© Chuck Duboff
Editor’s Note: I have known Josh from a distance at Goldeyes games; he has always seemed like a very devoted fan…yet, I didn’t really know him.
Josh regularly reads my Goldeyes blogs and leaves commentary. I was very impressed with this young man, yet still, I didn’t know his story. Little pieces would come out, but it was still a puzzle.
Recently Josh posted some very personal thoughts on Facebook about the challenges he has faced in life. I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to share his story on the blog…I sensed at first some hesitation, but with time and thought, Josh eagerly agreed to share his story.
What follows is the story of a transgender youth trying to find himself.
Well done Josh…very proud of you for having the courage to write this. I know Luis Alen is proud of you also…as are all your friends and Goldeyes family.
© Josh Alen
Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local indy-league baseball team brought a rookie bat catcher onto the roster, a little guy from South America with decent numbers. His name was Luis Alen, and I guess that’s where this story starts.
I didn’t know the first thing about baseball back then. I followed the Winnipeg Goldeyes casually, solely because they were the hometown ball club. That changed pretty quickly after that signing.
You know that feeling when something happens, and you feel a click, as if to say this is going to be important? That’s the feeling I got, reading that press release.
It would end up being six years before I got to see that kid from Venezuela play a game in person, but man, was it ever worth the wait.
I went to my first Goldeyes game on March 18th of 2008, my first words? “Where’s Alen?”
“Oh, he doesn’t play for us anymore.” I was told.
Needless to say, that was a disappointing summer. I didn’t end up going back for a while, but the reasons were unrelated.
In May of 2012, I was reeling from years’ of mental illnesses, abuse trauma, and a couple failed suicide attempts.
I didn’t want to live anymore, let alone go to a baseball game. I did anyway.
It was the 30th, just days before my nineteenth birthday. The night was warm, the breeze was perfect, and the sunset was one of the more beautiful ones I’d seen in a while. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would end up being the first day of the rest of my life.
“Just one game” I’d said.
That “one game” ended up being close to fifteen or twenty by the time September rolled around, and turned into becoming a season ticket holder by age twenty-one.
I don’t remember much about the 2012 season,
I remember that first game though. I remember finally seeing Luis in person, I remember seeing him interact with fans, how kind and sweet he was, how genuine he seemed, I remember watching him walk up to bat. It was like being a kid on Christmas morning again. I remember watching him hit, hit after hit, after hit…it’d be a while before I saw him strike out. He was a genius behind the plate too, called the game like few others.
That game set the stage for the coming years. I don’t remember if we won or not, it wasn’t important. I remember feeling, a certain safety, a sense of home (there was that click again).
I’d continue to feel that throughout the rest of the year, as I became more familiar with the team that was quite quickly becoming mine.
Everything was so new, and so fun, getting to know some regular fans, some of the staff, and some of the players themselves.
It was refreshing to have something to look forward to, something exciting, that was bringing me out of my shell after so long; the championship run that fall certainly didn’t hurt either.
Still, the best part of that first summer was watching, awe-struck every time #18 walked past, or went up to the plate.
That would be the case every year. I’ll never know exactly why, but nothing else ever seemed to matter quite as much. Maybe it was simply how good he was on the field. Maybe it was how he carried himself as a professional athlete, or how humble he was. Though it could have been that in getting to know him I’d come to find that the kind, gentle soul I’d seen interacting with kids on that night in May wasn’t the same act that most athletes put on to impress; but in fact just who he was. It was likely a combination of all those things, mixed with a little of the world’s best hugs.
Whatever it was, it kept me coming back, not just in 2012; but every year that followed.
Life didn’t just magically get better after one summer, no. That has been a lengthy process that has lasted up until this day, and will continue for as long as I live.
There has been hurt, there has been heartache, there have been more mental illnesses, there have been my first steps in the world as a transgender male, there has been loss, so, much loss.
