but mostly panicked!  There it was, already going on 11am; we were in Chesapeake City, MD without our car, with no clothes other than bathing suits and flip flops, and without Tyler's baseball stuff!
Oh. My. Gosh.

I'm sure you can tell how honest I am in saying we would not have made it through that day without the help of so many people!  Tom and Julie were extremely supportive and didn't waste a second of our time.  They grabbed their essentials and booked it to Philadelphia for us.  The whole car ride we were making and receiving phone calls non-stop to and from our family members, Tyler's agent, and the IronPigs' clubbies to see if they could get someone to pack up his baseball bag and deliver it to Philly ASAP.  It was nuts!  With such short notice, no one back home in Nebraska would be able to make it in time to see his Major League Debut, but that news honestly didn't phase my husband or I.  We knew very well of all the possibilities and scenarios that could play out in this baseball life and this was one of them.  Ty was excited though to hear that his agent, who lived close by in New York City, would make the drive down for the game.  He was also excited to hear his dad cry for the first time ever that day...proud tears of course. :)

Once we arrived in Philly, we dropped Tyler off at the field with Kevin Frandsen and his fiancĂ©e (now wife), Amanda.  Poor Kevin, who if you remember was in the 2012 Triple-A All Star Game with Tyler, now had the responsibility of taking him to the mall to go shopping, most importantly for a suit, just in case Ty were to stay up after his start.  (The Phillies were leaving the next day for a road trip and are required to wear suits when they fly.) The six of us chatted for a few minutes, mostly discussing how crazy the day had already been and how it was only going to get crazier!  Realizing that, it was officially time to part ways.

Saying goodbye to my husband right then was a very surreal moment! Imagine wrapping your head around the following...

As Tyler and I  held each other outside the gates of Citizens Bank Park - (his new place of work, a place we had both never been to before...)
we realized he had literally just received a phone call from his manager, Ryne Sandberg - (former MLB 2nd Basemen, All-Star, Gold Glove, Hall of Fame, you name it...)
letting him know that he would be making his Major League Debut - (something millions of players never get a shot at...)
for the Philadelphia Phillies - (the same team that drafted Tyler four years earlier in 2008, the year they won the World Series, that had everyone saying "Ty better hope he gets traded because he has absolutely no shot at breaking into that starting rotation"...he was never a top prospect.)
as an emergency starter - (meaning this was not in the plans and obviously on super short notice...)
in place of an ill Cole Hamels - (surely fans had already bought tickets in hopes of seeing the three-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP pitch, but now they'd be seeing Tyler. That should go well.)

See what I mean?  Could all of this actually be happening?  As we held each other outside the gates of Citizens Bank Park we decided it was.

It was really happening.

"You've made it!" I told my husband, "You're going to play in the Big Leagues tonight!"
"I know," Ty said grinning from ear to ear before hugging me tight,  "I wouldn't be here without you.  I'm so glad you are going to be here in the stands for it!"  

We exchanged a kiss and a set of I love you's before we headed our separate ways, but I found myself turning back to make sure he knew one more thing.
"Babe, you're playing at the highest level of baseball you can possibly play at tonight, something you've dreamed about since you were a little boy.  I don't care if you are up here for a day, a week, a month, or a handful of years, you've made it to the top in this sport, and no one can take that away from you. I'm so proud of you! God bless and go get 'em!"

Then just like that, I was back in Tom and Julie's truck, preparing myself mentally for everything I still had to get through that day.  I knew it was going to be a race against the clock and I felt the pressure big time.  It would be over an hour drive just getting back to Lehigh.  Once there, I'd have to grab my car from the field, drive to our host family's house, pack up an overnight bag, and pick out an outfit for the game.  I remember going over my clothes in my head because I knew I'd have no time to try things on - or shower, or style my hair. (Don't worry, I showered the night before, but I had let my hair air dry...yikes!) I'll definitely be wearing a hat tonight, I thought to myself.  Just then, Tyler texted me with our hotel info, letting me know I'd need to check in before the game.  He also mentioned where I was supposed to park at the stadium and where to pick up my ticket.  I felt relieved with that little bit of extra info and headed out the door.  Everything was going smoothly until I came upon stop-and-go rush hour traffic.  I felt my heart sink as quite a bit of panic set in.  My husband is the starting pitcher tonight! This is his Major League Debut! I have to be there early!, I kept thinking.  Yet, there I sat in traffic, somewhere between Allentown and Philly, completely unfamiliar with the the roads I'd be taking, the hotel I still had to check into, the game traffic I could potentially be dealing with, where to park, where to get my ticket, etc.  Not only was I unfamiliar with all of that, but I'd also be an unfamiliar face in an unfamiliar car with no parking pass or wife ID yet. Would the staff even know I was coming on such short notice?  Ahhhhhhh!  

