Jax turns 9 today. Last week I tossed grounders and pop-ups and threw batting practice to kids between 6 and 12 in our Little League for evaluations. It wasn’t lost on me when the 9-year-olds came up that Jax was missing.
On Wednesday night, as a Board member and Minors player agent of the league, I ran the draft for the 9 and 10-year-olds (and some 11s). It was at the house of the league’s president, who just happens to be the father of a boy in Jax’s first preschool class that he adored. One of the managers in the division is the mother of a player on Jax’s t-ball team.
I haven’t been able to stop fantasizing about what Jax would look like physically, and what kind of baseball player he’d be. The few 9-year-olds that I recognized at evals looked so grown up, and different, really. If I didn’t know their names, I wouldn’t have recognized them. Would I recognize Jax if I crossed paths with him?
It’s been a hard week, emotionally. The longing for him, the missing him. I mean, it always is leading up to his birthday. But throw evals and the draft on top of that, and I’m really having a hard time this week. Jax should be out there, too. It isn’t fair to leave him out of it. It’s B.S.
Today we’ll drive out to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and celebrate Jax at one of his favorite places, then meet up with family at Ruby’s in Orange at the train station for what should be a beautiful night. It’s our tradition for our boy, and the only way we know how to celebrate his birthday at this point.
And the fantasies return. What would Jax want for his 9th birthday? What would he play with? Would he like riding bikes and scooters? Create Nerf battles with his brother and sister? I have no idea what 9-year-old boys do. Lego?
But I’m confident he’d still love baseball. As my uncle Bob posted a comment in a past birthday post “it’s in our blood.”
Happy Birthday, Jax. My love for you knows no limits. My heart aches beyond comprehension. And my soul longs to be with you again.
UPDATE 1:58 PM 12/29/16: Direct link is up, which you can find HERE.
UPDATE 3:25 PM 12/27/16: Apparently viewing the web version is not mobile friendly. But the good news is a direct link will be posted within the next week or so. Once I get that link I’ll update this post with it.
Just a quick note for those not following me on Facebook or Instagram.
OC Family today published an essay I wrote for them for their January edition, which can be found throughout Orange County starting today, or online at ocfamily.com. I wrote about Jax, dealing with grief and our New Hope (to borrow the Star Wars idea – Phoenix). On the top right click on the January digital magazine, go to page 60 and you’ll find it.
Just a reminder you can always follow me on Instagram @sethtearz or Facebook here.
Just a reminder that team Iron Jax is participating in the 2016 CHOC Walk to help raise funds for Children’s Hospital of Orange County. THERE’S STILL TIME TO DONATE to the team! $1, $5, $7000 – give whatever you can/would like and help us honor Jax as we raise funds for a very special place. You can donate here.
I tried writing a post entitled Why We Support CHOC to explain the importance giving back in Jax’s honor is to us. It started like this:
Jaxson died at 9:26 p.m. at Children’s Hospital of Orange County on June 24, 2012. He wasn’t born a preemie or cured for cancer at the hospital, much like many of the participants for Sunday’s CHOC Walk 2013. For about three hours, the hospital staff did everything they could to save our boy. But it was after he left us that the CHOC staff’s grace, compassion and solace left an overwhelming mark on my wife and I. We lost our boy, but it was if they lost him with us.
The rest of it is deeply intimate and I decided against posting it. I tried to figure out a way to make it less intimate, but to me, it loses the impact. Just know that for us, it’s a very meaningful cause that honors Jax’s very special spirit.
The CHOC Walk 2016 has two major changes this year:
It’s been pushed back in October to the last Sunday of the month – 10/30/16.
The minimum amount to raise per Walker has increased to $85 (from $65).
With that being said, let’s get team Iron Jax rolling! Kristina has created our team and I’ve signed myself and the twins up. Undecided if you want to come walk with us? Phoenix will be there, so come see him!
Why do we do the CHOC Walk? Jax passed away at CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit. The entire staff was so compassionate to us and treated us with so much respect that this is our little way to give back to the hospital and the community in memory of our little hero. I wrote this pretty detailed, gut-wrenching post that explains it more, but we decided not to post it. It’s very personal. Maybe if Kristina gets enough texts, emails, Facebook messages and courier pigeons requesting the post, she’ll give the OK to post.
