- Associated Press - Sunday, October 15, 2017

DEL CITY, Okla. (AP) - Angie Wages occasionally tells her students the story about her brother’s first baseball team.

Their family had just moved from Iowa to Oklahoma, and her brother wanted to play for a certain third-grade team. He’d never played organized ball, but he’d grown up around the game.

The team didn’t want him.

Wages remembers her brother being upset but undeterred. He convinced their dad to start a team.

Things turned out well for A.J. Hinch.

He went on to become the National Gatorade Player of the Year in 1992 while at Midwest City High, then played at Stanford, on the 1996 U.S Olympic team and for seven years in the big leagues.

The Oklahoman reports that he’s now the manager of the Houston Astros.

“Where there’s a will,” Wages will tell her students after finishing the story, “there’s a way.”

Turns out, she is trying to coach up youngsters just like her younger brother.

Wages went to work for the Mid-Del School District right after college, and with the exception of a short stint doing youth ministry at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church near downtown Oklahoma City, she has remained. She now is a counselor at Del Crest Middle School, where nearly 9 in 10 students receive free or reduced lunches. Incomes are limited. Challenges are many.

“I stay pretty busy,” Wages said.

But whether in small-group settings or one-on-one sessions, she works to instill hope. She talks with students about setting goals, then establishes a plan to achieve them. She encourages the kids when they’re down, corrects them when they’re wrong.

She lets them to know that she cares, that they can overcome anything if they work hard enough, that she wants them to win - today and always.

Those were things that Dennis and Becky Hinch taught their two kids, and now, both A.J. and Angie are passing on the lessons.

“Even though it looks very different with very different paychecks,” Wages said with a chuckle, “it’s tied to the same morals.”

Sister and brother are both in the business of transformation.

What Hinch has done with the Astros has been nothing short of remarkable. Before his arrival in 2015, Houston had six consecutive losing seasons, including three in a row during that stretch with 100-plus losses.

The Astros were a mess.

Since Hinch took over, they have won at least 84 games every season. This year, they won the AL West easily and were one of only three teams in the majors to win more than a hundred games.

Remember, this is a team from a city devastated by floods from Hurricane Harvey.

Nothing derailed Hinch and the Astros.

No one is prouder than Wages.

Since she and husband, Robert, sent their two kids off to college, she watches nearly every game that Houston plays. She tries to guess what moves her brother will make during games. She chuckles when she sees him make certain expressions; his smirks and smiles often remind her of their dad.

“We have come to the age where we are our parents,” Wages said, laughing.

And lots of days, she sends her brother a text during or after his game.

“I want that hoodie!” she told him recently.

“If you know what hoodie I’m wearing,” he replied, “I’m seriously getting way too much TV time.”

Wages isn’t sure that’s possible.

“I’ve always been a No. 1 fan for my brother,” she said. “When he’s successful, I feel successful.”

That goes back to those lessons learned as kids, those values that they both take into their jobs today. Even though his job is high-profile and hers is behind-the-scenes, the goal for both siblings is to bring out the best in the youngsters with whom they work.

No matter the circumstances.

That’s why Wages occasionally tells that story about her brother’s first baseball team. What if he’d caved as soon as he faced adversity? What if he’d given up on his dream?

“You want to be the best version of yourself,” she will tell the kids. “It’s just doing your individual best, whatever that looks like.”

Seems as though A.J. Hinch isn’t the only one in his family who’s a pretty good coach.

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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