I decided to set that panic aside by taking a deep breath and praying my way through that traffic jam! Glory be to God, I made it to the game in time, even early!  I laugh now realizing that the point in the day that held me up the longest was probably just trying to park my car in the player's parking lot. You see, I'm not exactly the best at parking (like at all), and there I was in my high school car trying to pull in between luxurious SUVs and sports cars. Ha!  I was scared out of my mind!

After meeting the sweetest staff ever, I met up with Tyler's agent at our seats and took in the massive ballpark that surrounded me.  While doing so, I spotted a fan holding up a sign welcoming Tyler to the Bigs. It was so surreal and exciting but I was nervous like I'd never felt before.  The sight of Ty warming up calmed me in a sense, but the National Anthem got me going again.  How crazy is this?, I remember thinking to myself.  I just couldn't believe that was my husband out there on the mound about to make his Major League Debut. Eeeeeek!

Of course with all the hype, there'd only be three things I actually remember from the game itself. 
1. Tyler giving up a two-run home run to Duda. Ugh. Come on now Duda!? ;) 
(In real time, I actually praised God that my husband was alive and healthy and thanked Him that at least that pitch wasn't a come-backer at Tyler's head. #ItsAWifeThing? #OrMaybeItsJustMe?)
2. Getting what seemed like a million texts every time they showed ME on TV, which was way too much for my liking.  I even thought at one point, Maybe I should go try and find an empty seat somewhere so the cameraman can't find me.  I definitely prefer my husband getting the airtime, not me!  (Plus my phone died because everyone and their mom, that I hadn't talked to in years, now felt like it was the perfect time to text me and act like we were currently best friends. #UmWhoIsThis)
& 3. Tyler making a quality start(6IP, 7H, 3ER, 2BB, 5K) but getting the loss as the Mets beat us 3-2.

After the game, I went down on the field to get a picture with my husband.  We talked for a couple minutes before the media came whisking him away to the locker room for interviews.  That was my cue to head for the wives' lounge.  I ended up waiting in there for him for literally FOR...EV...ER.  His phone had died for the same reason mine did, so we weren't able to communicate until he was ready to go. He came off the elevator with the cutest grin I've ever seen and I just knew he got word he'd be staying up with the Big Club.  I was right!  Since the team was leaving for a road trip the next day, he decided to skip the post game spread and take me out instead.  So where'd we go to celebrate the big debut?  Somewhere fancy maybe?  No way...soooo NOT us!  Instead, we went through a TacoBell drive through, ate it in our hotel room, and totally passed out from our insane day. Ha!

The rest of the season was an unbelievable experience for us.  Tyler got his first MLB win in his next start where he gave up just one run through seven innings against the Cincinnati Reds.  He also got his first MLB hit during that game verses the opposing pitcher, Johnny Cueto!  I had the joy of watching it on TV from the Sandberg's house back in Lehigh and also the joy of being handed the two baseballs (first win and first hit) when he arrived back in Philly.  Very cool!  The next couple of road trips I was able to join him on.  The first trip was to Houston and the second to New York.  My birthday happened to fall over the New York trip which made it extra special, plus Tyler's start there against the Mets(the same team he pitched against in his debut) was one I'll never forget!  The Phillies won 16 to 1, as Tyler pitched eight innings of three hit ball!  It was exciting!  Then again, the whole month of September was exciting!  Ty was awarded The Phillies Paul Owens Award, meaning the best pitcher in the Phillies Minor League System.  It was a huge honor as they presented it to him on the field at a game and even flew in his family for the special occasion!  He was also awarded the International League Pitcher of the Year, which is like the Cy Young of Triple A.  Wow!  Let's just say we have some pretty cool memorabilia to hang one day when we're done being nomads. :)

