If you tire easily of me talking about baseball, this is not a post for you to read.
Wow. What a weekend. If you had told me last week this time that we would have the most exciting baseball weekend ever, I would have wanted to believe you but would have had major doubt. You see, all season long, our little Bandits have practiced hard and continued to get better and better. But it seemed when it came down to the final hour, we would run out of steam or get down on ourselves. But that simply wasn't the case this weekend. Those eleven little men played baseball for three days for a total of seven games, and they never gave in to their competition.
This weekend was nothing short of magical. And I must say that it was incredibly satisfying to watch this group of boys who barely practiced collectively as a team more than twice a week reach such a level of success. You see, six of our boys live in Gardendale (just north of Birmingham) and the other five live just south of Birmingham, equalling a forty minute drive (minus traffic) to get them all together. So much of their practice time was spent split in half. I doubt there are many teams at any age level who are able to maintain such a successful season with this kind of practice schedule.
Our team has had some great disappointments. Our first tournament in the spring was just outside of Atlanta. We loaded up our cars and booked a room for our first two day tournament ever as a team. That Saturday, they played fantastic. But Sunday morning was quite a different story - they seemed dazed and confused. We chalked it up as a huge lesson learned. The boys had to learn how to play two days in a row - that once they went to bed at night, they would have to get up and do it all over again the next morning. Winning your first two games means nothing if you lose your third and have to head home. Another huge disappointment was our trip to Mississippi in May. Two of the top teams would be there, and we felt like it was a great opportunity for us to make a name for ourselves. Again, we struggled with coming out of the gate too fast and not saving any steam for day two. And we loaded up our cars and headed home losers.
But the boys kept on working. No one would believe the way they practiced. You can't imagine the expectations their coaches placed on them. Of course, it was always made into a game - who can do the most push-ups, a running game where the boys try to catch up to and pass the boy in front of them, a little game the boys loved call "Hit or Out." I know in my heart these are the hardest working seven year old boys in the nation. I saw it all... the tears, the bloodied lips and noses, the grass stains from our practice "field of dreams." And all that effort came together during the World Series.
We played seven games, and we won them all. Undefeated in the biggest tournament of their little baseball careers. It was hot. They were exhausted. It was incredibly intense. But nothing could stand in their way... nothing, no one. And they stood alone as the USSSA World Series Champs.
When it came down to the final inning and we knew we had it won (the score was 8 - 1, and we would have the last at bat), our team took the field to defend one last time, I could barely speak. I knew it was about to happen. I had not yet allowed myself to think we could win it all. The emotions began to flow through me, knowing this was a moment I would remember forever - that David and all his friends would remember forever. The pride in all they had accomplished. The satisfaction of knowing everyone who was there now knew how good our little team really is. The joy of the moment - the pure and simple thrill of victory for once without any of that crappy agony stuff I hate so much. And while my mind processed all that info, our team breezed through the first two outs and I watched our second baseman make a diving catch to end the game.
The fans jumped up and down and hugged and stormed the field. We cried. We laughed. We stood speechless as the boys jumped up and down in excitement. I have never felt such excitement in my life as in that moment. I have had great moments of joy and happiness, but never have I had a moment of such intense excitement. It was amazing, and it made every moment spent at a hot practice field swarmed with gnats and mosquitoes, every time I had to soak those white baseball pants for three days and scrub them fifty times, every time I had to eat a nasty ball park hot dog - it made all that worth it just to see the smile of a champ.