Now that I’m more than just a parent – I’m a sports parent – I’ve been working hard not to be that kind of parent that I always loathe when I’m covering high school and youth sports.
You know the kind – loud, abusive to officials and other fans, doing nothing to help their team, although they think they are. They put LaVar Ball to shame.
I’ve been somewhat successful, sometimes. But something happened this past week which has truly put things into perspective for me.
Tuesday, June 13, I was lucky enough to see a competitive baseball game, featuring two talented teams that brought respect and honor to the field.
It was the first 50/70 championship game of the newly-formed Capitan Little League, and it was entertaining to the very end.
The teams in that game, the Tigers and Outlaws, featured a number of kids whose last names have become familiar to me over the years – Greigo, Rogers, Barnett.
One name that particularly stood out was King. As in coach Justin King and players Hayden and Aston King.
Justin was a coach for the Tigers, but I knew him first as one of the “Radical Rednecks,” the team that faithfully broadcast as many Capitan high school games as possible, regardless or sport or team.
Football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball – if it involved a ball and Capitan High School, you could see Justin on the sidelines with headphones on, broadcasting the game with Kent Mcinnes – and sometimes yours truly – at his side.
Justin is also the husband to Kim King, cross country and girls track coach at CHS. I’m embarrassed to confess I didn’t realize she was married to him until I saw her at Isotopes Park in May at the Class 3A State championship baseball game, waiting for her husband to descend from the press box.
With her was their children – Hayden, Aston and daughter Karsten. A close-knit family that had more impact on me and the community than I realized.
I also didn’t realize that the game I saw would mark the last time I would ever see Justin and Hayden.
After the plane they were in crashed shortly after takeoff just hours after that game was over and they were killed, I was overwhelmed with all sorts of emotions.
The loss is great for all of us, but none greater than that of Kim, Aston and Karsten.
I’m a father of two little girls, one of whom now plays youth softball. I don’t know what it would be like to lose either one of them, or my wife. I don’t want to know. It’s a vast dark ocean whose depths I do not want to plumb.
But now that someone I’ve come to know well is having to navigate those waters, I’m re-evaluating how I act at sporting events featuring my daughter. I realize even more how precious her life – all of our lives are. I also realize what a blessing it is just to see her out on the field.
So I’m working to be a better person while seeing her play, to not yell so much, to be encouraging and filled with love for her after she returns to the dugout following a bad play.
In the end, it’s all just a game. Life is the sport we should all endeavor to win. It’s a sport Justin and Hayden King won. We need to remember that, and remember Kim, Aston and Karsten in our prayers every night.
I thought I knew how I was going to end this column, but nothing leaps out at me. I’m still just so devastated by this loss. I know we all are.