Ty ended the 2012 MLB season with a 4.91 ERA, higher than he'd like of course, but that just gave him more motivation to push himself harder during the off season. From a fan's perspective, I might be a terrible wife for this, but when his ERA isn't as low as he'd like it to be, I remind him that no matter how he does out there on the mound, I'll still be his biggest supporter and number one fan; most importantly however, I tell him to remember that stats don't matter in Heaven. #Truth #LargerGoalsThanMLB

With that in mind, I remember there were two Bible verses I couldn't get enough of during that time. (& even still today.) 
The first was Colossians 3:23 - "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man."
The second was 2 Corinthians 4:18 - "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

These two versus hit the mark perfectly. The first one especially so because as I mentioned earlier, my husband was not a top prospect.  He was never projected to make it to the Majors.  His fastball only sat in the upper 80s.  He wasn't a strikeout pitcher.  "He'll never make it," they said.  "They" must have forgotten that just because a guy isn't a top prospect or projected to have a long career in Major League Baseball, doesn't mean he'll never get a shot.  Sure, it might mean no multiyear/multimillion dollar contract, but hello? That's the case for most ballplayers! Most of these guys come and go before you even recognize their name on a jersey.  Honestly though, most actually seem ok with that after years in the minors and being sporadically shuffled around from team to team.  To get one pitch or one at bat in the Bigs is absolutely worth it!  So now, how did I tie all this in with Colossians 3:23?  Easy... Basically, it doesn't matter what any person projects for you in life.  Someone might project you won't make it at something and you do, and others might project you will make it at something and you don't.  These people's expectations of you don't mean a thing as long as you try your hardest at everything you do for the glory of God.  There is such a peace when you realize you only have to please Him in all that you do.  The second verse, 2 Corinthians 4:18, was so good for us at such a high point in our lives, when everything in our Earthly world was going the right way for us.  My husband had a phenomenal season in AAA, he just made it to the Majors, he received awards and rookie baseball cards, people wanted his autograph all the time, he was bringing in a much bigger paycheck, we were able to buy a new car,  travel/hotels/meals were paid for, he would be in the new MLB video game, companies offered free merchandise because they wanted him to wear their brands, etc....perks among perks among perks.  It's no wonder how easy it could be to get caught up in all of that and how the lifestyle has the potential to change where someone might find their worth from. Praise God we knew of 2 Corinthians 4:18 however, as it kept us grounded during this awesome time in our lives, reminding us that all of the "awesomeness" was only temporary and that there was actually something MORE AWESOME waiting ahead for us.  If we wanted that, we knew we needed to keep our paths straight and our eyes fixed on God's true destiny for us, Heaven.  
One other thing I want to point out about 2 Corinthians 4:18 is that it can be used whether you're at a high point or a low point in your life! Whatever you happen to be going through, good or bad, and no matter how long it lasts, it is always temporary and the best is always yet to come if you're open to receive it!

As I finish up this post in September of 2015, three years since Tyler made his MLB debut, I look back and have so much to be thankful for.  I've seen my husband reach his childhood dream of making it to the top in this sport he loves so passionately.  I've seen him spend parts of two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.  I've seen him strike out Big Papi at Fenway Park.  I've seen him HIT a double.  I've seen him invited to big league spring training with the Cleveland Indians.  I've seen him take a perfect game into the 9th inning for the Indians triple-A affiliate.  I've seen him pitch a no-hitter for the Indians triple-A affiliate.  I've seen him pitch in the KBO in South Korea.  The list goes on of accomplishments that I've been able to see and be a part of in his baseball career, not to mention the people we've met, places we've traveled, and good health we've had. I am forever proud and forever grateful for all of these moments!  What I'm proud of even more so though, is the amazing man Tyler is off the field. We have now been married just shy of five years and we have been blessed with two children so far: our daughter Gracie(23 months), and our son, Nicholas(3 months).  Tyler is the most incredible husband and father, not because he's a baseball player, but because he has used this platform God has given him to speak Truth to middle school students, high school students, youth groups, parents, and adults.  I am so blessed to be loved by this man, and to call my husband my best friend and the father of our children. There is still so much I could write about, and maybe soon I'll pick this blogging thing back up again, but for now, my hands are just too full of love from these precious babies of ours. :)  Until then, God bless and thank you for reading. xo, Tonya

Monday, February 11, 2013

There Are No Timeouts in Baseball.

