Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Play ball! Even during COVID

Lenten Reflections #19

Exactly one year ago today –  sports, life and the overuse of toilet paper came to a halt.

365 days later, and I’m sitting at my son’s baseball game and life is on the brink of spring. A blossoming cherry tree with chatty chickadees hovers over the bleachers where I am situated deep on the right field baseline, a party of one, enjoying a mask-free moment outside. In the distance, behind home plate, parents set up chairs and snacks and all have a similar look that seems to ask, “What pandemic?”

When I peer over my reading/texting glasses, I locate my son, in the dugout – not yet in the lineup. Like always, my eyes take a bit of adjusting to focus through the black fencing encircling the baseball field. It’s especially tricky to see in the dusky evenings when the light plays peek-a-boo and glances are inevitably fuzzy.

Of course the teenage boys playing are accustomed to watching double plays, errors, and curve balls through the steel wire fence, its diamond-shape serving as a lens to the coveted baseball diamond.

Most of these boys have been ball players since they were four or five. They’ve played through summers, swung their bats across state lines, and sacrificed birthday parties, weekends and time with friends.

Our son fell in love with tee ball, yet he still scooted from soccer to lacrosse, basketball to tennis and dabbled in gymnastics and swim team…only to find his way back to the view of the diamond-shaped fence.

Travel ball players and their families have always blown me away with their dedication. To the sport, to the teams, and to the coaches. However, no matter how much time, money or volunteer hours one has dumped into the baseball cauldron, every parent knows their child will NEVER be guaranteed playing time. So parents wait and watch and wait some more.

Tonight, at the bottom of the third inning, a tall, polite player from our opposing team ran by me and into the bull pen to retrieve straps for stretching. He stopped for a moment as he untied the cords from the fence and asked how I was doing. “Fine, thanks.” “How about you?” I replied. He looked at me and said, “I really wish I was playing—big pause—but it’s okay.” He trotted off, the words “Have a good night!” trailing behind him as I watched the number 20 on his jersey slip back into the dugout.

Wow. This wasn’t a 5- or even 10-year-old kid wanting to get on a field and make the play of the game, this was a 15-year-old boy who said what he had been thinking since the moment every other player on his team grabbed their glove and hustled to the field while he watched the dust settle.

At that point in the game, our son had not played at all either…and all I could think was please God, please let him have the same attitude as this sweet boy who took running an errand for the coach as serious as he would catching a fly ball in left field.

As our team ran in to hit, I noticed my son dash over to give fist bumps to his teammates as they filled the dugout. I also watched as he leaned over the dugout fence, smiling and holding court with his teammates.  

For the remainder of the game, I scoured the field for number 20 and never saw him enter, but I knew there was another mom like me up in the stands waiting for her boy to run on that field and give her a reason to scrub those baseball pants and prep them for the next game. As I walked over to our side of the field, a foul ball dropped behind the dugout. And there it was…another number 20 sighting. He was the first one out to get the stray ball. Dedicated and ready. The lyrics to John Fogerty’s iconic song rang in my head. “Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today.” Much like the rest of us, we just want to get back in the game, back to life without a mask, back to days without so much worry, back to the days when our kids could actually attend school AND play their sport and when parents could sit and talk about what’s for dinner rather than wonder when “normal” will show its face again.

May the spring days help unite nature and humanity, and transcend us from a place of silent isolation to one of growth and renewal.

On Faith and Fitness:

Get your heart rate up and walk briskly. As you do so, count how many different birds do you hear? What is your song?

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