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Jim Panzini was a former standout football player at Toms River High School South and the University of Pennsylvania. An attorney with Jackson Lewis P.C., he is the father of four boys who are all active in athletics, but like thousands of others at the Shore has been sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. The following is from an email he sent to me after reading my recent letter to followers of the Shore Sports Network about the trying times we are all dealing with. 

My family and high school sports fans appreciate the work you and the Shore Sports Network do on a daily basis. As strange as it sounds, I am trying to view the current situation as an opportunity to learn, grow and appreciate. As you may know, I have been blessed with four sons and this crisis has effected each in his own way. My son Jimmy is a senior at St. Anselm (New Hampshire) and his team was about to play in the NCAA Division II Basketball Tournament when it was canceled. We picked him up at school and I think the saddest part was that he will miss the last eight weeks of his senior year and all the fun and memories associated with that.

Blaise is a sophomore relief pitcher at Seton Hall. They had just returned from a West Coast spring break baseball trip and opened their brand new baseball stadium on March 11 against Farleigh Dickenson. He threw a perfect six-pitch inning of relief and little did we know that would be his last game of the season. He was supposed to play in the Hamptons Summer League for the Southampton Breakers but that is obviously not going to happen. Shane is a junior pitcher and outfielder at Red Bank Catholic and was really excited about the season.  He was also invited to this summer’s MLB Prospect Development Pipeline in Santa Clara, California which is a very prestigious event and I know he’ll be disappointed if it’s canceled.  My youngest, Gioacchino (named after my father), is finishing eighth grade and we have narrowed the list down of high schools he may attend. He is missing both middle school baseball and AAU basketball.

The Panzini Family - Jimmy, Blaise, Jim, Shane & Gioacchino)

Now that I have addressed what we are “missing” I will view this through a slightly different paradigm and list the things we are “gaining.”  First, we have everyone at home. Although we had everyone at home in the summer this is different. Everyone is home without the distraction of sporting or social events. We are all present in the house with few exceptions and fortunately, my basement is finished. There is a treadmill and rudimentary gym and more importantly a ping-pong table. I am trying to work at my dining room table and am treated to the rhythmic sound of the ball being hit and the more-than-occasional screaming, cursing and laughing. Each of my sons has school responsibilities and have been sitting at the computers for part of the day. We have had family dinners almost every night and have even taken to watching movies or shows together, which has been very enjoyable.

Let me be clear that there has been our fair share of fights and annoyances but I wouldn’t trade some of these moments for anything. We are closer both physically and emotionally then we have ever been. Without many of life’s distractions, we are forced to spend time together. I am certain we are all chomping at the bit to return to normal (I know I am) but I have a sneaking suspicion that in some odd non-logical way I will miss this time. I told my kids we are now like The Waltons, “Good Night, John Boy.”  Of course, this reference is completely lost on them. My wife is rattling around the kitchen trying to locate the cord that will allow us to play home movies from the old video camera (I know I need to get with the times and have this all loaded to the cloud). Maybe if I really want to torture them I can figure out a way to play my old high school football games from cable TV or the uncut 6-hour version of my wedding video.

I know your kids are older but I hope this provided you with some time to connect…stay safe and try to enjoy. As counter-intuitive as that sounds it is all we can do. I look forward to seeing Matt Manley standing behind the backstop watching games. I look at it like this, if it was the normal rush-around crazy time would I have taken the time to write a long missive like this?  My father recently celebrated his 90th birthday and while it was not what we would have wanted, we made due. My last point (I promise) is I hope this makes people a little more appreciative of a normal day, where we could go to a high school baseball game and simply watch. We should never take that for granted. Stay safe.