We all need a hitting coach

I was lucky enough growing up to have a step dad who wanted to coach me in Little League.

While my step dad and myself don’t have the closest relationship, he was present and always did what dad’s were supposed to do. He would pick up me and my friends from school, we’d pile into his truck and take us to football practice. He coached little league and took me to Boy Scouts. While my daddy story isn’t perfect, I’m realizing that I was luckier than most in my situation. He did all of the sports stuff right. He laid the foundation for my love of the game.

I’ve had a few days off and decided that I would go to my son’s school and have lunch with him for the very first time. It was something I wanted to experience with Jack and now that he’s in a routine, I figured it wouldn’t trigger any additional anxiety for him. But when I told Jack this morning of my plan, his response surprised me. He looked me dead in the eyes and said,

“But daddy, daddies don’t visit kids at school. Only mommies and grandmas.”

That broke my heart to hear these words. Growing up with a unique daddy situation myself, I know that every kid has a story, whether good or bad, each kid has one. I asked Jack if he has ever seen a daddy or grandpa at school and he said no. So initially, he was reluctant of me going.

As I continued to reassure him that I would love to eat lunch with him, his reluctance turned into joy and as I dropped him off this morning, he grinned and said “I’ll see you at lunchtime!” Just as expected, his face lit up and we had a great time. All of the kids were very excited to see me, even though most had never met me. I opened honey and butter packages for the 6 kids at my table, learned each child’s middle name and how to spell them, and learned that none of the other kids Jack’s age eat very much at school, especially vegetables. It was hard to keep my attention on Jack as it was split 7 ways. But I don’t think it mattered. His face was glowing the entire time. My presence was enough.

I was proud to be there…to be HIS daddy. To be HIS coach.

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We all need a coach.

We need someone who can be the moral compass when we begin to lose focus. Whether you’re a young kid at school excited to see somebody else’s daddy and crave attention or you are a 33 year old man who has recently lost your coach…it’s important to be a part of a team. Maybe find a hitting coach who will tell you your mechanics are off and how to not get behind early in the count. A coach who will tell you what pitch to expect in certain situations. A coach who will point out your weaknesses, even though it may sting. We just need someone present for us.

While I know it’s not my responsibility to be a coach to each of those kids who may not have someone at home.

But what I can do is coach my son to love his classmates. To accept all onto his team. To never turn down a teammate and to make each of his friends feel his love. Some of us may never be lucky enough to have our own coach. But each of us deserves to be a part of a team.

I’m raising player/coaches. While I hope they don’t turn out like Manny Ramirez, I hope they grow into the type of men that their peers look up to. Respected teammates who will be the first one out of the dug out, giving hi fives and praise.

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Who was your coach and what was the most important thing they taught you?

I wish I could’ve watched baseball with Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a comedic genius.

Someone, who at the drop of a hat, could have us rolling on the floor with his improv. Losing Robin Williams was tough for me. I don’t see myself as a comedian, but someone who enjoys making people smile with inappropriate humor and witty banter. He always gave us glances of the more serious side of himself. Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society were incredible examples of the other side of him. And while I didn’t really know the extent of depression and additions that he was suffering from, I can relate a bit to who he was.

I cried when Robin Williams died, but not for the reason you think. I cried because I hoped that I wouldn’t end up like that one day. Living life behind the smiles, dying behind the sorrow. I took his death harder than most celebrity deaths (RIP Marilyn Monroe.) This is why I decided to finally seek help. To clear the cob webs. Fight the demons. To start swinging away.

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Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com

Yesterday’s post on seeking therapy was my most read since I’ve been writing. 

My traffic doubled yesterday. (Sincerely-thank you for stopping by. It’s fun knowing that so many people are reading what I write and it’s not just going out into the ether.) But my goal here isn’t blog hits. It isn’t to become a world renowned author and travel the country speaking at different engagements. My goal is to live a healthier life. To share my experiences with you all in hopes that others like me can come forward and share their stories. To let others know that they’re not alone in their struggles. To honor Robin Williams. I am here to find my verse.

If you’re reading this now and you have some weight on your shoulders, reach out. You don’t always have to share as much as I do. (Trust me, my wife probably wishes I would tone it down a bit.) But talking to others does help. You aren’t alone. Most importantly, you are not a burden. Your worries, no matter how insignificant you may feel they are, are still your worries. They still sit on your heart.

You can reach out to me multiple ways:

email: nick.maestas@gmail.com

twitter: @nmaestas

facebook: facebook.com/maestas

myspace: HAHAHAHAHA LOL

If you want to chat baseball, life, or just need an ear (or eyes) drop me a line.  Seriously, please do. If you want my phone number, reach out above and I’d be happy to chat with you. You matter to me.

