One of my favorite movies ever is “For Love of the Game” starring Kevin Costner as an aging pitcher with the Detroit Tigers who is having the best day and the worst day of his life. So as not to bore you with an entire synopsis of the film and where I’m going with this Costner’s character Billy Chapel starts his day with a knock on his hotel door from the owner. The club has been sold, they don’t want Chapel any more and they want to get rid of him. The owner, played brilliantly as always by the superb Brian Cox, offers some words of advice:
You’re like the old boys, they were golden. They had that special pride. When they were done, they were done, no one had to show them the door.
I may not be “golden” but no one has to show me the door either. So today I filed my resignation at the district office and said that I was done.
This film speaks to me on many levels at this time in my life. After Chapel gets those words of advice his on-and-off-again girlfriend tells him she’s going to London. He has to pitch so he heads to the stadium, arm full of pain from throwing for nineteen years and he reflects on his life throughout the game. Sometimes in life you get so focused on something that you never picture your life without it. It becomes a hunger that needs to be fed. Everything you do you feed to it. You shut people out, you refuse to let others in and you skip out on obligations because you have the hunger that needs to be fed. I have done the same thing with my school board work and just like Chapel I have worn myself down body and mind serving it. I can’t even remember the times my son has been turned away by me and he says “you’re always working or going to a meeting dad.” The first twenty or so times it hurts, when you get up to where I’m at now it weighs on you greatly.
Despite the sacrifices you make to the hunger you certainly have times you look back upon fondly. You remember some of the achievements you were a part of and I have certainly had my share. Going back to 2001 our district was in utter and complete chaos, the state had come in, it was about to take full control and I had six people who didn’t care too much for the fact that the good people of Round Lake elected me to serve with them and they let me know about it.
Even in my more recent stint I came to a board that had appointed me as its 3rd appointed member in a year. The board had virtually no say in how the district was run, it couldn’t even set the agenda for its meetings. When I would ask why we couldn’t do anything I was told “because of the SFA, they won’t let us.” I made it my mission to change that and since I’ve been president the board has run the district and the board has set the agenda. That was because of the efforts of many good people but I’d like to think I had a hand in that. We built what is essentially a beautiful new school that the district could be proud of and I am certainly proud of from my early days on the board of constantly questioning, “what are we going to do about Magee?” I leave her in good hands.
I remember my first graduation as President of the board and I probably went a bit overboard in my speech to the graduates about what going to RLHS meant. I took a lot of criticism from some people over my remarks despite reviewing them with the principal, Dr. Jeff Brierton (also fondly missed) before I made them. It was worth the shots I took later though when a staff member came to me afterwards telling me how much it meant to her. I’d do it again.
Also during the film Chapel reflects on his former teammates, some with him still and some not. I have reflected on mine as well. I don’t want to get in trouble and leave someone out but I need to recognize some special people I have served with in the district. Walter Korpan retired a couple of years ago having straightened out the financial mess and I have written previously of my love and admiration for Walter.
Jerri Ryan has served ably for well over a decade now and has steered the district on a path to harmonious relations with the union when they were anything but when she arrived. I particularly remember when Jerri made her transition from in-house counsel to her current position and the tears that were cried over the mere changing of a title. That’s one of those fights I was glad to have won albeit it only partially. I’m fond of the Reagan desk proverb of “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” While others at various times have taken the credit for our improved labor relations Jerri never did though it was sorely deserved. I will miss my times playing attorney with her.
Heather Bennett has been secretary to the CEO for several years now through the different CEOs and she has been a bastion of consistency and organization in the district office. A fellow graduate of Round Lake she works tirelessly for the CEO, the board and the district. I will miss her great smile and an attitude that never was down. Your words meant a lot to me today Heather, thank you.
I’ll miss Kim Kearby pacing around at the back of a room be it a board room or the RLHS library when we’re taking up a contentious matter. Those times have waned in recent years and I think Kim, who I can’t ever stop reminding people was my tee ball coach, has had less reasons to pace in front of the board. I’m disappointed I won’t be there to present you with your retirement award Kim, I had an iPod with “Kiss Him Goodbye” all ready to go for the occasion!
Most of all I will certainly miss someone who I certainly consider my friend now and that is Dr. Ben Martindale. Ben came and started working for us despite not even being done with his previous job yet. He and I went over our relationship and how we would work together to achieve the goal I so desperately wanted to achieve. I made some mistakes along the way and he would be there to either nudge me or bark at me if the moment required it. We both share a fondness for the more, shall we say “creative” words of the English language that he has a jar in tribute to on his desk. We also share many common loves be it sports, the Indy 500 or kids with special needs. I’ve never met a more tireless and passionate servant for children and I don’t think I ever will. Knowing you I know what you must be thinking about all this and I can assure you, it’s the players that play the game, not the coach. I will never forget you and what you have taught this student, my friend.
So I’m sorry to say that this old arm doesn’t have a perfect game with me but I feel like I’ve already made my mark. The picture for this article is one of those proud moments I had. In September 2008 we were visited by 90-year-old Frank Dvorscak who was on the board that would become our board and built RLHS. He was a delightful gentlemen and when he came up to accept our recognition award he whispered “you run a good meeting” and that meant all the world to me. I glanced over at my place at the table where a gavel that had been my father’s rested and thought he might be proud.
In the picture we look pretty funny because I think neither of us wanted to stop chatting for photos. When we were done he went down to the plaque in the old original hallway that bears his name on it. His family sent me a photo with him holding the award I had given him standing with the plaque. That’s legacy stuff and something he was obviously proud of, I hope that will be me some day.
At the end of the film, before he goes to throw the last inning, Chapel writes on a baseball and has it run up to the owner. As Chapel goes to take the mound one final time the owner looks down at the ball and it says “Tell them I’m through, for love of the game.” It’s the final words of love from someone who doesn’t want to give up what he has built a significant part of his life around. But he realizes he can no longer serve his love the way he should and moves on to other things.
I’m through, for love of the kids.