"Taking a Swing at Weight Loss - Update #15"
10 November 2001
To All Those I Love and Cherish,
First, an important announcement - another Yphantides has been born!!!
Alexander George Yphantides appeared on the scene Monday November 5, 2001 weighing in at 8 pounds 10 ounces. He is the second child and first son of my brother John and sister-in-law Heather, and brother to their precious daughter Sophia. He is a healthy, content and low maintenance dude according to his mommy. When I arrive home the day before Thanksgiving it will be fun getting to know my new nephew and I rejoice with the rest of our family with his arrival. There can be no greater joy than new life!
Well, have you ever wondered what it would be like to win the lottery? Ever dreamed about what it would have been like to invest 5,000 dollars in Microsoft about 15 years ago? Ever thought about finding a Rolex watch at the beach as you searched for some stray coins? As I lay on the floor of my Uncle Ray's house in Virginia reflecting on the last couple weeks, I am so euphoric and content that those are the kinds of feelings that I have swirling around inside me at the moment. My heart is bursting at the seams with joy to have wrapped up my baseball tour and to have done so with such an amazing set of blessings. I won a sports fan's lottery jackpot by witnessing and attending what many are already calling one of the greatest World Series ever! I have now lost over 200 pounds and am feeling like my investment of time and effort is paying off in a very monumental way! Ticketless for Game 7, I was wandering outside the stadium in Phoenix, Arizona just trying to find any ticket to get in and ended up sitting in the premier seats of the house amongst folks like Mayor Gulianni, Senator McCain, Baseball Legend Dave Winfield and the owner of the Diamondbacks, Jerry Colangelo. The last two weeks have certainly been the defining moments of the whole adventure for me and the icing on the cake of a pilgrimage that started over 7 months ago. Where has the time gone?
When I last wrote, it was with the joy of getting tickets for the World Series games in da' Bronx and with the appreciation that the mourning city of New York had the Yankees to root for once again in the postseason. I was also fortunate to have some additional time to spend in the part of the country where I grew up visiting and catching up with many loved ones and friends. Little did I know of the baseball adventure that lay in waiting. The Yankees were beat soundly by the Arizona Diamondbacks in games 1 and 2 back in Phoenix and returned to New York in the disadvantaged position of being down 2-0 in the best of 7 series. Game 3 was quite the pitching match up with the Yankees barely squeezing out a win by a score of 2-1 which I watched on TV with my high school buddies Tarn Menzies and Kenny Metalidies. With great anticipation I went to Game 4 with my cousin Terri Ann and her husband Michael both of whom are hard core Yankee fans. We showed up as soon as the gates opened and visited Monument Park and spent quite a while trying to catch a souvenir homerun ball during batting practice. The game was a very close one but it appeared that the Yankees would loose as they were down 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. That is when lightning struck with an incredible game tying homerun by Tino Martinez that sent the stadium into a frenzy. One inning later in the bottom of the 10th inning Derek Jeter won the game for the Yankees with a homerun that caused the stadium to shake with human excitement and celebration. It was a moment as fun as it can get for a sports fan (unless you were from Arizona). Only three other times in the history of the World Series had a game been tied or won with a homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Game 5 was electric as the series was tied up 2-2 and New York was still buzzing with excitement on what had happened the night before. Who could have thought or expected it would ever happen again. Well, the Yankees were again loosing by 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs when lightning struck a second time. This time it was the bat of Scott Brosius that provided the sports miracle hitting a homerun to tie up the game 2-2 and again sending the game into extra innings. Something that had happened only three times in over 100 years of baseball in the World Series I had witnessed live two nights in the row. Pandemonium erupted and the explosive celebration that ensued is hard to describe and one that I will never forget. The Yankees went on to win it in the bottom of the 12th inning and having spent the whole season at over 100 games I was mesmerized in a euphoric sports daze. A true priceless moment for a fan of the game. I decided I never would have to go to another game in my life and I would die a happy content fan. I had been to the mountain! My eyes had seen the glory and excitement of the pinnacle of the game of baseball! It truly could not ever get any better than this. The Yankees had now taken a 3-2 game advantage and were headed back to Arizona and guess who was following them West?
In one of the more spontaneous decisions of the trip, I decided to explore the possibility of making a 48 hour visit to Arizona. When the San Diego Padres offered me a single ticket from their team allotment for game 6 and I was able to find an amazingly affordable round trip flight from NY to Phoenix for the next day, it was a simple no brainer decision. My ever supportive dad of course decided to drive right out from San Diego and meet me at the airport. He brought his good friend Mike along for company and we ended up having a great time together. I of course assumed the World Series was a done deal and the Yanks would win Game 6 and wrap up their fourth championship in a row. I had no ticket for Game 7 but there would be no need for one anyhow! Silly me! Game 6 was the biggest blow out of World Series history with the Diamondbacks humiliating the Yankees by a score of 15-2. It was great to be there nonetheless and I enjoyed the playful harassment I had to endure from the enthusiastic Phoenix fans. The resilience of the Diamondback team to bounce back like that considering what had just occurred back in New York was unbelievable. Unfortunately, I was also in physical pain for most of that game. Talk about adding injury to insult! During batting practice I was standing in the outfield with my baseball mask on taking pictures when the Arizona slugger Luis Gonzalez crushed a screaming line drive right towards me. I never saw it coming and it cracked me right in the wrist barely missing my camera and sending a shutter of sharp pain through my body. I thought for sure I had broken my wrist and it swelled instantly and quite impressively. I went to have it checked out with the stadium docs and decided to ice it and monitor the swelling and pain rather than leave the stadium for an X-ray. By the next morning it felt better enough that I self diagnosed myself with a bone bruise and a wounded ego.