Baseball as you may or may not know, has no set time limit. Because the game is not on a clock, games can last anywhere from a matter of minutes, to the length of a full day's work. Crazy right?  According to the Baseball-Almanac, the shortest nine-inning game took only 51 minutes to complete, while the longest nine-inning game lasted four hours, forty-five minutes.  When you look at extra-inning games, the longest single game took eight hours, six minutes, lasting 25 innings, although the record for the most innings played in a single game was 26 innings!  The longest doubleheader?  12 hours and five minutes thanks again to extra innings, as well as multiple rain delays.  Also, since baseball is not on a clock, there are no such things as time-outs.  A player, coach, or umpire may call "time" to regroup for a second if needed, or used in attempt to throw the opposing pitcher or hitter off their balance/timing/groove. However, there are actually restrictions to calling "time" that are enforced by umpires at their own discretion.

So. Have you ever been in a position where you want to call "time" but you're not able to do so, or maybe a situation where you want to keep going but someone else calls "time" to interfere with what you were doing?  When you think about it, you'll probably find that these instances, whether major or minor, happen on a daily basis.  For Tyler and I, one of those "times" definitely stood out to us during this past season...

Things were great! The summer was passing by with ease and Tyler was doing phenomenal in Triple-A.  We were super excited for everything that was going on in our lives that we didn't want it to end.  Then one morning, on a day Tyler was on the road, I woke up and realized I had a lump on my neck.  It was right smack dab in the front, just like a man's Adam's Apple! I panicked, like REALLY panicked, and instantly Skype'd my husband.

"Tyler! I think I'm turning into a man!"
"Will you still love me if I turn into a man?"
"Ty! I grew an Adam's Apple like over night!  What if by the time you get back I have a deep voice and hair on my chest?!"
"We'll be getting a divorce for sure."
"Oh my gosh, this is so horrible!"

His blunt responses of course cracked me up and therefore calmed me down.  Once he accomplished that, he proceeded to check out my newest neck feature over his iPad screen.
"I don't see it," he said questionably.
"Well it's definitely there!  I proclaimed, and then quietly added, "just maybe not as noticeable as I'm making it out to be...but it's there!"
"Hmm, well, we'll go see the team doctor when I get back in town then," he decided.
I agreed.

Within a few days, we were heading to the doctor's office.  After examining my neck, the doctor concluded that I most likely had a cyst.  He said it was no big deal, very common, and would take just a simple draining to get rid of.  Before going through with the procedure, he set me up with a thyroid ultrasound at the hospital later that day just to make sure.  

My husband and I felt relieved.  We went to lunch together before I dropped him off at the field and then I headed over to the hospital by myself.  I joked with the nurse as she began my ultrasound.  
"I never dreamed of going to my first ultrasound husbandless or that it would be of my neck and not my belly," we laughed.  
After quieting down, I watched as she examined the screen and began typing some notes.  Of course it was all in another language - medical terminology - but with my profession being Massage Therapy I understood enough to know something didn't seem right.
"You're all done," she said. "The doctor will call you later today with your results."
On that note, I thanked her and headed home.

Just as the nurse assured me, the doctor called.
I noticed concern in his voice as he began to speak. He stated to me that we didn't get the results we were hoping for, that in fact, there was nothing to drain. I questioned him on what exactly that meant.

"Well," he said, "You have a tumor." 


Time can't be called now. 
I'm in my groove.
It'll throw me off.
Why this?
What now?

