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Wedding bells, belly itchers, and thoughts on the Fourth

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Wedding bells, belly itchers,  and thoughts on the Fourth

Daniel Alejo is mobbed at the dish by teammates after hitting a three-run shot Saturday in Tracy.

BRANDON PETERSEN/The Bulletin


POSTED July 5, 2009 2:06 a.m.
Forgive a humble scribe for getting a bit sentimental, but after spending the Fourth of July watching the Northgate and Spreckels Park all-stars pour their hearts into our national pastime in the very town I played my Little League ball in, I couldn’t help but walk away Saturday introspectively satisfied.

Those closest to me realize that the past three years of my personal life haven’t been the easiest, I’ve dealt with a failed engagement, my weight ballooned, and I can never seem to find solid footing financially.

But despite all of the valleys I’ve passed through during my time at the Bulletin, one thing has remained at a consistent and joy-filled peak: You.

My father was born in 1936, and I realize, as we all do, that time spent in the company of family is limited. I usually take a vacation every Fourth of July to visit my family in Southern California because my dad’s birthday is the 7th and my parents’ anniversary lands on the 8th.

I moved away from home when I was 17 and in the 12 years that have passed since, I’ve never lived near my family.

I’m a very family-oriented person, and before my last relationship ended, I had never lived alone.

But while living on my own during my time in Manteca has been tough, I’ve always leaned on the friendships I’ve developed with the kids, parents, teachers and school administrators I cover and talk to every day.

Saturday at Jefferson School served as a reminder as to why those friendships are so special to me.

After Chris Ah Yo hit his first home run of the season to give his Northgate all-stars a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, Ah Yo’s mother, Lynn, approached me, showed me the home run ball and told me that the blast had an added meaning.

You see, Crystal Ah Yo’s boyfriend, James Petersen (nice name, by the way), told the Ah Yo family that if Chris hit a home run Saturday, he would propose to Chris’ big sister.

I asked Chris about the possible marriage during his post game interview.

He nodded, smiled and told his sister and future brother-in-law through my voice recorder, “Congratulations.”

That was the highlight of my day, but there were many more.

Manteca manager Aaron Peterson graciously forgave me for calling him “Dan” in two previous editions of the Bulletin, and Manteca assistant coach Dan Eavenson playfully joked with me about it while pointing to his shirt, which ironically read: “Coach Joe.”

The Spreckels Park coaching staff offered me a bucket of balls to sit on in their dugout as I shot the game, which was a first, and greatly appreciated, and Northgate assistant coach Brian Oden made me laugh when he told his pitcher Ian Rodriguez, “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher.”

Talk about taking me back to simpler times.

Two years ago, I covered Northgate during its run to the Section 2 championship round, and many of those players were on the field Saturday, two years older, and, trust me, two years better.

And as I walked away from the ballpark, I looked back on all the growth I have witnessed in that particular group of kids and realized that while I wasn’t around my dad this holiday, it didn’t mean I wasn’t around family.

Even though my personal life can provide a headache from time to time, this job never does, and for that, I owe all of you a great deal of thanks.

When I first started in this business, I read a piece from longtime Orange County Register sports columnist Steve Bisheff, which, to this day, is still framed and displayed above the computer in my bedroom.

The column was Bisheff’s last at the Register, and it was accompanied by testimonials from countless professional players and coaches who took the time to thank the writer for not only his work, but his integrity, and most importantly, his friendship.

In the column, Bisheff called himself, “The luckiest man in the world,” because while everyone else went to work every day of their lives, he got to go to the ballpark and play.

One day, I’ll look back on July 4, 2009 in much the same way.
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