When DP Disappears


By: Austin Alexander – July 12, 2016

Boys-Maddon16Two summers ago I wrote a piece for Diamond Prospects entitled “When DP Relaxes”. It received quite a few hits and is brought up often when scrambling around our state during conversations with folks. I do not do Facebook and post only DP-related stuff on Twitter, it has never been my style to talk about myself or family…just not my thing. But I will throw this together for anyone interested at what DP does do during the ‘off-season’. Many of you in the baseball world have closely followed my wife’s battle with cancer, in the next few minutes I will update that situation as well.

Since Rita’s diagnosis on September 11, 2015, our family has been through quite a bit, her most of all obviously. After three months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy on February 2 and 36 rounds of radiation, Rita returned to her job as a 6th grade Math teacher in April feeling great. But after a tumultuous handful of months, I wanted to get her and our boys away from everything, and if you know us at all, that means one ballpark after another, that’s how we roll.

So I got on the phone with some good friends and baseball contacts, mapping out an eight game, eight day, three stadium MLB extravaganza!

From a family standpoint, one thing I am most proud of this go-around versus other years was that we did our DP player rankings and announced the Palmetto Games invite list several days before we left town…which turned out to be very wise. In past years, we would post those things the day before a departure, resulting in a miserable first few days of ‘vacation’.

An aside here. We live ten minutes from the Coastal Carolina campus and my oldest son has been a fixture in their dugout since he was four years old so as they won game after game in Omaha, our trip to New York was closing in. On the night that we were packing to go on the ‘vaca’ of a lifetime, CCU advanced to the Championship Series versus Arizona…which made me Public Enemy #1 because when we boarded the plane on Sunday morning, a dozen others were making a connection flight for Omaha while our agenda took us in a different geographical direction. Boys-Ground016Pretty sure my crew wanted to ditch me at that point and head West.

Some vacations are restful, some are spent trying to cram every single thing into every single second, leaving nothing undone. This trip was certainly the latter.

Upon arriving in the 2nd largest city in the world, we took the two block walk to Times Square, which is unlike any other place on Earth. If you have ever been there, you understand. And many things are not for children’s eyes or ears. Other parts of a large city become a sad visual of how rampant homelessness is right in the midst of the bright lights and billion dollar industries on every corner.

Boys-Liberty16June 27, New York City: Our first full day in NYC was spent touring household-named landmarks by bus and boat, i.e. Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden and the Rockefeller Center to name a few. Ground Zero (above) is where we spent the most time as a tourist. If you ever have an opportunity to visit that area and walk the museum, please do so. Most adults reading this recall that fateful day, enough said. For my sons, this visit was a history lesson. That night we rushed back to the hotel to watch Coastal in their Monday night opener, a 3-0 loss and facing elimination again.

Fam-MonPk16June 28-29, Yankee Stadium: Two nights in baseball’s cathedral named Yankee Stadium! After going through the hallowed grounds named Monument Park, a visit to the Yankee Museum was really cool and far different than any other club could put together in rivaling it. Bottom line, Yankees history is baseball history, pretty fun stuff for one baseball dork, yours truly! The game featured Sabathia vs Hamels, fairly solid matchup of southpaws. Boys-YankeeChant16

Tuesday was a Chanticleer win, series tied 1-1. Wednesday appeared to be working out perfectly for us with rain delays in Omaha, only to rush to the subway and run back to the hotel just in time to learn that the title game had been postponed to Thursday at 1:00.

Fortunately we had just seen the home team overcome a 4-run deficit in the 9th inning and win on a walk-off homer. Meanwhile, my 6-year old was in tears because Aroldis Chapman had been warming up for the 10th, the dinger kept ‘the hard pitcher’ from entering the game.

June 30, Citi Field: Game 3 of the College World Series curtailed some of our city plans that day, 4:15 BP at Citi Field would create a dilemma for us too. So what we did was watch the first six CCU/Arizona innings on TV, then hit the subway after GK Young’s jack…we had to complete our trek to Queens in time so we could witness the potential celebration! CCU-bowarrow16The plan worked and we arrived at the Mets Stadium in the 9th inning. With four of us peering into two phones, our reactions were most odd to the others standing around with no knowledge or interest in the game that meant a ton to us! As things got interesting (left, bow & arrow on the pivotal 3-2 count) in Omaha leading up to the final pitch, when the 27th out was recorded and a dog pile ensued there, we had to look like the four craziest rednecks to 100 or so Mets fans also waiting to get in for batting practice as we celebrated another NCAA title in our backyard!

Boys-KB16CJ Edwards prepped at Mid-Carolina, Class of 2011, and is presently a rising star in the Cubs bullpen. He had been kind enough to get us passes to get on the field during the pre-game, it was great to catch up with him and he was awesome with my kids, wife. Special young man. While on the field, the boys and I were able to meet several people in uniform and in the media, fun experiences of course. Mets-Big3Closer to first pitch, we ran out to the bullpen to see the arms loosen, John Lackey tossed Banks his warm up ball and we also got a glimpse of how close the Mets ‘Big 3’ (left) are in everything they do.

July 1-2, Citi Field: Our beloved Cubbies were hammered in the second game of the series which was marred by three rain delays, but we stuck it out because baseball fans do not leave MLB games early. Fam-CJ16Late night though. Saturday marked our third straight day at Citi Field while hanging out with CJ and other Mets/Cubs players. CJ has remained such a wholesome, humble person and was so kind to my family. Because he had thrown 3 innings on two nights before coming to New York, CJ was not available during the first two games. On this night he relieved reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta to strike out Yoenis Cespedes with three 96 MPH bolts, then went on to get 4 up, 4 down in quick fashion. He looked great and we were so excited to see him do so well in front of 45,000 in a one-run game! A unique fireworks show synced to music followed the game, book-ending our final day in The City.