Lets ride through this journey together. Sit with me in the stands and lets watch a game together.

It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back. So shake him off.

In baseball, a stinger is the short clip of a song that plays when a batter is walking up to the plate.

Each player picks a song that pumps them up, when they walk up to the plate, it gives them confidence to face even the nastiest of pitchers. One of my favorite all time stingers comes from former Husker, Chad Christensen, “The Outfield-Your Love”. Each time I heard “Josey’s on a vacation far away,” I knew who was coming up. For me it was a fun song. One that got the crowd going. I can’t speak for Chad but I’m sure he fed off of it. 

It got me thinking about my own stinger.

A song that I would pick when I came up to the plate. I usually keep this in the back of my mind when I’m listening to music. It helps me pay better attention to the lyrics instead of just enjoying a great beat. I was paying close attention to the lyrics of the song “Shake it out” by Florence + the Machine when a certain line of the chorus hit me. The line went “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake it off.” 

That line has been resonating with me a lot lately. Losing my grandfather two and a half years ago, I still carry his ghosts with me. Losing a friend and coworker the way we did still haunts me. And recently, we lost another coworker, the one who made you laugh in the face of unspeakable tragedy. These ghosts have recently become too much weight for me to carry. The devil has been dancing on my back a lot. It became time for me to shake him off. 

I started seeing a psychologist. 

It’s hard for me to admit. I don’t like that I need this to shake the demons. But through this, I’ve come to realize that maybe I have more darkness in me than I ever imagined. I always knew that the daddy issues would haunt me, but some of the items being uncovered are a bit surprising. Because of these demons, I’ve become stricken with anxiety. Mostly the fear of my own death. Basically I think that each night when I go to sleep, I am going to die. It honestly scares the crap out of me. Over the last few months, I can’t go to sleep without Tylenol PM. I’ve recently transitioned to a healthier option, Melatonin. The healthier option has been helping.

I’ve been going to therapy for about a month now.

Each session is a bit different. But with each session, it’s felt better. I’ve cried more than I care to admit. I’ve shared more in 4 hours with this lady than I had shared in my entire life. It’s hard for me to vocalize my feelings. It’s easy for me to spill my guts on this blog. It is easy for me to be honest here. To let my heart pour out. It’s not easy for me to say things out loud. But it’s something I’m working on. It’s something I’m getting better at.

Admitting I needed help mentally was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. In the movies, tv shows, you laid on a couch and spilled your guts to someone who was just ready to collect a check and move onto the next patient. In my short experience, it’s not even close to the truth. This is helping me. I sit on the edge of the couch. I have my notebook (she calls it a journal. I call it a notebook.) She can sense my pains, my fears. She knows that my need for help isn’t so much about the murder of a friend but a lack of grieving my grandfather.  I appreciate her. I also dislike her in the moment. But she’s helping. that’s really all I could’ve asked for.

I’m becoming more confident at the plate.

With each at bat, I’m getting more comfortable. I feel like I’m becoming the clean up hitter I used to be. While I am still not seeing the ball as clearly as I used to, I’m adjusting and my batting average is growing. I’m ready to dance. Lets get this devil off my back.

Cue my stinger. I’m ready to hit. 

It’s a team that makes the individual.

Players have a set of individual talents that make them great. Whether it’s closing gaps in the outfield, a great first step on the base paths, or the ability to turn on a fastball, individuals are just that. Individual. In baseball, not one person can single handedly win a game. One person can end the game, but no one person can win it. You need defense. A pitcher needs players behind him to make plays, even if he’s pitching a no hitter or perfect game. It’s a team that makes the individual, not the other way around. 

In my life, I’ve been blessed with a great team. My family has been critical to my personal and professional success. My wife’s support, my kids laughter and needed distractions have been nothing beyond life saving. My parents and sister’s support and encouragement has been enough to push me through the late innings when things get tight. The one part of my team that I’ve been neglecting lately has been my friends. 

Our friends are one of the most important aspects of life that easily get overlooked. Whether it’s old high school friends you only see at reunions, college friends who you used to do ridiculously stupid stuff with, or friends you’ve met in your adult life, these relationships tend to get the short end of the stick. While I don’t think the growing amount of time between gatherings is an indication of the importance in your life, the longer time passes the harder it gets to feed them. 

