Friday, February 4, 2011

The comfort in calling this HOME.

Matt and I - we've always been able to be pretty content no matter where we're at.  We'll find our little niches throughout the different cities we travel to, explore the areas that have the most to offer in terms of our interests, meet people with commonalities (other than baseball)... this has never been a problem for us.  We enjoy it. We embrace it. There really is no other way if you want to be happy living the baseball lifestyle of constant flux.  

But there's always a certain city, no matter how much back and forth and traveling all over you do, that feels like "coming home."  Its usually a city where you've spent a good deal of time - not just being there, but exploring, growing, making friends that inhabit the city full time - stepping outside your comfort zone of the monotonous "to-and-from the field" and really getting to know the city... falling in love with it. 

Louisville. The city that I, that we, have fallen in love with.  A city with so much personality - excellent food, spectacular live music, friendly people, quaint little shops, local farmer's markets galore, plenty of parks and paths and outdoor loveliness - its hard to believe that anyone, after taking the time to get to know it, could not love Louisville.  

Triple A.  I think its safe to say that its a rarity to be playing minor league ball, in most cases, in a city as cool, with as many things to do, as Louisville.  I can say, with total conviction, that we have been absolutely blessed to spend as much time here the past four years.  And I know that Matt would agree with that 100%.  

Back in 2007, when Matt was traded from the Phillies organization to the Reds organization, we were elated that we'd be playing with an organization in our home state of Ohio (we both grew up in Huron, OH - northern part of the state).  At the time, I was in my fourth and final year at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and had been spending a good deal of time and money flying once or twice a month to see Matt in Reading, PA (Double A, Phillies).  We'd been doing long distance (excluding the off-season) for almost seven years then - so this new close proximity was SUCH a blessing! 

Traded towards the end of the season, Matt spent a few short weeks in Chattanooga, TN (then, Double A, Reds) and was then sent to Louisville to finish out the remainder of the season.  This was FANTASTIC, we both agreed - only a short 3-hour drive from Columbus - I could drive up every weekend if I wanted!  And so our love affair with Louisville began. 

Matt spent a full season in Louisville in 2008 then proceeded to be back and forth from there to Cincinnati during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  During this time, we lived in a few different spots in Louisville and our knowledge, familiarity, and utter LOVE for the city grew and grew.  

Before tying the knot in 2009, we debated about where we would live that off-season after the wedding... Louisville, Cincinnati, Austin, TX (a warmer climate with many of our friends)...  I had just stopped working in Columbus that summer so we didn't have anything tying us down to one particular city.  Ultimately, we ended up moving out to Austin for that off-season just to check it out and see if it was a right fit.  We loved it, had a great time - but the distance from family and the fact that, if we were to make this our off-season home, it would require more packing and moving and money, really made us re-think what we wanted to do for the next off-season. 

I fought it for a while.  I loved living in Austin.  Austin was perfect, because to me, it was a larger, warmer version of Louisville - young, vibrant, good food, good music, outdoor activities.  But I could tell that something about all the back and forth, up and go, traveling cross-country even in the off-season, bothered my husband.  Because Louisville is where he had spent most of his time the former four years, it felt like home to him, he would say with a look in his eyes of yearning for something stable.  It was the city that gave him that comfortable, at-ease feeling in a baseball world of living out of hotels and suitcases and airplanes and bus rides.  And after many heated debates about it, mainly because I hate the cold and wanted to escape the mid-west during the winter months, I finally realized that Matt's comfortability and happiness in staying put would be the best thing for him, for us, this next off-season.  

So, towards the end of this past season, while Matt finished out the year with the big league team, I scoured Louisville for an affordable and comfy place that we could call home.  And just as I'm always preaching that the Universe will take care of those who trust it, the perfect little place just fell into our laps.  Three doors down from our absolute favorite restaurant in Louisville, a fenced in backyard for our two dogs, just enough space to be comfortable, and extremely affordable - there it was: our new home.  

This has been, hands down, the best decision we could have made.  We already loved the city, there was no debate over that and the winter actually was not that bad - I taught myself to appreciate the beauty of the snow, the crispness of the air, the warmth of our cozy little place after coming in from the outside.  We were forced to (and happily welcomed this) make friends outside of the baseball world - finding common ground and things to talk about other than baseball.  It was completely refreshing and the least stressful off-season we've ever had.  And Matt was happy.  He was so so happy.  He was happy to stay put, to be in a place that he knew well, that had the little comforts that many baseball players miss out on most of the year.  It was a beautiful thing and it made me happy too. 

Needless to say, we'll be staying in Louisville for many years to come, I imagine.  We have even decided to keep our place during the season, no matter where Matt is playing, so that 1) we can leave all of our stuff there while we travel and 2) we don't lose (in our minds) the perfect place for us right now. 

As we began to prepare for this coming season and our truck to Arizona for spring training, the sadness of leaving our perfect little home and all our incredible new friends started to set in.  I would get teary-eyed thinking about not being able to walk over to North End Cafe for breakfast on a random Tuesday morning, not being able to continue to build these new friendships, face-to-face, that we had treasured the past few months, not being able to see familiar faces in the day-to-day activities like going to the grocery or practicing in our Louisville yoga studio... the things many people who live a more normal lifestyle without all the travel probably take for granted on a day-to-day basis.  

But this is our life.  It is what it is and as much as I could complain about it, it makes coming HOME that much sweeter. 

Photo in the Louisville Courier Journal for a 2009 story on Life in the Minor Leagues

Mo & I during his 2009 season with the Louisville Bats

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