Why My Wife is Awesome

This is the entry I submitted to the Indiana Ballet Company's presentation of Romeo & Juliet. In fact, I won, so I get to take my lovely bride, Toni Deckers, to this weekend's performance of Romeo & Juliet.

(Oh God, did I just undo years of manliness?)

One of my favorite baseball stories, from Michael Lewis' Moneyball illustrates what love is for me.

Scott Hatteberg was a professional baseball catcher. That's all he had ever known. Every spring, summer, and fall, since he was 10, you'd find him crouched down, behind the plate, playing catch with a guy 60 feet, 6 inches away. All the motions, the throws, the knowledge becomes second nature when you spend 22 years of your life doing it.

In fact, at the peak of his career, Scott Hatteberg was the catcher for the Boston Red Sox — no mean feat. It meant he was one of the best.

But after a serious injury and surgery to his throwing arm, Scott could barely throw the ball back to the pitcher's mound, let alone throw a runner out at second base, so he was released by the Red Sox. Had it not been for his amazing batting skills, he would have been finished.

A few days after Christmas, Scott received a call from the Oakland A's, asking him to join the team. With one catch: he was going to play first base.

Being a first baseman is like being a catcher. The pros have been playing the position for at least 20 years. They know where the base is instinctively, rather than looking around for it. First basemen catch pop flies, field grounders, and catch balls thrown to them. They rarely throw the ball. And they don't crouch.

Scott had never played first base — had never played out in the field — since he was 10. He had never even fielded a big league ground ball.

Bitsy Hatteberg, Scott's wife, is not a big woman. She barely breaks 100 pounds, and is five feet, one inch. She's, well, itsy-bitsy. But she loves her husband. So the day the Oakland A's called, Scott and Bitsy took their two daughters to a park, where they plopped the girls into a sandbox.

And, using a batter's tee, Bitsy Hatteberg hit ground balls to her husband for the first time in his life. She hit ball after ball, because she loved him, because she believed in him. Bitsy Hatteberg whacked ground balls to her husband, because he needed her to.

I tell this story, because it's the only way I can explain the impact my wife, Toni, has had in my life. Time and again, life has sent me in a new direction. I've played for a new team, been forced to learn a new position.

Every time, I've been afraid. I can't do it. I've never played this spot before. What if I fail? What if I'm not good enough.

And every time, my wife has gotten me ready for it. She coaches me, encourages me, and supports me. She doesn't let me talk myself out of something, she reminds me that I can do it. That I can succeed, because she will help me get it done.

She has, metaphorically-speaking, whacked ground balls to me for the last 16 years. Without my wife, I would not be the man that I am, the father that I am. Basically, I could not do what I do without Toni Deckers.

That's what love means to me.

(Thank you to Elizabeth Audet and the Indiana Ballet Company for the tickets. We'll enjoy the show.)

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