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My journey to the World Series as a dad

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Ernie Lujan, shown here at the Little League World Series with his son, Reeco Lujan in Livermore, California. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Sports Editor’s Note: The Roswell Daily Record sports department is always looking for innovative ways to keep our readers involved in the action. As soon as the Roswell Intermediate team clinched a berth to their first World Series in 63 years, the sports department went to work. The sports department has given readers a behind the scenes look from the players’ perspective, and a coach’s perspective. We have also had readers look at a mom so dedicated to her son, Isaac Loya, that she quit her job to support him and his dream to win a World Series.

In this installment, we have reached out to a father to give the readers a look at the journey from being selected to the All-Star team, to his continuing journey to win it all. Ernie Lujan is a coach to an All-Star team this season and has coached football at Roswell High for a number of years. Below, Ernie takes us on a journey that few parents and Roswellians will get to experience.  

“The day I was notified that Reeco Lujan made the Intermediate All-Star Team happened to be on a very sad moment of my summer,” Lujan said. “My Major’s team (Noon Optimist Dodgers) was put out of the city tournament losing our last game of the season. But that all changed in an 18-second phone conversation with Coach Jeremy Kermode.

“‘I am calling you to inform you that your son, Reeco Lujan, has been selected to the Roswell Intermediate All-Star team,’ Kermode said. I was instantly filled with joy! I walked up to Reeco, who was standing in a circle of family and friends consoling his little bother Elias Lujan, who had just lost his last game of the season, and told him I had some news for him. I said, ‘Congratulations, you are an All-Star!!’ Instantly cheers and excitement filled the group, as Reeco, his mom and myself held back tears of joy!

“You see, last year was an entirely different conversation I had with Reeco — I had to inform him he did not make the 11-12-year-old NOLL All-Star team and tell his little brother Elias Lujan that he did make the 9-10-year-old NOLL All-Star team. As Reeco cried due to the selection, he told his brother congratulations. Then, Coach Dad kicked in — I told him there is only one thing he can do: he has to remember this feeling, hate this feeling, and work — work so you never feel this again.

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“And that’s what he did. Reeco began CrossFit that next week and asked me to put together a travel ball team, which I did ‘Zia Tru,’ which six of the All-Star team players play on. For the past year, Reeco has played travel baseball while playing football, league baseball and doing CrossFit. He competed in one CrossFit competition where he placed second. That phone call from Coach Kermode wasn’t just a call, it was a validation stamp on all his hard work.

Regionals – Houston

“Winning state was a huge honor, but now came the work, as parents, we had to fundraise like crazy. Houston was going to be a great experience coming at a great expense. The parents grouped together and went out on the warpath as we asked our community for help. Some parents went during lunch breaks to different businesses asking for sponsorship. An entire day was dedicated to driving two carloads of players around town in search of sponsorships. Other parents called during the day and night reaching out to family and friends all over the world. Denise Lucero all the way from Australia sponsored the nice flag helmets the boys have been wearing. The community, friends and family came together, helping the team and parents out greatly on this expensive endeavor.

“What about my job? How am I going to ask off? How am I going to be paid? Those are the big questions for parents. I am a teacher, so I am lucky enough not to have to worry about time off, but for the others that are not educators, these are huge questions. For the most part, the employers understood the unique experience the parents had — there were a few employers who did not.

“Packing the bags for the unknown was a challenge. Do we pack seven days of clothes? Because, if we lose, we will only be here for seven days, or do we pack for 15 days if we win and go to the World Series? As a parent, you want to make sure everything is perfect and with a 13-year-old young man, that is almost impossible.

“Making sure he has all of his uniforms is the most important thing, then his equipment, and underwear and socks. Finally, the day clothes, let’s not forget the hygiene products, because they will. Now your son is ready to go to Regionals. Regionals was a nice little drive of 11 hours, so parents had to make sure their automobiles were in good shape and enough snacks to keep the ‘hangry monster’ from popping his head out during the trip.

“Hotels are hard to book when dealing with large numbers of people while trying to accommodate the masses. Some of the questions we had to (consider) is, is it too expensive? Is it a roach motel and does it have breakfast for the boys? How close is it to the field. (They) are questions that make booking a hotel a huge decision. The parents had a meeting to cover all of our bases and booked a great hotel. Everyone knows when we arrived at the hotel, the rooms had been booked, but some were only single beds, (so) some parents didn’t have a room upon arrival. Once we settled in, everyone was excited to be there and couldn’t wait for the boys to play.

“Every day in Houston was a new experience, but there is one memory that will top them all: the Regionals championship. We went three up and three down in the top of the first inning and then gave up three runs in the bottom of the inning, which had fans nervous. Having coached all but two kids on the team, I had a strong understanding of how well these boys could play, and as the boys ran out to the field the second time, I yelled to them, ‘It’s OK boys, we will score 10 anyways, so three runs don’t mean anything.’

“Then it happened — we scored six runs in the top of the sixth inning and four more in the top of the seventh inning. Our boys had a 10-3 lead, nerves were on edge — I could not stand still, one out, and I said to myself, ‘Oh man, this could happen,’ two outs, ‘Oh my, we are about to go the World Series,’ out three — Emotions filled the air cheering and clapping, I was in the outfield and the right fielder ran over to me and I jump on the fence hanging halfway in the field hugging him — boys went crazy.

“The parents got to see their boys and tears flushed on everyone’s face, players, moms and dads. We were so proud of our boys. We’re so proud of the team and it was one of the best memories of my life.

World Series

“The night of winning the Regionals, once we got back to the hotel, it was back to work for the parents. We had to plan what needed to be done. The stressful part was trying to plan a trip so far with a very small amount of time and little to no details. At this point, we didn’t even know when the boys would be leaving to Houston.

“Finally, the next morning we knew the boys would be leaving. The parents spent hours looking at all the different ways we could get to Livermore, California, with cost and time on our minds. We explored flights, trains, buses and carpools. Finding a hotel was even more stressful. All the hotels we looked into were very expensive and could not accommodate a large group.

“In the end, some parents flew and some drove. My family and three other families decided to drive to save money. We left Houston and drove 10 hours back to Roswell, arriving at about 2 a.m. We woke up Friday morning, did laundry, repacked and drove 18 hours straight to Livermore, California. At this point, we’re going on very little sleep, just as it had been in Houston.

“Once we arrived in Livermore, we were anxious to see our boys. We hadn’t seen them since we left them in Houston. Once reunited with my son, I was excited to hear about his experience — I had only been able to see it through social media. I felt like he had matured so much in just two days. The boys received new uniforms, shoes, hats, bats, bags and many other fun accessories. We have very little contact with the boys as they are staying at a different hotel and are under the care of the Little League. We see them at the games and that is it. We try to stay busy during downtime, but again, the expense of the summer definitely puts limitations on what can be done.

“In the end, the summer has been full of highs and lows, most of the time without even realizing what day it is. It feels almost like we are in a daze. This team had to become a family very quickly and that, we have done. We have all supported each other, laughed together, cried together and even disagreed with one another, but in the end, we are all here for the same reason, which is to watch each our sons’ dreams come true.”

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