Friday was an incredibly exciting day for our family as we watched from the sidelines as my oldest son signed on the dotted line to begin his dream job. Riley was drafted by the Houston Astros, 79th overall, in this years MLB draft. If you have been reading along you already know all this but for the sake of documenting this exciting day this post is a little about Riley's journey.
In January I needed Riley to sign some paperwork and we met in Waco for dinner. At the end of our visit I was just overwhelmed by how much he had grown up in the past several years away at college and I said to him "Bud, how does it feel knowing that in just a few short months your dream may come true?". His reply shocked me a little when he said "Mom, it has been my job for so long it doesn't even feel like a dream anymore".
I am so grateful today. Grateful Riley was given such an amazing gift and grateful he realized at some point it wasn't free.
None of this has come without some adversity. I can look back now and pinpoint a handful of specific occurrences on Riley's journey that were turning points. Yes, he had natural talent that carried him through when he was young and he was always bigger than most so he was able to perform at a little higher level from literally day one of T-ball. He also understood the game much earlier and had a competitive spirit which led him to want to be on the field all the time no matter what position he was put into.
Once middle school arrived and size began to even out among his peers, Riley had a decision to make. We turned to tournament ball when he was 12 and he saw his fair share of time warming up the bench. He was frustrated as this was something new for him and we began to encourage him to work outside of practice if he really wanted to continue at a higher level. We also encouraged him to talk one on one with his coaches which was definitely something he was not really willing to do at that age but something we would continue to push as Reid & I felt strongly the contact needed to come from him and not us.
Once in high school he had a few little challenges just from a growth standpoint that caused him to have a slow start to the season. If you have raised boys and seen how fast they grow between 12-16 you will realize how hard it must be to adjust to those growth spurts when it seems they happen over night sometimes. He kept working and after his freshman year he had a very hard decision to make. The team he had been playing for in our hometown had taken him about as far as it was going to and he had been invited to play with a team in Houston. Riley was extremely close to his coaches and some of his teammates but after discussing with his dad and me and knowing what the Houston team had to offer he made his decision. We are so grateful he had the chance to play with a local team for so many years first and will always be grateful for the support those coaches gave him both on and off the field.
Varsity baseball....wasn't that just like yesterday?!! Riley had a stellar sophomore year on the field and could not have looked stronger on the mound. He went on to play summer ball with the Houston Heat and that is when things became very exciting. By the end of the summer he had been offered by four D1 schools right here in Texas (momma was happy) and by September he was sure TCU was the school for him.
Flash forward to his junior season and there was the adversity again. He struggled on the mound with his command at the beginning of the season and there were plenty of other boys to step up and take his place and they did. It was hard to see him lose his confidence. We again encouraged him to communicate with his coaches one on one. He continued to work hard and by the time playoffs rolled around he was back on track. He worked so hard the fall of his senior year and by the time the season started he was physically and mentally ready and had an outstanding senior season. We watched as they fought all the way to the state championship game before coming up short with the silver.
Off to TCU where he was thrown so many adjustments all at once. Alone without his family for the first time. Workouts and college classes and learning to study on a whole new level left him feeling a little lost. Let me tell you I have an entirely new respect for college athletes and the work they put in on and off the field. Riley wanted to be a starter at TCU and he wanted to earn it his freshman year and when it became apparent that was not in the plan he was definitely frustrated. TCU's program is all about selflessness; Team First, Team Last as well as energy and excellence. He earned his first save against Texas Tech that spring and after receiving the game ball he immediately knew what he had to do...whatever was best for the team.
I mean it just got better and better for this kid and his freshman summer he headed off to Santa Barbara for summer ball before getting called to North Carolina to try out for Team USA. My baby was in California with no passport and I still can't believe it all worked out but let's just say there was some overnight shipping of birth certificates, a trip to the LA courthouse (alone!) and a flight across the country. This boy grew up so much that summer! Team USA was an amazing growth experience. While it was tough with traveling to a new ballpark almost every single day and then a trip to Japan which can be exciting or stressful if you are a picky eater and used to having your own space, Riley was grateful to be wearing the red, white and blue and playing for his country.
Sophomore season arrived and the Horned Frogs made quite the run all the way to the College World Series. Riley logged 15 saves on the season and was on top of his game. He chose to forego summer ball to work on getting in shape to try and earn a starting position. The fall came and went and it was clear what the team needed most was for him to remain in the closing role. After logging 14 saves he hit a slump at probably the very worst time possible in the season beginning with the Big XII tourney. I cannot even imagine what it was like for him because my momma heart was breaking for him. I am so grateful for his teammates and coaches for instead of giving up on him they all had the utmost confidence he would prevail and fight through. They picked him up and he worked harder and was able to finish his career at TCU logging 9 outs with 8 of them being K's during TCU's run at the College World Series. To see that smile back on his face was priceless.
So here we are and his dream to one day play in the big leagues is one step closer. Surrounded by his 9 biggest fans, he started his career with the Astros organization. When asked what it meant to him to have us all there he said it meant "everything". He went on to talk about how his family had made sacrifices to get him to where he is today and it was such a proud mom moment knowing he was so grateful. He handled himself so well with all the questions he answered and I was just sitting there thinking who the heck is this man?!! He definitely was no longer my little boy.
He was able to throw a bullpen at Minute Maid park and this picture, oh my goodness this picture!! He was so ready to get to work and honestly I think he would have skipped all the hoopla and headed straight for Iowa immediately after signing if he could have.
I really do believe that every piece of this story has fallen right into place just the way God planned it. The adversity Riley faced along the way had the potential to derail him and send him along another path but the right people continued to be placed into his life at just the right time to lead him, mentor him, support him and sometimes just love him.
I'm so grateful for all of those people from every teacher, coach, friend who guided him and also for those who were critics and challenged him in a different way. I'm grateful for a family that sticks together and shares in the positive and the negative along the way. I haven't always felt comfortable asking for prayers but the past few months I was begging for this boy to be covered in prayer and I'm so, so grateful as I know our family felt those prayers in such a big way.
So a new journey begins and this time it is a "real" job instead of just a dream. I can't wait to see what the future holds for my boy.
Thanks to all of you for following along with this story!
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