If you are one of those people who believe that everything happens for a reason, keep reading.
I covered the Oswego softball team’s 10-7 victory over Naperville North on March 21. It was the Panthers’ first game of the season and first without former coach Amanda Stanton, who died tragically from a hit-and-run accident at age 26 last summer.
It was a big part of an emotional week in which I was constantly reminded of the fragility of life.
Lorrie Luckinbill-Hamblen, my daughter’s PE teacher at Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove and a huge Cubs fan, died unexpectedly at 46. For the first time, I saw my 13-year-old grieving.
A couple of days earlier, I found out that a 2016 Kaneland grad had just passed away. A few years ago, I had interviewed him for a story about Waubonsee Community College’s EMT training program and he talked about becoming a paramedic or firefighter. Now he’s gone at just 20.
We all face the loss of loved ones. No one is immune to it. Just like all softball and baseball players sometimes strike out. It’s like Benjamin Franklin (not the impersonator from “The Office”) said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Think about Tony Gwynn. The Hall of Famer rarely struck out, but he did fan 434 times over 10,000 plate appearances. He also died way too young at 54.
There was a moment of silence before the Oswego game. Before I bowed my head and reflected, my thoughts turned to Eric Lederman as I looked south of the softball diamond to Jackie’s Field of Dreams. Lederman, age 12, never got to wear the Panthers’ baseball uniform on that field after dying in a freak baseball accident in 2012.
It was chilly, but the sun peeked out on occasion. Was that Stanton checking in on her girls? She certainly had to be smiling when they rallied for four runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Junior Katie Kowalczyk scored the winning run as a pinch-runner in her varsity debut. Katie, who was so nervous during tryouts that she was brought to tears, hasn’t had the easiest life the past few years as her father, Scott, has been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I only know this because Scott coaches Katie in the summer with the Naperville Diamonds and my old college pal, Bill Kugelberg, is the head coach.
I posted a picture of my messy desk on social media late last week, and Bill saw the two lineup cards from the game and asked if she could have them. Recognizing how excited of a moment it was for Katie and her family, he’s going to matte and frame them as a surprise gift (if they don’t read this first). As an umpire, I receive lineup cards for every game, but we don’t get them as sports writers. But on this occasion, I forgot to bring my rosters, so the official scorekeeper let me take hers. Coincidence?
And the funny thing is, like Dante in “Clerks,” I found myself saying, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
And I wasn’t. My wonderful editor originally scheduled me to cover Plainfield East-Oswego East soccer, but my postponed Geneva-Kaneland softball game from Tuesday had been rescheduled for Thursday. That’s where I expected to be, but once they postponed that game again, he asked me to cover the Oswego softball game.
And if that didn’t happen, I would never have been there to get the idea to write this.