The Team Jesse Foundation
Mission: To provide education and support for families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams


Mission: To provide education and support to families of fallen soldiers in honor of SSG Jesse Williams

Pitching Practice (Day Fifty-Two)

It was a different place than any we’d seen so far.  It was a State Park, yet had the revenue model(s) of a resort.  Boasting a lodge, cabins and amenities, it was not the type of park that had a ranger station and you paid to park.  There were two family reunions going on, as well as a wedding, so it was different in that it was highly populated as well.  So, when we left The Falls of Rough State Park, we realized that it would have been an ideal place to have time off.  Too bad we just came off of the rest cycle.

We set off, headed towards Hodgenville.  Maybe it was the vibe, maybe it was just that it was time.  It could have been that it ‘felt’ that we were caught up in the administrative duties that come with this summer’s commitment.  For whatever reason, Mincio called a ‘moratorium’ on all discussion, during the ride, which related to non-cycling logistics, fundraising, guest rider strategy, media (in house as well as local and national) or appearances. I thought he was kidding at first, because he’s always talking about excel spreadsheets and making sure that we have enough paperclips and that sort of crap.  He’s always making lists and checking them off and then making another list, OCD-ing at every chance he can get.  (Note: it’s not that this is bad; we need this type of behavior and, in the end, that’s just who he is and it’s a great thing about him.  But…I’m just sayin…I have to ride with him, one on one, for 5-12 hours each day).  So…when he declares that all we’re going to do is enjoy the scenery and look around, and all we’ll talk about are cycling and things that we enjoy (ironically we did talk about our business interests that are NOT related to the Foundation, and that was enjoyable and fair game) such as lacrosse, coaching, family, NFL, past exploits and future dreams, it seemed too good to be true.  He went so far as to declare that if either of us violated the new arrangement, there would be a fine, paid directly to Mama Bear at day’s end, that would go directly to The Foundation.  Doing it again would be double the fine, and so on.  It would have been expensive to keep going on with it.  We each screwed up once, despite our best efforts.  Force of habit, I guess.

So we rode, and low and behold, we really brought depth into the topics that we discussed and also saw a ton of beauty.  It’s not surprising that we discussed all of the sensory details we’d been seeing, and it’s also true that he started noticing things he’d not noticed yet, and or that matter, neither had I.  The course’s roads were, in places, like a racetrack.  Up and down and through the woods, then up into the high fields, down again.  We saw more Amish people, diligently working and also cruising the strip (it was a Saturday, after all) in the buggies.  They always smiled, and they were never ‘banging their beats’ disrespectfully of too loudly.  The roads themselves were smooth and many of them had no lines on them at all.  It was like they were built to be bike trails.  There were silos in the distance and barns all over.  Being that it was a weekend day, we got waves and nods aplenty from people cutting their lawns, residential and commercial, which added to that cut grass/honeysuckle smell in the air. 

On our first SAG stop, I was injured.  But…it was only my pride.  We were discussing that it’s been a good long while since either of us has thrown a baseball, and we were thinking about some of the very bad first pitches thrown out over the years in Major League Baseball.  While we weren’t going to be throwing out a first pitch on TV, it was still going to be at a Minor League game and, we had no idea whether the stands would be full or not.  So, a quick throw would be in order.  Unfortunately, all we had was a lacrosse ball, which is much heavier and made almost entirely of solid rubber.  So, I should have known better, being intimately familiar with the way the lacrosse ball spins.  And, when Mince admitted that it’s always going to be best to go a little short than to throw it over the head, I should have thought about it.  So…he winds up…lets it fly…just a few feet short…BAM!  The ball hit the pavement, gained some topspin, and accelerated.  Right smack dab into the bridge of my nose.  Shades went flying and I felt like a major league dork.  Mama Bear was yelling at Kevin like it was his fault, Papa Bear was trying to see if I was OK, and Kevin was doing his best not to laugh.  It was awesome. 

We kept going, having fun, shooting through some of the prettiest stretches of the course when we noticed big clouds rising.  It was like some of the early days, as we sprinted the final ten miles in order to beat the storm.  Felt great, and it was not lost on either one of us that we had been given the opportunity to enjoy the rush that comes from man vs nature.  We drafted and sprinted, climbed and dropped and it was great to feel the burn.  We were out of breath a few times but kept going.  Towards the end, we’d beaten the storm, but kept driving anyway.

We came around a corner, and on the sudden, Mince slammed on his brakes.  He said, ‘Lookey there Matty!  You need a picture!’  This is one of the things that those who know him can really appreciate about Kevin.  He’s not an inherently sentimental guy, but it he really understands something about the way a friend feels about an issue/person/idea that he deems worthy, he sees it, and often before the friend does.  In this case, he saw three horses, all of them standing together.  For some sentimental reasons that are related to family, he knows that I’m always looking to see this scene.  And, it can be photographed, even better.  In the past fifty-two days, I would have to say that his recognition of these opportunities is the most pure sign of his friendship. 

I wound up finding out later on that I have Kevin’s lovely wife, Heather, to thank for the peaceful day.  She had told him, via text, something like, “stop bullying everyone around and micromanaging everyone.  I still love you even though you do it, but stop it…’  Heather…thanks!  Mostly, a true ‘rest day’ like this (mental rest, that is) gives us, and mainly him, the opportunity to bring it big on the next few work days.  Very smart of you indeed!

For Families of the Fallen....To the Limit,

Care Creates Community,

Matt Sauri

RideMatt S