I often make the mistake of letting my friendships begin to wither. Whether they’ve done something that I most likely don’t remember to upset me or just life in general keeping us apart, I’ve been guilty of letting my friendships start to wither. I can’t name a single relationship that I’ve constantly fed throughout the years. The same relationship that we had then is most certainly not the relationship that we have now. 

I’ve had some great friends along the way. Friends who would do absolutely anything for me. Friends who have. Some of my greatest memories are with them. These relationships were great because of who we were then. To expect the relationship to stay the same, 10-20 years later is probably a bit unfair. When we start to grow, we’d be remiss if we expected our relationships to stay exactly the same.

Just last night, one of my closest friends brought his family over for a Laborious Day of fun. This friendship is one that I could feel was starting to get away, not of any particular reason but just because life has been more difficult the last few months. But having them over was a great reminder that when we feed our relationships, not only is it our friendships that grow but my kids will have memories of this very weekend with their friends. It’s been fun watching our kids grow together and now feed each other. 

Our teams should be filled with greatness. Fill a team with people who you can trust to play tough defense behind you. People you want to go to battle with every day. Sooner or later, our contracts will expire so make the most of the team you have today. Leave it all on the field. Because no matter what happens at the end of the game, you’ll be proud to all be in the same dugout.

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You can either hit a curveball, or you can’t.

Recently, I had signed up for Fizzle. It’s a place for people who either already own their own business or people who have an idea and just need some help getting it going. The community there has been pretty great and it’s encouraging to know there is a group out there wanting me to succeed when building a business. While I’m not anywhere near close to what I want to do to make some side cash, I know I enjoy writing and part of the process is honing my skills here. 

When signing up for the community, they asked to provide a profile pic so people can put a face to the Fizzler. Being someone who has some image issues recently, I have very few images of myself to pop up. Sure I had tons of selfies with my kids making goofy faces, drinking beer (me, not my kids-but I hope that in about 18 years I will be doing that with my sons) or some that just aren’t appropriate for a forum like Fizzle. I did what any normal person would do. I put on a nice shirt, found the perfect spot in our beautiful back yard with the right light and had my wife take a picture.

Once we took about 10-15 pictures and found the right one, I began to edit in Instagram. I played with the filters. I messed with the contrast, shadows, and Vignette (whatever the bloody hell that is). After about 10 minutes of editing, I had the perfect photo. I loved the way I looked and immediately made it my Twitter (@nmaestas), LinkedIn (who cares) and Fizzle profile picture. I had a lot of Facebook comments saying how nice of a picture it was, how great I looked. The boost in confidence was great. It made me feel like a good lookin dude and immediately bought my wife a sword to ward off any oncoming co-eds who wish to make their passes at me.

But that night, I looked in the mirror and I didn’t see the same guy. I saw someone with hat head, bags under my eyes, growing grey hairs and poofy cheeks. I saw myself unedited. It was in that moment I realized that I only share the side of myself that make me feel better. What I shared wasn’t who I was, but how I wanted others to perceive me. I shared a lie. Ok, a lie may be a strong word, but it definitely wasn’t the every day Nick that people in real life would see.

The truth is, it’s rare when I share the real version of me. But that’s what social media is* (my English teachers would be disappointed in ending a sentence with a preposition.) Social media is a place for us to put out the vibe that we want others to see, not the 24×7 versions of ourselves. To steal a quote from Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch “You can fool everyone for a while, you know? It’s not like baseball. You can either hit a curveball or you can’t. That’s the way it works. You can have a lucky day, sure, but you can’t have a lucky career.”

As my friends, my family, or random Internetters, I want you to always see the real me. The unedited version. The good, the bad, the great, and the shitty. On the journey to find myself, I am going to choose to be as real with you all as possible. To not always be perfect. To not just get lucky on a 3-1 fastball when everyone in the park knows that’s the pitch you’re going to get. I want to be able to say in the end that they know who I was. Where I stood. And hopefully, with little editing, I could be someone that they could cheer for. Someone that they KNOW will get a base knock, regardless of the count. 

What parts of your life do you edit in social media, emails, work, etc?

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Swing away, big guy.

I was thinking about posting something a little heavier. something that I’ve been on the fence about sharing with you all, but I’m not entirely sure I want to do that today. Today has been a pretty great day. The start of a four day weekend usually helps improve the mood. I think instead, I’ll delve into the world of parenthood, AGAIN.