He began to tell me about what my future held.  He spoke about neck specialists, biopsies, doctor's appointments, and surgeries.  I worried after hearing that, not for myself, but for my husband. I became anxious at the thought of doctor's appointments and surgeries only because of how they might entail some time away from the baseball field.  Would the team even give him time away from the baseball field? And if so, would I really request that from him?  He was having this outstanding year; I didn't want there to be something wrong with me that might make him lose focus or miss an opportunity.  We we're in this career of his together so I didn't want to hold him back.  He'd spent his whole life preparing for what was happening this season, now all I could think about was that I might ruin it somehow!

Even with all that in mind, I decided to call Tyler right away to inform him of what the ultrasound had revealed, but mostly to tell him about all those worries of mine regarding him and baseball.  In no time at all, I began to feel the selflessness kind of love we share in our marriage.
"Are you crazy babe?" he asked perplexed, "Please don't worry about me. Baseball will still be there. All I want is for you to be okay.  Nothing else matters more than that."  
Ugh, somehow that was everything I didn't want to hear, yet everything I yearned to hear, all at the same time.  Just what I was afraid of! 

In trying to figure it all out, Tyler and I realized we had a complete sense of calming for ourselves that everything would be okay, yet, we were lacking that sense for the other person. We were so worried for each other, which seems normal to do, but instead, we began to understand it should only be an initial human reaction, not an ongoing emotion.  We decided we needed to relax for a second and just pray.

During that time of prayer, I began to actually see how the devil works so deviously in our minds to create panic, anxiety, worry, and stress.  Satan completely thrives off of those emotions!  St. Francis of Assisi put it best when he said, "By the anxieties and worries of this life, Satan tries to dull man's heart and make a dwelling for himself there."  What this means, is when Satan senses your first onset of anxiety he makes a home for himself in your heart with full intentions of turning you away from God.  He knows he can work with those emotions to turn us instead toward temporary pleasures like prescription pills, alcohol, sex, shopping, and whatever other addictions people can easily fall into, thus becoming exactly what Satan wants for us to be, dull, warn, and hopefully giving up all hope in God ever forgiving us for what we've done and who we've become. Isn't that powerful to see how planting a seed of anxiety can lead to destruction?!  

With our better mindsets, Tyler and I went back to discussing this upcoming trial of mine.  We knew that worrying so much about what our future held meant we weren't trusting 100% in God, therefore we wanted to use this opportunity to grow closer to Him.  We needed to clearly recognize that this was His plan, that He had His hand on us, and that we were to accept it with open arms - God was officially calling "time" in our lives.  

Look what we found in choosing to grow closer to God through all of this!

Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 55:22 Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

So, let me get this straight?!  The devil actually enjoys when we become anxious because it gives him an opportunity to turn us away from God and toward temporary happiness, like anxiety medications or a bottle of wine, while God on the other hand, is saddened to see us anxious so much that He simply wants us to pray, give those worries and anxieties to Him, and join His path of eternal happiness.  

God is truly amazing!

Seeing this so clearly together, our future looked bright; we would get through this.  The Phillies organization was phenomenal with my situation, letting us know that family comes first over everything. I was relieved when they informed me that Tyler and the trainers would all have their cell phones with them in the dugout in case I needed to get a hold of them for any reason.  I would end up having to go to my biopsy appointment alone because the team was out of town again, but I did alright. The local anesthesia injections were painful enough to make me cry, but in the end the doctor got the sample he needed. 

A sample that would ultimately come back suspicious for cancer.

Holy moly.

It was time to make an appointment for my first ever surgery.  I don't think it ever really hit me because the doctor was so amazing.  He let Tyler and I know that it was a very simple, very common, and very quick procedure.  He also informed me that my scar would be pretty much unnoticeable after a year or so.  Tyler contacted who he needed to at the Phillies and instantly got three days off to be with me - the day before, during, and after my surgery.  We planned it around his pitching schedule so he wouldn't miss a start.  Luckily for him, the day of my surgery happened to fall on July 24th, meaning he'd also have off July 25th - the day the IronPigs celebrated Christmas in July with team Santa jerseys. We were able to watch that game on TV together and decided the jerseys were....ummm...cute?  Hehe :)  (I'm sure a picture of him in that jersey with me on his lap would have made an adorable Christmas card though!)  

