This journey of mine was supposed to be a about a day in the life of Ryland, in a way it still is. Ryland, at the age of seven and standing a few inches short of four feet is a soccer-playing, baseball-hitting and cancer-surviving machine. I had intended to take part in Ryland’s dominance on the soccer field and his baseball practices, but like any game, my plan took a different direction. In the world of youth sports, on any given weekend you can find young athletes participating in club baseball, softball, soccer or basketball with their mothers and fathers gathering to cheer them on. These weekends consist of highly competitive tournaments in which countless hours of practices and skirmishes are a must for these fine athletes. It is at these tournaments and practices, behind the backstop and sidelines, relationships and friendships are born amongst the parents. My family and the Amados met under these exact circumstances.
As parents we drive our children to their practices, games, tournaments and everything in between; for what? We commit to the activities because we know through coaching, teamwork and camaraderie our children will not only learn the fundamentals of the game they play but also lessons and memories that will last a lifetime. For example, as our boys continued to play baseball together, from the first practice of Central Arizona Coyotes baseball club through Little League and season two of Coyotes baseball, Andon, my son, and Riece, Ralph’s son, have become inseparable. So inseparable that Dawhn, Riece’s mother, has now earned the name of ‘Weekend Mom’ from Andon. We do this all in the best interest of our kids but fail to realize we the parents are also in a position to have the same effect on ourselves. Among the children playing their games are other parents with which great friendships can be formed. I have had the pleasure of coaching the glorious Central Arizona Coyotes, it is with this club that I have had the privilege to coach alongside guys like Ralph, Ryland’s father, and people like David Reyna, Michael Ragsdale, Mark Graffius, Paul Acevado, Brett Wallace and the list goes on and on. I truly feel that because of these individuals I have become a better person.
Over the last several weeks and months it has been Ralph Amado that I am most recently thankful for. When I mentioned to Ralph my new project at The Loop and my plan to get healthy he immediately offered subject material and motivation. His middle son, Ryland, battled with cancer and won. This was exactly the type of subjects I wanted to cover. As we tried to work out a schedule and spending more time with Ralph I realized we had more in common than I would have ever imagined. It was Ralph who initiated the dialogue suggesting we hike Casa Grande Mountain, after all, he knew of my health goals and thought it was a great way to get me started on my health quest. Up for some exercise and eager to shed a few pounds of excess ‘CJ awesomeness’ I accepted. It was on our ‘man dates’ that I came to grow appreciative of the friendship that was being formed and of past friendships created through these common interests.
As we spoke between breaths, stomping away at the trails on Casa Grande Mountain, I came to realize that no matter where we come from in life or what we do for a living, we are not unique in our personal challenges. We all succeed at some things and fail at others just the same. It is absolutely amazing how someone can enter your life and transform you into a better version of you. Ralph and Dawhn Amado along with their three fabulous sons have done just that. We, I include my family, could not be more thankful to have had them come into our lives. We consider the Amados family they are there when we need them and vice versa.
As I committed one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced it has been Ralph who has been there to encourage me and sometimes police me in my new lifestyle change. Whether he’s counting the bowls of menudo I eat on Sunday morning or his motivational text messages at 6 a.m. I appreciate his commitment to ME. He’s the Robin to my Batman scraping all 300 lbs of me from the bottom of a trail after a small tumble on Casa Grande Mountain. At a time of year when we are all wrapped up, pun intended, on the details of the holidays we sometimes forget what truly matters, family and friends. I want to take this opportunity to thank you Mr. Ralph Amado for being a true friend. You have made a huge difference, for the better, in my life. Thank you Ralph and thanks to your beautiful family for your kindness and generosity. I am especially grateful for your interest in my health.
Sometimes I think, if it were not for the extra curricular sports activities our children are involved in, I may have never met Ralph and his family. Youth sports bring together people from all walks of life. I am glad I have opened up to meeting new people at these events instead of texting, browsing the internet or flipping through the various social media sites. In the moment our children may not have realized the importance beyond just playing the game, years from now when they look back they will then realize. Play the game, have fun and remember, great friendships are only a ‘hello’ away.
If you or anyone you know would like to be featured in this section of The Loop send an email to email@example.com Subject: That Sports Guy.