Musial Moments 2018

I’m a sucker for a good sport. You know, someone who goes out of his or her way to display class in the heat of competition. This year’s Musial Award honorees put their own special twists on class. Telling their stories is the highlight of my writing year.

There’s Florida State softball coach Lonni Alameda, who loaned her team bus to a rival at the Women’s College World Series. And when one of the rival players left her uniform on the bus, Coach got in the car to hand-deliver it. Is it karma that Florida State won its first title? Not so much for these acts, she says, but for the joy of giving back through a lifetime in the sport.

There’s Kaiden Whaley, a young goalie who saw that his opponent, playing nets for the first time, needed some help. So, Kaiden skated over after the first period to offer a mini-goalie clinic.

And there’s Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the chaplain for the Loyola University men’s basketball team. She offered the world a clinic on how to handle a moment in the spotlight with grace, humor and charm, shining a light on her school, her order and her team.

I don’t want to bore you with capsules of each of the nine winners, but you can explore them on your own. And be inspired to your own Musial Moment. Your own act of kindness, grace and class in the heat of battle.

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Finding a career in your passion for the outdoors

Parents have to work really hard to pull kids away from the video games, mobile devices and all things digital or virtual to give them a healthy dose of reality. Not surprisingly, many find an “escape” in the reality of nature and the outdoors.

What a shame it would be to put it all away to become an accountant. Why not find a career in the wild?

On assignment for Terrain, I found 10 universities within a 200-mile radius of St. Louis that offer young adults the opportunity to build a career while indulging their passion for canoeing, rock climbing, hiking and the outdoors. They offer majors in recreation, tourism, management, outdoor leadership, therapeutic and natural resources management.

The variety is as vast as the outdoors themselves.

Is this heaven? No, it’s the Musials

I was working on my favorite assignment of the year, telling the stories of the Musial Award winners for the St. Louis Sports Commission, when I was reminded of my husband’s favorite movie, Field of Dreams. There’s this scene in which Shoeless Joe Jackson returns from the dead and looks with awe at a baseball diamond that has been carved out of what should be a corn field. The transformation was completed at the behest of a little voice inside the farmer’s head.

“Is this heaven?” Shoeless Joe asks.

“It’s Iowa,” erstwhile farmer Ray Kinsella answers.

The scene is repeated near the end of the movie, only this time, Ray’s long-departed father asks the question. Ray answers again, “It’s Iowa,” but after a long look at the dad he hasn’t seen for decades, adds, “Maybe this is heaven.”

The folks of that great state have created another magical field. From Iowa Hawkeye fans have sprouted the tradition of turning and waving to the kids in the hospital that overlooks Kinnick Stadium between the first and second quarters of home games. Fans beyond the state border have shed a tear or two when watching the video of the entire stadium, spontaneously and organically taking time out to wave, and of the kids waving back.

The wave has inspired national stories of the kids, their struggles, their resilience and their hope. The Musials instead chose to focus on the two people, strangers at the time, who pushed the idea of the wave on social media. One, Levi Thompson, runs a fan website. The other, Krista Young, is just a fan.

Their story is a testament to the little voice inside each of us, urging us to perform a small act of kindness. I was honored to speak with them and share their story with you. As I was for the other nine honorees.

Come to think of it, Ray’s words apply to the sum of the Musial Awards, a night to honor the best of humanity in sports. When you look around the Peabody Opera House, you see the honorees and their acts of grace, class, dignity, sportsmanship. You see how their actions lift a crowd out its seats and move it to cheers and tears.

Is this heaven?

No, it’s the Musials…

… Maybe it is heaven.