Yesterday, our little baseball team played our first tournament for the regular season. We played in a little tournament a couple of weeks ago, but it was just basically a weekend of practice games. Yesterday was our season opener, and we had such high expectations of what our boys could do... I mean, would you expect any less from the group that fought so hard last July and won their age group World Series?
The first game was a mess - lots of fumbles and bobbles and pop-ups. But somehow we won. The second game looked much the same, but it had one distinct difference for me. I watched my son hit his first over-the-fence home run. I've seen him make it all the way around on errors many times - too many times to count in his two years of tee-ball and last season of coach pitch combined. Last Spring, when we traveled to a tournament in Mississippi, he wanted a home run so badly. We played on a shorter field than we normally do, and several of our boys hit it over multiple times. David hit well that tournament, even rattling the fence a couple of times, but he never managed to clear it.
His mama kept telling him, "David... just do what you do. Just get out there and do what you do."
And then later last season, we traveled to Georgia and had the same set-up. Shorter field than normal, several teammates hit it over, David had a great batting average, but he never made it over. Again, he wanted it so bad. I could see it in his eyes every time he stepped into the box. And his mama wanted it for him, too... I wanted my child to experience seeing his ball clear the chain link, to round those bases without the fear of that ball beating him to the bag, to watch his teammates pour out of the dugout and gather around home plate waiting on him to touch it with smiles and cheers. Who wouldn't want to see their child experience that?
I have classified David in my mind as a consistent base hitter. And that's what every team really needs - a kid who consistently gets on base and brings in runs. But even those consistent kids want their moment of glory, and that's exactly what my boy got yesterday. Not once, but twice.
It came as a complete surprise to me when that first ball cleared the fence. It's hard to believe that any of these boys can hit a ball that far - they're so tiny in my eyes. But it's not really about the size of the hitter, I guess. It's more about the moment - the very moment - that the bat hits the ball. The form. The pulling together of power from the center of the body and the hips. The connection. The explosion of energy.
I had always imagined I would cry when I saw it happen for the first time - when I saw his smiling face round third and head for home. But there were no tears. I think I was too happy to cry. Too excited for him. Just plain excited that he had now had a moment that he could see the fruit of his labor and focus in a physical manifestation. He could say to himself, "I hit that ball over the fence." He did it. By himself. No one helped him. It was his power that put it there some 165 feet through the air. What an amazing moment!
And then the little man did it again... now that's just too much for a mama to handle in one day!
But the moral of the story is this: we lost the tournament in our final game. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter how many home runs you hit or how many runs you score in a game. It's how your team comes together. It's how you play collectively as a group. And I sure do hate that his first home run came in a tournament in which we didn't take the first place trophy. But I guess it helps to teach that there will be shining moments and not-so-shining moments in life. Sometimes they will juxtaposition themselves right next to one another. Sometimes they will intertwine so tightly that it will be hard to pull them apart. But my advice to David will remain the same as it was a year ago when he could taste that home run in his mouth as strongly as the sour straws he got from the concession stand...
Just do what you do, little man. Just get out there and do what you do. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you hit it out of the park. Sometimes you're thrown out at first. But you keep doing what you do best. Play your game. Use your skill. Just be you. Because, my boy, you are remarkable. You are truly wonderfully made in many ways... and most of them have nothing to do with baseball.