I've never been so excited about Texas. The happy recipient of a free flight and free lodging, I've spent the past few days in Fort Worth with the Gophers Baseball Team on their spring break, playing in the sunshine.
Our hotel room doubles as the training room, where athletes come to get electronic stimulation or ultra sound. Matt stretches them and checks in with their rehab care on our bed. Meeting these guys in such...intimate circumstances means learning more about Matt's 33 illegitimate children - the athletes who come to him with their head colds and muscle tears. Before their weight lifting afternoons or evening games, I get to watch Matt work. It's hard to describe the pride I feel while he works patiently with each player. He knows the whiners from the tough guys, how to prevent injury and how to help them bounce back from it. They seem to adore him.
When he wasn't working, we wandered the stockyards of Fort Worth or sat in the sun. He vented and bragged and now it was much easier to empathize and celebrate. Once his afternoon duties began, I would relish the alone time - little bits of solitude and vacation. At night I would brave the metroplex traffic and bring extra clothing into the stadium. As the sun set, I would slowly add a layer or find a hot dog for dinner while cheering on the Gophers with parents and fans. I would watch one player's grandparents in their lovely ritual - he would give her his windbreaker for extra warmth while she sat and he would pace below, too excited (and cold?) to sit down, but still close enough to talk to his beloved between innings.
Matt would turn and smile every now and then, as if to make sure I was really there. And I was. - cheering and yelling plenty. After the game, I would meet Matt back at the "training room" with a pint of ice cream and a few minutes to ourselves. Then the players would come, bringing their scraps and aches before bed.
I head home thinking about how different our jobs are, but how similar our vocations are: listening, healing, helping, connecting and hoping. It was good to be off duty for a few days and to watch him be "on".