This is an excerpt from my NICU journal. It started as a letter to my children on their first day in this world and grew to much more. So much more that I am planning on publishing it when I am done. In writing it I hoped to pass on a few life lessons to my children when they’re old enough to read it but learned a few along the way myself. One of those was to not give up on your dreams. I’ve always wanted to be a writer but after enough people told me it was foolish to dream and I’d never make a living doing it I stopped dreaming and settled into life. Having children has made me realize I can’t look at them and ask them to chase their dreams when I’ve stopped chasing mine long ago. So now David Huzzard writes, and without further delay here is a brief excerpt from that NICU journal.
It’s hard to say with any confidence where the 2019 Washington Nationals slogan Stay in the Fight came from other than it happened organically. Manage Dave Martinez believes it stems from something he said on May 24 when the Washington Nationals were at there lowest, twelve games under .500 with no one giving them a chance to recover, but wherever it came from it happened organically and it stuck.
Most team slogans in sports have that inorganic, phony, corporate lingo feel to them. Things like Natitude, One Pursuit, Pledge Your Allegiance, and Welcome Home are all obviously the brainchildren of corporate boardroom meetings with a little crowd testing thrown in. Stay in the Fight is a rallying cry for those with nothing left to lose.
I know I’ve railed against positivity and self-help motivation in this journal but I’m not truly against either of those things. What I am against is the positivity movement that has coopted the language of cults. Stay in the Fight isn’t offering a new lifestyle and asking you to label anyone that doesn’t support it as toxic and to cut them out of your life as Rachel Hollis or a cult leader would. Stay in the Fight is a call to take it one day at a time, focus on the task in front of you, hold fast, cling tight, put one foot in front of the other, and endure for one more day. It is the call to take the impossible, make it manageable, and survive to see another tomorrow.
On May 24 when Stay in the Fight was born the Washington Nationals would have to play .630 baseball just to finish with 90 wins and a shot at the playoffs. From May 24 through the end of the season the Washington Nationals played .658 ball and finished with 93 wins. They are now in the NLCS and four wins away from playing in the World Series.
As we are aware not all fairy tales have a happy ending. The original story of Little Red Riding Hood ended with her and granny both eaten by an ogre. There is no guarantee that the Washington Nationals get those four wins before suffering four losses, but I’d like to believe they can because Stay in the Fight isn’t just their slogan it is ours.
The first advice the doctors gave us when we went to visit you was don’t visit Google, but it was too late. I already knew that your survival rate was between 70 and 80 percent which sounds good but in my mind someone has to be the 20 to 30 percent and I am a baseball fan. A batter with a 30% chance of getting a hit is a dangerous hitter, and when I saw your small two pounds frame, translucent skin, misshapen head, and heard your tiny cat like cries behind the glass of your incubator it was hard not to let the dark thoughts in.
I spent most of those early days in an absentminded delirium. The Washington Nationals on July 14had clawed there way back to six games over .500 but I wasn’t paying much attention to them. I have to admit I was one of the many that had given up on them in late May and while I listened to a game here or there I wasn’t as fully invested as I had been in years past, but they were winning and they wouldn’t stop winning. None of that mattered to me starting on July 14though. I had much larger concerns and while baseball has always been a welcome distraction or at the least background noise this time I let it fade completely from my life.
My entire focus was being at your bedside. I wanted to help you grow and breath and live in anyway I could. If you want to know what it’s like to feel powerless try having a child in the NICU. As a parent you’re supposed to be there for your child and help them, but all I could do was visit for an hour or two a day and if I was lucky to arrive at the right time the nurses would help take you out of your incubator and let me hold you. Most of my time visiting you was spent looking at you through the glass of your incubator and asking you to fight for us. Asking for you to Stay in the Fight.
The 2019 Washington Nationals rallying cry and team slogan has become deeply personal to me. Stay in the Fight, put one foot in front of the other, take life day by day, endure are all things I’ve been doing every day since July 14. Every one of those days has been a new challenge from those early days of crying myself to sleep not knowing if I’d get a call in the middle of the night telling me the worst to having one of you home and the other still in the hospital having to endure sleepless nights and extended days.
By your being born thirteen weeks early we found ourselves behind the eight ball. Much like a team that’s 12 games under .500 entering play on May 24, but we endured, we Stayed in the Fight. Now, as the Washington Nationals find themselves four wins away from the World Series we find ourselves four days from your, Roland’s, ALTE watch being up. Four days away from the final homecoming. Baseball is on the back-burner of life right now, but it is much more than background noise. The 2019 Washington Nationals have fought back by taking it one day at a time, by going 1-0 everyday, by Staying in the Fight and I feel more personally connected to this group of players than I have any other. It is already fitting that the first NLCS in Washington Nationals history is happening in the year you were born and it would be even more fitting if the first World Series appearance since 1933 happened in 2019 as well.