We did of course get a picture in the hospital room before I went under anesthesia, which Tyler says was absolutely hilarious. Sweet husband, I know.  Unfortunately I had a bad reaction coming out of it, so I had to stay over night at the facility; thankfully all was well the next morning.

    When Tyler had to return to work, I was still pretty drugged up and unable to drive, so he dropped me off at the Sandberg's house where Margaret took wonderful care of me as I tried to sleep all day.  She was amazing; all the wives were amazing! They all prayed for me and bought me scarfs to help cover up my stitches.  I was so blessed to have so much support, including my mom and dad, as they both got the opportunity to come out and visit us during all of this. It was great! After my experience, life is a little bit different, but not by much.  Because they had to cut off a sliver of my thyroid when they removed my tumor, I now have to get my blood checked every six months to make sure it's still working properly.  I don't know about you, but I'll take that over something more serious any day.

    As soon as I was feeling better, it was time to host the IronPigs' Wives Socks and Underwear Drive for the shelters around town.  I was so excited to finally be able to focus less on myself and more on others.  Jen Savery and I were able to promote the event over the radio broadcast of a game, which made for a great turnout the night of the drive.  I've posted a few pictures from that event and also from the day we dropped off the donations after the following paragraph. Thank you so much to the fans for donating! We had a blast!

    When I think of the duration of a baseball game, it reminds me a lot of the duration of a person's life. You may know the average length of time you have, but you never know if it will be cut short or if it will be prolonged. You'll be thrown fast balls, curve balls, change ups, and sliders, and you can bet that "time" will be called, but remember, it doesn't stop the clock.   At the end of it all, you'll either win or lose, so choose wisely what you do with your time and give it all you've got. Play to win. 

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    25th Annual Triple-A All-Star Game!

    Every year, there's a period of time in the middle of baseball season that all players and their families get ridiculously excited about; it's called the All-Star Break.  What it consists of, is two to three complete days off, meaning absolutely no baseball at all.  Keep in mind that although baseball season is of course the absolute best, it's also very, very long.  Our husbands report to Spring Training in February/March and their seasons run through September/October.  Even then, some go on to play in fall and winter leagues, those of which play out through the end of December... Whew!  If that doesn't justify our case of being overly excited for this mid summer break, I don't know what will.  Anyway, the All-Start Break is usually a time where players can visit home(if they don't live too far away and if they can afford it), or when their significant others come to visit, under the impression they'll actually be able to spend some quality time free.

    This year, the Triple-A All-Star Break was July 9th through the 11th.  Ty and I decided the last week of June that we'd spend our "baseball free" time in New York City! We figured the hour and a half drive from Lehigh wouldn't be too far for us, so we began looking into hotels and planning out our adventure.  Fortunately, we hadn't booked our trip yet when we received the following handout, instead, informing us of our upcoming trip to Buffalo, NY - home to the 25th Annual Triple A All-Star Game!!
    Holy cow, what a surprise!  We had both mistakenly assumed he wouldn't be eligible since he had only been in Triple-A for two months.  Now, however, not only was he a part of the 2012 International League All-Star Team, he was also elected as their starting pitcher.  That was really an honor to him, as being elected for that position meant Tyler received the most votes from ballots submitted by club's field managers and general managers (1/3), members of the media (1/3), and online fan voting (1/3).  Also announced representing the IronPigs on the All-Star roster were infielder, Kevin Frandsen, and manager, Ryne Sandberg...this was going to be fun!

    Before actually entering the All-Star Break, the IronPigs would be heading to Rochester for two games, upon wrapping up an 11 day, 12 game homestand.   The GM of the team informed us that the All-Stars and a guest would normally be flown to the city of the event, but since the team would end the first half only an hour or so drive from Buffalo this year, another form of transportation would be set up for the players.  Ryne's wife, Margaret, and I were still given the option to fly from Lehigh to Buffalo to meet up with our husbands after their stop in Rochester, but Margaret had another idea up her sleeve.

    "Let's ride the bus to Rochester with the team and then head over to Buffalo with the boys!"

    Such a great idea!!
    ...and so our journey began...

