Baseball season is quickly coming to an end around here. A few more games and we will be all done. For the past six weeks four nights out of the week have been dedicated to baseball. I don't know what we will do with all of our evenings free.
This was our boys' first year playing baseball and I'd call it a success. The boys had fun, improved, made friends, and truly enjoyed themselves. You can't ask for more than that. And yet, more is what we got.
There are moments in life that help define us. Last night had one of those moments.
Tommy had an early game and Joe had a late game so, for once, the whole family was able to watch both games.
The evening started out at Tommy's baseball game. The kid hit well, as usual, and had a running snag of a foul ball off of third that was out of this world. "Wow!" went around the entire bleacher section. No matter where the coach put Tommy, his go-to guy, he made some plays. The kid is a natural athlete.
I watched Joey during Tommy's game. He cheered his brother on and was supportive, but he was also quiet. Thinking, thinking, thinking. You could see the wheels turning. Always comparing himself to others, especially his younger brother.
After Tommy's game was done we packed up and headed over to our second baseball game of the 90 degree day.
Coach Todd (dad) started the game by giving his timid players the same speech he gives before every game. Swing away. Have fun! Don't be afraid to swing. Remember, even professionals strike out 7 out of 10 times! (and looking right at Joey) Better to strike out than to be too scared to swing. You will never hit the ball if you don't swing. Have fun! Go team!
Joey started out as catcher. It was a tough position to play in the heat and Coach Todd (dad) swapped out catchers for each inning. After playing catcher Joey moved on to third base for the next inning. The opposing team was good and had hit after hit. I could feel Joey's morale start to sag.
Suddenly, "Whack!" The batter hit a foul ball headed for third base. Joey ran, stretched his glove out with all his might, and snagged the foul ball getting the batter out. He quickly glanced around and saw the second baseman running to third. Knowing the runner had to go back to second Joey threw the ball to the second baseman. It was a great throw but the second baseman missed it and the ball rolled into the outfield. That gave the runner enough time to advance to third base. Joey, even though he made an amazing catch and a great throw, was now miffed that the double play didn't work out. The kid holds himself to impossibly high standards.
When the inning was over Joey walked over to the bench and I hollered out, "Nice catch, Joe!" He looked at me and gave me a thumbs down. "Positive attitude, Joe!" I tried to remind him.
Somehow we managed to get three guys across home plate (I think our team has scored MAYBE four times all season) in the next inning making the score somewhere around 7-3. Then the opposing team got a couple more runs in their next time at bat increasing their lead even more.
The last inning and we are up to bat. Our players were hot and tired and ready to go home. Coach Todd (dad) reminds the batters, once again, to have fun and swing away! The first batter up struck out. Second batter up struck out. At least they're swinging!
Joey is up next. The first couple of pitches are balls. Then Joey racks up two strikes. The pitcher winds up, throws the ball, and "WHACK!" Joey sends a line drive down past third base and out into the outfield where it zings past the outfielder. Joey runs past first and on to second base. The outfielder finally gets the ball and throws it to second. The second baseman misses the ball and it flies past him into the outfield. Joey takes off from second to third as the entire stands full of parents are cheering. Coach Todd (dad) is telling Joe to stay on third but through the excitement of it all Joey can't hear him. Joey glances at the kid now holding the ball and makes the decision to go for home. Joe rounds third and runs full speed ahead to home base. SAFE!
HOME. FREAKING. RUN.
Joey's team rushes the field hooting and hollering and chanting Joey's name. "That was our first home run of the season, Joe!" "Way to go, Joey!" they all say. You'd think they had just won the game.
Joey's smile was radiant. Put tears in my eyes. He was so PROUD of himself.
The next batter up struck out but it didn't matter. Everyone was still cheering over Joey's home run. Joey's team may not have won the game but it felt like a win to them.
"I can't believe I got a home run!" Joey admitted to us on the way home, all smiles.
"That was awesome, Joe!" younger brother Tommy said with admiration.
It was a big moment for a boy who too often makes himself feel like he isn't good enough. It was a lesson in trying. A lesson in not being afraid. A lesson to keep at it. A lesson, a feeling, that I pray stays with him his entire life. Try. Possible failure be damned. Try. Don't give up.
You'll never hit a home run if you don't swing.