The first two weeks of school for Jack have been with mixed reaction. Some days I couldn’t be more proud of Jack. Others, we get stuck on his refusal to walk into school by himself. Those are the days that require multiple pulls from the now empty Jack Daniels bottle*. (Note to self, buy more whiskey)

While in my last post I discussed the difficulty of the parent letting go, being able to see our children walk off into the abyss on their own was difficult. Now the tables have turned. It’s definitely a little more difficult for Jack to let go. It’s something I have to say I didn’t really expect. I thought he would glady make his way away from the same people he goes through life with. What I didn’t take the time to do was concentrate on how he feels. His comfort level. Bottom line: He’s scared to let go. To walk in by himself.

Now once he’s in, he’s fine. He turns into a regular 5 year old, willing to learn, play, and kick ass in the classroom*. (Note to self, don’t tell the kids to kick butt in school today-they take that literally. Yes, we found out the hard way.)

But he can’t let go. He’s spent the majority of his mornings with his mother and his brother. It’s what he knows. Sure he goes to daycare, but he’s always had his brother there. My son, Jack, is a creature of habit. He lives off the status quo. If anything changes the status quo, he gets rattled and the first place he goes is emotion. It’s been hard not to get frustrated with him.

Today I was lucky enough to have the day off and was able to take him to school myself today. Lucky enough to give my wife a break from the emotional chaos that the school drop off has been. Today I woke up a bit early and got things ready for Jack’s favorite breakfast. He got french toast sticks (that he discovered at school by the way,) and bananas. He was so proud of his special breakfast. He gladly dominated the hell out of those milky, egg dipped slices of cinnamon sugar vanilla bread. Shortly after, he gladly got dressed and was happy to have about 15 minutes to play before he went. He was comfortable this morning. He wasn’t thinking about letting go. He was living in the moment. He was happy.

The drop off went so much better than i ever could have imagined. No tears. He came back for one more kiss but then he was on his way. Just him and his backpack into the abyss. He walked into that school proud. Waving the entire way, but proud.

I think what made the difference wasn’t me taking him instead of his mom. I think he was comfortable this morning. He didn’t spend time dreading something he knew he had to do. Instead, he just lived. And when it came to the big moment, he stepped up to the plate and hit one into the third deck. Seeing him do that on his own today made me proud. Made me realize that this isn’t permanent. That each day is a day to learn and grow. And while we will all have set backs, we need to do the best we can to live each moment. To enjoy where we are, to be happy where we are. But when our time comes, when it’s our turn, we need to step into the box and swing away. To not be afraid to swing at the first pitch with runners on, down 1. Don’t live life expecting not to swing. When the big moment comes up, hack away, big guy.

Today, my son hit one out of the park. I can’t wait to congratulate him when he gets home.
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Holy Sh!T It’s Kindergarten Time!

I remember my first day of kindergarten. Not the entire day, but the most difficult part. I was spoiled rotten by my grandparents. I lived with them. They did everything for me.  I remember walking downstairs of my now torn down elementary school. It was dark and musty. I remember I was the last one in the hallway with my grandmother and my mom. Mrs. Ritterbush said it was time to go. I didn’t want to and my grandma had a hard time letting go. The argument those two got into is one of my first clear memories. But I remember walking into the room after calming down and I met some of my best friends I’d have for years to come.

Tomorrow it’s our turn to walk our son to school. It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem like we would ever get to this point as a parent. All we ever had to worry about before was making sure he had enough to eat, he was learning a little bit, and he was having fun along the way. I think we’ve provided him all of those things and a little more. I know he’s ready. Ready to make life long friends and learn and grow and become a little closer to becoming a man.

that’s what scares me. It’s the letting go. Knowing that this is a huge step forward towards growing up. To him becoming a strong, smart man who, Lord willing, becomes twice the man I am.

It’s funny. When I was young, I couldn’t wait to grow up. To find out what being an adult was like. To have freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted to do. To not give three and a half shits what anyone thought about what I did and how I did it. But now I would give anything to slow down time. To cherish each moment a little more. Each second that passes is another second we won’t get back. I’ve wasted a lot of seconds in my life. I can’t get them back.

But what I can do is take each second and fight for each one. To make each f*cking second count. To help my sons grow up and at least get them in the direction of the path.

At some point, it’s going to be time to let go and let them pick their own path. For now, I’ll enjoy holding their hands along the way.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to loosen that grip a bit. I know it’ll be harder for me than for him.

I’m just glad I’m here. To be a part of it. to help give them a better story.

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Give um hell tomorrow, Jack-a-roo! I’m so g’damn proud of you! You’re going to absolutely kill it. Your laugh and your smile will be contagious. Those girls have no idea what they’re getting into. (just no chasing them on the playground trying to kiss them like daddy. sitting on the window sill during recess is no fun!)

I love you buddy. Go off and grow. “What will your verse be?”