Boys-TroutPujols16July 3, Fenway Park: We left NYC at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning to ensure we got to Boston in time to see Mike Trout and Albert Pujols (left) at this historic venue. Fortunately the traffic was generous and we arrived, parked and walked to Fenway in enough time for Red Sox do-it-all-guy Brian Cruz (left, with Moises Alou, Jr) to meet us outside the park. He handed us three days worth of tickets at the headquarters of Fenway Park…Fenway Park! Boys-CruzMoises16Brian asked us where we wanted to go, I said, “inside the ballpark will do.” What happened next was ridiculous as he was our guide to places of this old yard that I never knew existed. We were so honored to track the whole place with the exception of inside the Green Monster and clubhouse. Boys-Roth16After this experience we landed on the field with the teams and got to spend some time with Michael Roth, recently call up from Triple-A. Like CJ Edwards, Roth was outstanding with my team. It was really fun catching up with him and sharing old stories from high school and college baseball back in SC.

On this day we were able to enjoy our first game at Fenway, wow! I have been to a few MLB parks, this place takes a backseat to no one. While the yard is drunk with history dating back to 1912, the fans and atmosphere are what make Fenway Park a cut above. From every Ortiz at bat to Sweet Caroline and Dirty Water, wow! Fenway Park is ‘wicked’ awesome and should preside on every human’s baseball bucket list.

July 4-5, Fenway Park: Once again, the Red Sox treatment of the Alexander’s was humbling. Fam-Cheers16On these days we toured the city and were privy to two more days on the field and at the yard hanging with baseball’s ‘who’s who’ of today and yesteryear. It is impossible to recapture this place in words, but I did the best I could to gobble up the visual of baseball’s oldest crib. Dinner at Cheers (the TV program) on the 4th then a $2.2 million fireworks show followed the game. Tuesday ended in a game that featured three players that wore a uni at South Carolina colleges: Heath Hembree, Sam Dyson, Jackie Bradley, Jr. Upon leaving this venerable old park, I looked around one last time to soak it all in. Another incredible memory.

July 6: Travel day – 13 hours. Drive from Boston to NY, loooong delay at LaGuardia, then to Charlotte, finally back to Myrtle Beach.

Boys-CCUtrophyJuly 7, SC Soil: Do you remember when I said my family was upset with me at this whole NYC/Boston trip versus Omaha? On this day I was able to bring my boys back to Coastal and catch up on some of the things that they missed. CCU was conducting their summer youth camp and Nolan plus Banks were able to re-unite with the players and coaches, see the trophy, the rally monkey and some of the of the guys who made it all happen. Boys-FikiI enjoyed some quality time with all of the coaches getting their take from the dugout and behind the scenes, really cool stuff! And congrats again to the Chanticleers, what a run!

Baseball & Lessons Learned: After eight games, my sons were starting to collect quite a few balls randomly here and there from players/coaches. If you are not a parent, you will not appreciate this…but on the final day, my oldest son was given a ball and quickly passed it along to another child nearby that did not have one. Minutes later, my youngest son was given a ball and followed his brother’s lead, Banks spent 2-3 minutes roaming around to find a boy without a ball. The response by both recipients was priceless, their appreciation was unforgettable. In all they gave away three prized possessions.Trip-CJYoenis16

Coolest AA Moment 1a: CJ Edwards trotting in from the bullpen to lockdown a Mets lineup that had done its share of damage in the series. His shooting 96-97 MPH past some very good hitters proved he belonged at the MLB level, was blessed to witness that.Trip16-RothJBJ

Coolest AA Moment 1b: Tie. Roth vs Ortiz, Bradley; Dyson vs Ortiz, Bradley. Three teammates several years removed from a NCAA National Championship with an October legend mixed in!

Boys-Gammons16Coolest AA Moment 1c: Five minutes with Peter Gammons. I asked him for a moment of his time before he was chatting with future Hall-of Famers David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre and after a conversation with Dennis Eckersley. He assured me he would return and did not disappoint. The 71-year old ‘jogged’ over to us and immediately began talking baseball. Mr. Gammons’ story-telling was legendary, really cool for this baseball geek.

Fist Bump: Without question, the scouts and players that got us into these stadiums and onto the field are to be thanked profusely. You know who you are and we sure do appreciate your time and influence to assist our family. Forever grateful.

Cancer-TheBoys16Best News: And for those of you wondering how my wife handled all the baseball…great! She loves the game and these trips, baseball is how we met and remains a part of what makes her so awesome! God is so good and Rita plus boys remain my favorite way to spend time. Rita was dealt an ‘0-2 count, 2 outs, down by 10 runs’ prognosis…By the grace of Our Savior, she is winning with Christ loosening in the bullpen to close this thing out! AND, July 14 is our 15th anniversary, life with her is terrific, I cannot wait for the next 15! Thank you for all of the prayers from so many of you. We are very thankful that she is doing well enough to enjoy a trip like this!

DP Pardon: If my sons appear in too many pics, oh well…In my very biased opinion, they have been through a tough year, and my easiest way to paint a picture of our time away from DP was to include them. 50 weeks out of every year they share their father with many of you, tournabout is fair play!