    Friday the 6th was the team's getaway night, meaning you come to the field packed for the road trip because immediately after the game, and showers - thank you Lord - you get on the bus and head to the next city.  Giant, pink suitcase in tow, I made it!

    Ty's Triple-A team travels with two buses.  One, known as the quiet bus, is pretty standard with wide, comfy, reclining seats.  The other, known as the loud bus, is more of a tour bus with sleeping bunks and roomy areas for playing card games - aka: a pro baseball player's pastime.  Wives were to ride the quiet bus, so Ty and I hopped on and took what was left...the very back row.  Yeah, that row; the one just a few feet away from the bathroom, the only row where you can't recline the seats all the way back, and the row where, "No kissy kissy back there you two," instantaneously occurs as you take a seat with your husband.  Oh joy, haha.  We had fun with it though, even when I had to "go" in the middle of the night!  Fortunately for my bladder and I, I conquered my fear of the team bus bathroom, as it completely surpassed all my expectations of a team bus bathroom.  The ride to Rochester was such a funny memory I will always remember, and the two days we spent there were so much fun! Ty even pitched the last day there, giving up no runs on three hits through six innings, and lowering his ERA to 2.01. It was a great end to the first half of the season!


    Off to Buffalo...
    (Pictures posted at the bottom)

    The IronPigs' GM surprised the five of us with a limousine for our 90 minute ride.  I'll admit, since we didn't know them all too well at the time, we felt pretty unworthy riding in a limo across New York with Ryne & Margaret Sandberg and Kevin Frandsen. That wasn't exactly something that happened everyday. Ha! 

    After arriving in Buffalo that evening and checking into our room, Kevin asked my husband and I to dinner.  We gratefully accepted and had some awesome conversation I will never forget.  Kevin shared so much of his story with us, some of which you should read about by clicking here, and he also continued on about his baseball career, including his first call-up to the Big Leagues.  Catching us completely off guard, Kevin directed that part of the conversation towards Tyler, giving him some words of advice for his upcoming call-up, because, "of course it would be happening this year," Kevin was just so sure of it!  Now, don't get me wrong, Ty and I completely understood that a call-up at the Triple-A level means, "Welcome to the Big Leagues," but it wasn't something we really talked about together because we wanted to remain grateful for where we already were, that being in Triple-A.  It was cool though, that Kevin brought us to a realization that Tyler's childhood dream of playing in the Big Leagues might actually be on the horizon. 

    The next day we were given plenty of free time so we decided to try out Anchor Bar - home of the original buffalo chicken wings. Mmmm mmmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!  They were seriously so good that we cleaned our plates and licked our fingers dry, probably within five minutes of being handed them.  The rest of the day we had time to relax, until the Home Run Derby later on that night. Tyler was told we weren't required to go since he wasn't participating, but we were so glad we did because it ended up being a blast! The stadium was jam packed with fans eager to see the All-Star Home Run Derby, along with the Celebrity Home Run Derby.  Both were quite entertaining! It was especially neat for us because the players, wives and kids were able to watch from the dugout. The laid back atmosphere made it easy for the players and their families to get to know each other since we were all from different teams throughout the league.

    The second day was the Excursion to Niagara Falls, followed by the All-Star Gala. I'll be honest in saying, I've never really felt compelled to go to Niagara Falls because my parents went there for their honeymoon, and well, that just seemed silly. After given this opportunity to go however, I was so grateful because I realized I was missing something so beautiful!!!  It was also cool because we were all given passes to the numerous attractions on the American side, including Maid of the Mist - a boat ride that took us up close and personal to the falls!  Tyler and I spent our day adventuring around with the Sandbergs, which ended up being such a funny double date; those two are just adorable! We definitely felt blessed for the chance to get to know them better that day though, as it lead to a great relationship that would come through at a time of need later on in the season. The All-Star Gala was such a fun event for my husband and I because it was kind of like a wedding reception experience... well, sort of, just without the dancing. Ha!  Just being given the opportunity to dress up and go to an evening affair together was a simple pleasure because in baseball, those times are rare.  Wives go to weddings dateless all the time and formal date nights are pretty unheard of during the season, so we took full advantage.  The whole atmosphere, including the food, entertainment, and company made for an amazing night! 