What is the CHOC Walk?
The Children’s Hospital of Orange County annually raises funds to support the care, services, research and education that CHOC provides children. Since its start in 1990, the CHOC Walk in the Park has raised over $24 million, with funds supporting education, research, and adoption and utilization of the latest technologies to advance the health and well-being of children. It’s a 5k walk (crawl) through Disneyland and California Adventure.
You do not receive entrance into the parks after the Walk, however, as in the past, walkers have the chance to buy discounted tickets on the day of the event. Park Hopper tickets (which allows you to hop between Disneyland and California Adventure) are $83, while Disneyland-only tickets are $55. A maximum of 5 tickets can be purchased per wristband. The tickets expire 11/30/16 and you cannot go between 11/19-11/23.
How to Register
Go here and click on Search for a Team and enter Iron Jax as the team name. This pulls up Iron Jax in the search results. Click on the name. At the right of the team page you’ll see the active roster and a “Join Team” button. Click it.
You can sign up as Fundraising Bear (no fee required but you’ll need to raise $85 minimum) or as a Busy Bear, which just means you’ll pay an extra $10 to have your t-shirt and wristband (required to participate) mailed to you.
Sponsor a Walker
If you’d like to simply make a donation as a non-team member, click here. Full disclosure, that takes you to my personal page. Click the “Donate Now” button to proceed. If you want to donate to a specific person on Iron Jax, go to the Iron Jax main page, click on the Walker you want to donate in the name of and go from there. Please keep in mind to walk, a Walker needs to have raised a minimum of $85. Children ages 3 and up are required to be Walkers, while ages 2 and under are free.
CHOC created two pages worth reading before the event. Please refer to these pages for any questions that you may have:
Next Friday is the Jax Remembrance. For those that have attended in the past, the details are similar. For those that haven’t, let’s fill you in.
My family will be in the Angel Stadium parking lot, closest to the Orangewood entrance, by 5 p.m. The spot has worked out very well for us in previous years. We’ll get there early and I encourage anyone else that joins us to help build a perimeter with your vehicles to help carve out a safe spot for our kids to play and the rest of us to play catch or stroll around and visit. Feel free to bring some food, coolers, chairs – anything to make the experience enjoyable. Really, we just want to hang out with you all.
Around 6:30, maybe a little later, we’ll start heading over to the area between the two large Angel helmets in front of the stadium. If you didn’t meet up with us in the parking lot, you can meet up with us there. GAME TIME IS 7:05.
Tickets! Let’s talk about getting your tickets. We will bring them to the stadium with us. If you want to pick them up before hand, let Kristina or I know so that can be arranged. Tickets are $21 each.
Payments! Let’s talk about the Benjamins. If you haven’t paid, you can bring money to the game (check is preferred, otherwise I’ll blow it on beers and Rally Monkeys). If you have PayPal, you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to mail a check and need our address, let me know. I also have Venmo.
Thanks to whoever it is that schedules Major League Baseball games, the Angels are home again on June 24, so we’re going to have the Jax Remembrance at Angel Stadium again this year. It is a Friday night, they’re playing the Oakland A’s and it’s “ugly sweater” baseball cap night.
Like the last couple of years, we’ll meet before the game in the parking lot to visit, eat and play some catch or wiffle ball. Then we’ll meet again in front of the stadium and walk to our seats together. Unfortunately, because it’s a Friday night game, our same seats from the last two years increased to $21 per seat this year.
As we get closer to the date, I’ll provide more details for the night.
Please let me or Kristina know if you are coming. We should buy tickets within the next two weeks.
At 1:36 p.m. last Friday, a board member of the Corona American Little League texted me. He was planning festivities for the league’s Opening Ceremonies, to be held the next morning.
“Would you do us all the honor and perform a ‘first pitch’ in memory of Jax?” he asked. He went on to write that our Rookie (t-ball) Brewers were being highlighted, and they’d also release 12 white balloons in Jax’s honor.