Though, no matter the mud that I’ve been dragged through, no matter how far past rock bottom I’ve sank, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve always had my boys. Even when I didn’t have “my” boys, even when every other player I’d liked had left for whatever reasons, when a large portion of the friends I’d made in years past had decided to not return; there was always, my catcher. That was what got me through even the darkest nights and back through the doors of my beloved ballpark every spring.
Until one day, he wasn’t anymore.
That’s when it became real.
That was the point which I had to sit back, and reflect on the years I’d spent telling myself that this one, amazing player had kept me coming back long enough to love a team that I kept claiming saved my life. I came to a crossroads at which I was forced to look at whether or not those claims were true, or if they were just the rugs under which I’d been sweeping my problems.
It was agonizing, to say the very least.
I was convinced that I didn’t have a chance in hell at recovering from the loss of the person who’d been there from the very beginning, who was the catalyst for all the friendships, all the happy memories, the person who none of this could be at all without.
I did have a chance though, after months of self-destruction and doubt I overcame, and I conquered with such tenacity that even as I write this a year later, I still cannot fathom.
I spent the last three hundred and sixty five plus days moving one of the most enormous mountains that life has ever dropped in front of me.
I didn’t do it alone though, not for a single second.
On a frigid, January morning the safe, familiar home that I’d built for myself burst into flames, and burned to the ground; leaving me buried so far beneath the rubble that I was rendered virtually unrecognizable. At the time I was thought that everything I’d come to know was over, when in reality it was just beginning. Slowly, everything that I had gained from the interest in baseball that a catcher had sparked a decade prior started to unfold everywhere I looked. All the happiness that reminded me of why I started this chapter to begin with, the memories that I’d miss making, the love that would be left over with nowhere to go should I make good on my “resignation” from my Goldeyes, the friendships that I’d come to cherish that would likely be lost.
That last one was the most important, and ultimately what has gotten me to the place I am in right now.
The friends that I had made and continue to make, the people who found the multiple feet of rubble, and chipped away to find me at the bottom. The people who pulled me out, and dusted me off, the people who held me up and showed me not only how to stand again, but how to walk on my own; those who stood on all sides of me, and picked me up every time I fell, every time I still fall. The people who believed in me, who loved me until I could be myself again, the people who ended up showing me what it meant to belong, and to be truly accepted.
The people who I would never have met, had it not been for the love I developed for that rookie catcher from Venezuela, who I’ve now come to call My King.
I will not forget the bad that came with this last year.
The sheer terror on that morning, the devastation I felt when walking away seemed like the best and only option, or the weeks I spent lying awake at night, most of the time fairly intoxicated.
However, I will also not forget the good.
The leaps and bounds I made towards recovery after so many years, the obstacles that I laughed in the face of, as I surmounted them.
The night before my twenty-third birthday; on which I summoned the courage to tell the man that started this all, a watered-down version of this story. The same night that I asked him for his blessing to take his last name as my own (I should mention that he said yes, and I’ve never been more proud of anything in my all my years).
The new people I met along the way that help each and every day to shape me into the man that I hope to eventually become.
Oh, and the championship run at the end of this season wasn’t too shabby either.
I have learned so much about the mental strength that I did not know I possessed, about perseverance, and resiliency. I’ve learned what it means to truly love, and to be truly loved.
I’ve learned about taking risks, and making the most of every precious moment you’re given, how not a single one of those moments should be taken for granted, and making damn sure that you tell the ones you love that you love them while you still have the chance.
I’ve had proven to me the meaning of fate, and destiny. I learned to trust that click, to trust the feeling of this was meant to be. If something screams “this is your purpose, this is what you were meant to find” for a decade, you should probably stop being stubborn and just listen.
I am finally on a road to a real, and long-lasting recovery after over a decade of suffering, I am on a path to becoming the most authentic me I can possibly be; none of which could be possible without the environment that a small sports organization in downtown Winnipeg creates for their fans
Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local independent-league baseball club signed a soft-spoken, catcher, with a heart of gold, and one of the most beautiful souls this world will ever know. His name was Luis Alen; and he, along with his team changed my life forever.