    The following day was the All-Star Luncheon and the All-Star Game!  We woke up refreshed and spent some time thanking God for all the amazing memories we were making. We then got out of bed and began getting ready for the luncheon - another event we had the joy of dressing up for. :) The players had to report to the ballroom sooner than their families because they were going to be formally introduced as part of the introduction. I had kissed Tyler goodbye about fifteen minutes prior to heading down to the ballroom myself, and was completely blown away by the crowd I saw gathering as the elevator doors opened to the main lobby.  There must have been 400 to 500 people making their way to the luncheon!  The families, management, media, and fans were so excited for this day, as they should have been.  The buzz was already going around about our guest speaker, Tom Seaver - a former Major League Baseball Pitcher, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award winner, and inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. All I knew about him at the time was that Tyler looked up to him so I was excited to hear why.  I followed the crowd to the ballroom and found Margaret at our table where I was delighted to meet her friend's she was introducing me to.  After spending some time talking with them, the All-Star introductions began, and soon Tyler, Kevin and Ryne joined us at the table.  Almost immediately I noticed Kevin and Tyler acting a little strange. 
    "What's going on?" I whispered to Kevin. 
    "Do you know who we're sitting at the table with?" he asked.
    "I met them already but I forgot their names," I said with embarrassment. 
    "It's Marv Levy and Bill Polian," Kevin whispered excitedly. 
    "Oh neat!" I exclaimed, but humbly followed with, "Should I know them?"
    Kevin laughed and went on to explain that I probably wouldn't know them unless I was a huge football fan.  He took the time to inform me that Marv Levy was a former NFL coach and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, and that Bill Polian is an American Football executive that had almost everything to do with the Colts signing Peyton Manning. 
    "Oh neat!" I exclaimed again, this time actually understanding who they were!
    Soon after my lesson, Tom Seaver began to speak, and did an absolutely amazing job! He really set the tone for the rest of our time in Buffalo enjoying all of the All-Star festivities. After the luncheon the boys headed over to the field and I went back up to the room to get ready for the night ahead. 

    A couple hours before the game, Margaret and I walked over to the field to spend some time at a pre-game party. It was so cool to see the stadium fill up with 10,000+ fans and watch the TV crews getting ready to go live. After walking around some and buying myself a simple, men's gray t-shirt, as I do for every team Ty plays on (I'm kind of in love with gray t-shirts...there is just something so comfy about them!), I finally made it to my seat, eager to watch my husband pitch.  We were told from day one that he was only pitching the first inning since he ended up pitching the last game of the first-half of the season, so I didn't want to miss it. Here's how it looked:

    International League All-Stars
    Tyler Cloyd (L, 0-1)1.032211018.00

    Well, that didn't go as we hoped, but thankfully I have a husband who puts things behind him in an instant.  I can really appreciate that from him because it instills a calming sense of encouragement in me that there is no need to worry.  Whether I'm watching him pitch an incredible inning, or watching him battle through a rough one, I am always so impressed by his poise on the mound.  It reminds me that he is a complete man of faith and that whatever happens will not affect him on a personal level anytime after. That demeanor of his is seriously something I will always respect and admire him for.

    After the game, I met up with Ty to head to the post-game party. As we walked along, we laughed together about conversations he had in the dugout, and also joked about his time with the media.  I began my best impression of how I thought it probably went, asking him ridiculous questions and then putting my closed fist in front of his mouth as if he had to answer into a microphone.  We had so much fun together during that walk to our final event in Buffalo.

    Later that night, our All-Star Break finally came to a close. Tyler, along with Kevin and the Sandbergs, caught a flight out the next morning to meet the IronPigs in Virginia and I headed back to Lehigh.  During my ride, I had time to realize how much of an honor the week had truly been.  I was so proud of Ty and extremely grateful for our time together there. To see his first-half achievements earn him the starting pitcher slot in the 25th Annual Triple-A All-Star Game was so awesome! Tyler chose to humble himself however, not wanting to get a big head, and also chose not to worry about what our futures had to hold.  The only thing Ty wanted to do was keep the first half of his season going, and Glory be to God, that's just what he did...