Excerpt from the short story “Be the Rock” contained in “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…”
Strangely, while I was watching the Rose Bowl last night, Christian McCaffrey’s effort’s triggered a thought process that led me on a pathway from wondering who were the best players that I had ever coached or coached against, something that I still haven’t answered, to kids who needed sports more than sports needed them. Everyone enjoyed Christian’s effort, especially Sanford fans, but what about players that don’t have Christian’s skill set? For some reason it brought to mind a young man from Tamassee-Salem who had no skill set but all, a fact that did not prevent him from enjoying the game of baseball or me enjoying him.
Of all of the kids that I have ever coached, I think Justin Chandler epitomizes what it means to be a “rock.” When I say ever, I mean Newberry, Mauldin, Greenville, Landrum, Riverside, Tamassee-Salem, Greer Middle College, Legacy, and Northwest. Damn! That’s a lot of schools and no I did not have a problem keeping a job. Well, just at one. If you listed our forty or so players, varsity, JV and middle school by ability, Justin would rank last. Not because of want to because he had more want to than most. Not because he wasn’t tough, because he was one tough piece of gristle. Justin had to be tough because he suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Justin had two arms but only one of them worked the way it should. The other arm and hand were drawn and a bit withered, while a somewhat immobile elbow joint did not give him the flexibility that allowed him to extend his arm when batting. Add to those afflictions a foot that was slightly turned inward, paining him at every misstep, Tamassee-Salem may have been the only school where he might have played. He gave me another reality check when I realized Justin also epitomized what it meant to PLAY baseball. It is a game that requires you to play and work hard to be successful, but as I sometimes forget, it is a game to be enjoyed or you should not be doing it. Justin enjoyed playing baseball despite his disability and worked hard to overcome it. At times he made it easy to forget he had a disability. When playing JV or middle school ball he twice made plays to save or win games. In one, a line shot was fielded cleanly and after a transfer from glove to throwing hand, which was the same hand, Justin delivered a strike home to retire a sliding runner and preserve a win. In the second game, with the winning runner at third, Justin executed a suicide squeeze bunt to score the winning run. If he wasn’t carried off on his teammate’s shoulders, he should have been.
The complete book, “WINNING WAS NEVER THE ONLY THING” BY Don Miller, can be downloaded on Kindle or purchased in paperback using the following link: goo.gl/dO1hcX
Coach Miller’s other two books, “FLOPPY PARTS” AND “PATHWAYS” can also be found at the same link.

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