On May 2, 2018 I was standing in the third base coaching box in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Legacy Charter High vs. Masters Academy playoff game.
We were losing 8-0 and were a couple of outs away from a likely season-ending loss.
My oldest son, and Legacy's captain, Gehrig Chambless was in the batters box getting ready to come to the plate for the last time in his high school career and the last time he and I would be on the field together as father and son.
I had been his coach for virtually every season since 2006 from the TFA Royals, through Winter Garden Little League and Legacy High School.
I remember how excited Gehrig was to get his first uniform - #14 - when he was 7 years old. He loved being on a team and having official games. his first game ever he stood out in right field and practiced his swing.
Before he took his last swing in 2018 I noticed that he was wiping his eyes and had his head down.
Slowly, he turned and began walking all the way out to where I was standing.
When he got to me it was clear he was shedding tears. He looked at me and said, "Thanks for coaching me all these years...." and then he gave his dad and coach an unforgettable hug.
On April 19, 2020 I retired from coaching baseball. That night Gehrig and I, along with his mom and brother, watched 'Field of Dreams' for probably the 15th time.
It was the last movie Gehrig and ever watched together and one that is especially meaningful to me now.
Every time the ending of this movie plays out, I weep like I am seeing it for the first time. When Kevin Costner says, "Dad....you wanna have a catch?" I always - like any other American son - pictured that being me and my dad.
The last time Gehrig and I played catch as father and son was in 2019. Strangely, we got to be all by ourselves on his high school field and we played catch for a longer period of time than we ever had. I did not want that evening to end. I knew that would most likely be our last time together on a baseball field. As we walked off together I hope he felt how special that time was to me. I hope it was to him.
Gehrig died on April 26, 2020. Bizarrely, I new see myself in the Kevin Costner role but instead of seeing my dad slowly turn and realizing it is him it is actually, in my mind, my son. I can picture in my mind the image of him in his catcher's gear, youthful, strong and free of the troubles that come as we get older.
Lou Gehrig once said - even as he was facing his own early death - that he felt like "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
I feel like I was the luckiest dad and coach on the face of the earth to have Gehrig Chambless as my son and player.
And wish I could see him on Earth one more time, in his catcher's gear and say to him, "Gehrig, would you like to play catch?"
I think he would love to.....