I headed to the Stadium very early on Sunday morning to start my treasure hunt for a ticket to Game 7. The last baseball game of the year. The ultimate baseball match up between the two best pitchers in baseball. Roger Clemens of the Yankees against Curt Schilling of the Diamondbacks set the stage for a great game! I spent hours holding up a dinky sign I made that read "real fan looking for real good seat." There were plenty of tickets available but at ridiculous prices. People were selling tickets for 5-10 times their face value and I was unable and unwilling to pay such ridiculous premium fees. Having been blessed so many times over the course of this adventure I could sense that one last blessing was on its way. Yes, I prayed and prayed and walked and walked around that stadium. Like Joshua around the walls of Jericho I marched on looking for a ticket into the promised land of baseball. All day and early afternoon I had been checking in with the main ticket office just in case some last minute ticket was returned and each time the gentleman behind the window looked at me with a silly grin that all but said "are you on drugs?" Phoenix was the last major city in the country that had never won a sports championship in any of the major national sporting leagues. Needless to say, tickets were quite the prized possession on this special day. About two hours before game time my sense of urgency was picking up a bit. I decided one last time to go back to the window and ask the Diamondback official if something might be available. When with a different smile he said "you wouldn't believe this" I instantly got light headed. The pain in my wrist instantly disappeared and my pulse doubled between beats. When he told me that Major League Baseball had just returned a single ticket 6 rows off the field behind home plate I literally started to cry. I can only imagine what he was thinking. When he asked me if I wanted it, I could not even verbalize a thing but in shock just nodded my head up and down and handed him my whole wad of $20 dollar bills as I could not see through my tears to even count them out. One last baseball blessing that was way beyond my wildest dream.
I walked in to the stadium and was able to go to the "special area" where only officials, celebrities and politicians roamed. Access to the buffet (the food smelled great), close up pictures and standing right off the field gave me that cozy warm feeling of a child in the candy store. I was 267 pound goose bump at that moment and overjoyed with this chance to end the season long baseball odyssey in style. During the game I even got to meet Mayor Gulliani and offered him my premature congratulations assuming that taking a lead into the ninth inning meant sure victory for the Yankees and the City of New York. Well, well, well. The Yankees got a big taste of their own medicine with an unbelievable bottom of the ninth inning comeback victory by the Diamondbacks. The same intensity of celebration followed but for the other team and in the other city. Bedlam erupted the moment Luis Gonzalez punched the ball over Derek Jeter's head winning the game and the World Series for Arizona!!!! I stood there soaking in all the excitement with wonder and amazement. Having been friendly and playful with the folks around me during the game we shared hugs and high fives all around as they danced and jumped in the aisles. I just stood there. Frozen. Maybe its because with all the weight I have lost that I am nearly half the man I once was physically. Maybe its because I survived testicular cancer and am half way to becoming a woman (joke). My response? Cry. More tears. Not sadness. Not sorrow. Thankfulness. Wonder. The kind of deep sincere appreciation that words cannot describe. Sure there was some regret mixed in too. Mostly over the fact that tomorrow there would be no game. This was the end of the line for my baseball tour. And yet what a generous divine gift I consider this whole event to have been. It was a most memorable and exciting way to finish off this weight loss and baseball adventure. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." --1 Thessalonians 5:18.
And so I have slowly begun my journey back west. I reluctantly said goodbye to my aunts, uncles and all my dear cousins and friends in NY and NJ. Leaving behind another home away from home, I finally have to start my journey back to reality and back to my real home in Southern California. I now will head back for my own "home" "plate" on Thanksgiving Day. As previously mentioned, as divinely appointed timing would allow it, I will be returning home to San Diego the night before Thanksgiving. My transition to "real food" will start on Thanksgiving Day as I start to enjoy vegetables and a baked potato for the first time in eight months. I am now back in Virginia again visiting more family and spending some time hunting, hiking and mentally preparing to face reality. In a few days my gramps and I will set out for one last cross country drive up to South Dakota to visit MT. Rushmore and then drive down through Colorado, Utah and Nevada before strategically arriving home in time for the ultimate holiday. Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year and the holiday that has retained its truest meaning in the midst of the commercialization of many of the others we celebrate. We all have much to be thankful for but I have the luxury of an even greater obligation to give thanks for having lived what many would consider a dream experience over the course of the last 8 months. I have lost 204 pounds with only 33 left to go before reaching my goal weight of 230 pounds. I have done so while enjoying great company, an amazing country, and an incredible baseball season while blessed with health and safety. I have enjoyed this defining moment in my life while resting in the promise of God to make me everything I should be. I am yours Lord! Take my hand and continue to lead the way!!!
As thankful as I can be,