How do you say no to that?
If you don’t recall, prior to the 2014 season, we approached the league about permanently sponsoring the Brewers t-ball team. It was a way for us to give back and honor our boy. But the league did much more than that. This year, I was managing the Brewers team.
The next day we were throwing a fifth birthday party for Gray and Ellie, so my wife was going to skip Opening Ceremonies. Instead, she decided to come, along with her mom who was out helping with the party. My mom and dad and sister and her two kids joined as well.
As all of the teams gathered in the outfield before the ceremony, a mom of the youngest player on my team pointed out that they wrote a big number three in white chalk behind home plate, Jax’s jersey number. From afar, I could see three pearly white baseballs resting on a folding table covered in a royal blue table cloth. As we gathered to lead the parade of teams on to the field, my family got in to place overlooking the field to grab some photos and video.
I zoned out for about 10 minutes as the other teams were introduced and joined us at the lip of the outfield grass. I chatted with our team mom and coaches and tried to keep our players seated; anything distract myself from the emotions of the day.
After some words from one of the league’s board members, he introduced me. I walked, head down, towards the table with the balls. I grabbed one of those beauties, and kept flipping it in my hands while the board member spoke about Jax, our relationship with the t-ball Brewers and commitment to sponsor the team. I just wanted to get it done with. I couldn’t look at the crowd – it felt too overwhelming. I felt the eyes on me, and it made my skin crawl. I kept waiting for the board member to give the okay to toss that clutched pearl.
I was in gray shorts, a black tee shirt and beat up, gnarly Converse. Just what you think a little league coach should look like, right? The board member finally gave the cue. I stood a couple of feet in front of the rubber on the pitcher’s mound, raised my front arm to start a quick side-step motion and painted the black on the outside corner.
“Strike,” the board’s president said to me as I walked back to my team on the outfield grass. I pumped my fist as if to say “damn right.” My players released the 12 white balloons in to the sky. By the time I reached them on the grass, they were still watching them escape in to the heavens.
I saw my wife along the other side of the fence down the left field line. As I got closer to her, I noticed her eyes red and swollen with tears. I told her I had to walk away so I didn’t lose it. I felt it coming, the emotions I’d tried to bury all morning.
When I got back to my players, our team mom was fixing Ellie’s pony tail. The mom told me Ellie had started crying. I asked why, and she said she was sad. I asked Ellie what was going on, and she told me she just missed Jax. This, from the girl that never shows emotions or wants to talk about her feelings when it comes to Jax. I just always figured she had ice in her veins. Gray talks and shares and asks questions constantly about his big brother. Ellie usually sits in silence, asking my wife or I if we’re going to cry. She just doesn’t want us to cry. So to hear that she cried, and was moved by the day to lead to some sort of feeling, was special to me.
An active military servicemen and a player in the league battling an illness (this is all I can give you, as I could barely hear because all of the speakers faced the crowd, away from us) threw out the other two first pitches.
And with that, opening ceremonies ended. The league scheduled us to play immediately following the ceremonies, as they continued to highlight our Brewers team. The hope was to get a lingering crowd to stick around and watch us play the Giants. It worked.
It was a relief to finally get to the game. We were the home team, so we were in the field to start. Ellie fielded all four balls they hit in the first inning. She was a vacuum. About an hour later our game ended. The team played really well and I couldn’t have been more proud. Our shortstop made a sweet forehand play up the middle, tagged second base and threw to first. It’s as close to a double play as you can get in t-ball. Gray, inspired by pretending to be a Jedi with a light saber striking down a Sith lord, ripped line drives in all three of his at-bats. It was the hardest I’ve ever seen him hit balls. None of our players ran to third base after hitting from the tee, and while I may be biased, our team played considerably better than the Giants. BUT I MAY BE BIASED.
It was the kind of start to a day that Ice Cube would’ve rapped about (except I didn’t get a triple double, despite messing around). Our family is touched by the league’s willingness to continue to honor our special boy. To help us share his memory to those that knew him and perhaps played with him four years ago, and many that didn’t know of Jax or our story.