My first question to every doctor was always the same…
“Do you think he’ll be able to play baseball?”
The answers always came with a nervous smile…
“I hope so…”
“I think so…maybe he can just throw left-handed…”
“That’s what we’re aiming for”
My son Oliver was born in September 2015 with a rare and serious medical condition known as a lymphatic malformation. LM’s appear in about one in 7,000 live births but Oliver’s was much more acute than the average one. At birth, his presented as a 12 ounce mass (representing over 10% of his body weight) stretching from his sternum underneath his right arm and onto the middle of his back. It caused his arm to stay fixed above his head, thus he mostly lost use of it.
We saw a variety of specialists and experts, all of whom came to the same conclusion – this would be rough but we would get through it. We learned to live with some uncertainty and went through all of the normal milestones – cheering him along as he learned to talk, walk, and eat like any other child. He never learned to crawl because he didn’t have use of his right arm. He would do this little shuffle with his body to try to recreate a crawling motion in his own way… it was equally cute and heartbreaking to watch.
As we progressed through 15 months of surgeries, physical therapy, and sleepless nights, I spent the whole time wondering that same question…
Will he ever be able to play baseball?
Little League baseball has been around for over 80 years and provides a rite of passage for children across 6,500 leagues in 80 different countries. Every spring, parents descend upon sporting goods stores around the globe to buy the requisite glove, helmet, and bat for their child so they can get started playing ball.
I was one of those parents in late February last year, traversing the overstocked aisles of Big 5 Sporting Goods, trying to find just the right glove for Oliver. It would eventually end up being a black Rawlings Highlight Series glove that would do the trick. I brought it home, presented it to him, and had him stick it under his mattress so he could break it in. OIiver brimmed with excitement for the season to begin. It would be his first.
As February turned to March and Covid became all anyone could focus on, we started to realize that the season may not happen as planned. We hoped it could still be accomplished somehow but those hopes were dashed when we got a notice from our Little League that the season was being canceled completely.
Another milestone moment delayed courtesy of the brutality of this pandemic.
As investors, we’ve lived what feels like a lifetime over the past year. We’ve navigated the market selloff last March, the rise and subsequent fall of SPACs, the emergence of NFTs, the unstoppable march higher in housing prices, and the seemingly never-ending flow of government stimulus dollars.
All of this in the span of a year.
But we’re here. We made it through what seems like the worst that the pandemic has had to offer. So many of the worries we had can now we put in the past and replaced with new ones. That’s the thing about risk and uncertainty… they never go away… they just morph into new versions of themselves.
What started as worries about a deflationary spiral due to the economic shutdown have now morphed into worries that maybe the economy is just starting to run too hot and inflation is on the horizon…
What started as worries that hotels would have to shut down completely have now turned into worries about how they can safely handle all of the demand that is sure to come their way during the summer travel season…
What started as worries that supply chains would be shut down have now morphed into worries about how to bring supply back on quickly enough to satisfy a crush of consumer spending. And once these worries subside, new ones will appear…
Around and around we go.
But every now and then, if even for a brief moment, you have to stop and smell the roses. Vaccines are in ample supply, consumer demand is humming, and markets have recovered.
The worst of our fears never materialized.
Last Saturday afternoon I got to watch Oliver run onto a field and play organized (sort of) baseball for the first time.
As the coach of his team, I spent most of the morning instructing the kids how to get into the ready position and not to fight over the ball when it was hit to them.
I worried that they might not know where to run after they made contact with the ball (they didn’t) or where to throw when the ball came to them (they didn’t)...
I worried what the parents might think and how well I had communicated the Covid protocols...
I worried that we were given the most unfortunate team name possible in Los Angeles… the Astros.
But, for a brief moment, I was able to stop worrying and just enjoy this wonder of a child using that arm, the same arm that couldn’t be used just a few short years ago, to throw a baseball as hard and as far as he could.
My greatest worry is now gone and a new chapter has begun...
Let’s play ball!