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28 April 2010

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I’ve played a lot of ball in my day and one thing I learned at a very young age was not to be cocky.
I kinda learned it the hard way.
I was at a baseball camp when I was about 11 years old, the same age as my son, when we were doing a drill catching fly balls.
To this day, I can remember shooting my mouth off about how boring that drill was. 
Somewhere in the infield, a coach was loading the machine, launching balls our way.
When it got to my turn, I heard the sound, but I never saw the ball.  
The next thing I knew, it was a Batman episode.
Pow!!!... Bam!!!... Zonk!!!
The ball smashed directly into that soft spot between my eyes, right above my nose.
For whatever reason, it didn’t hurt me at all, but it sure destroyed my pride.
And definitely woke me up.
From that point forward, I have always made it a priority to shut my mouth.  I certainly have it in me to jab at people, but I always remind myself that what comes around goes around.

At last check, I am still human and unfortunately I still need a reminder from time-to-time.
Fast forward to last weekend, when my son and I went to go see a local major league baseball game.
It was a chilly day, but thankfully our seats were in the sun.
For the first inning.  
That meant for the second inning, we moved, back into the sun, right next to the foul pole.
As our luck would have it, within a pitch or two, a fly ball came our way and landed about 10 feet from us, just barely in foul territory. 
The left fielder came over, picked up the ball and flipped it right to my son.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is at the last second, some other kid ran over, reached out and grabbed the ball out of mid-air, putting my son into tears.
They were tears on the inside, ones that only a father could see, but it was like watching his heart get ripped out, right in front of me.
Strike one.
Like any supportive father, I put my arm around him and...
...gave him the speech about, “in life, you gotta want it.”
“That other boy wanted it more than you did.  You waited for the ball to come to you.  He went out and got it.”
As the words were coming out of my mouth, I was telling myself, SHUT UP, but I just couldn’t stop.
There are times for lectures, but THAT WASN’T IT!
Within another inning or so, the sun had disappeared again, so we moved to the other side of the stadium -- front row in the right field pavilion.
As our luck would have it, our right fielder threw a ball into the crowd at the beginning of each inning.
We were in the perfect place at the perfect time.
Within moments of sitting down, he locked in on my son and tossed the ball right at him.
This time, my son reached out and raised his glove high in the air to make the catch, but the ball went higher than he expected.
Fortunately I was there to make the play and save the day.
I lifted my hands up, but as I waited for the ball to get to me, yep, somebody reached out and snagged it away.
Like son, like father.
I looked at him, waiting for the “you gotta want it” speech, but I got nothing.  
Except for puppy dog eyes.
Strike two.
I could not believe it happened twice.  I could not believe we had nothing to show for it, but I really could not believe that my son didn’t rub it in.
Then again, he didn’t have to.
The good news is that there were still a couple of innings left, which meant hopefully one more chance to get a ball.
And sure enough, that chance came.
This time the throw was a little short, but my son was determined.
He reached out for the ball -- he REALLY wanted it -- stretching his arm out as far as it could go.
But the ball tipped off the front of his glove and deflected away from him.
Right into my hands.
It was teamwork at its finest.
I handed him the ball, but you would’ve thought it was the Hope Diamond.
I immediately told him had he not reached out to get the ball, it would never have hit his glove and would’ve never bounced my way. 
It was one of those special father/son moments that nobody can ever take away.
And he has a ball to show for it.

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