Hey God —
Remember how, when I was a kid, I couldn’t throw a ball to save my life? Remember how my softball career consisted of one inglorious season in fifth grade? Remember how, when my parents asked me what I liked best about softball, I said that my favorite part was getting drinks out of the cooler once the game was over?
So who could have predicted that 1) I’d one day have a son who plays baseball and 2) I’d love having a son who plays baseball?
(I guess it’s safe to say that You could have predicted it. I sure didn’t.)
And as this season nears its end, I’m going to try to put my feelings into a little litany of thanks. Because, when it comes right down to it, for all the driving to practices and sitting on hard bleachers and constantly washing of dirty socks, there are a great many blessings to be found at the ballfield.
So here goes.
Thank you for games played on warm spring evenings when the light is beautiful and you are delighted to be outside. Thanks also for games played on windy cool evenings when you freeze and wish you had another layer, because either way, you’re away from the computer and out in the fresh air … and sometimes you need that much more than you realize.
Thank you for coaches who teach kids to respect the game, each other, and the umpires. Thank you for coaches who see the potential in their players and draw it out. Thanks for the time and energy and heart they put into the game and our kids, not because they are getting paid but just because Baseball.
Thank you for gangly middle school umpires who go out there and have to make hard calls that they know might not be popular but who do it anyway, often while standing right in the path of errant foul balls. Thanks for their strength at sticking to their guns and trusting their instincts.
Thanks for the Snack Shack, where you can get soda on a hot day, coffee on a freezing one, donuts at the 8 AM game and pizza at the 6 PM one. Thanks also for the many candy options that keeps bribable younger siblings entertained. (Special shout-out, God, to those fabulous ring pops, which take more than an inning to finish.)
While we’re on the subject, thanks for other younger siblings who find your own child and somehow find ways to entertain themselves with dirt, spilled chalk, and any toys they happen to bring. Siblings’ Club at the ballfield! It’s a good thing, God.
Thanks for the community of other parents who, over the course of a season, you get to know well. Thanks for the cheers and encouragement they give to your kid as he’s up at bat. And thanks for the fact that sometimes, they have the inspired idea to bring little goodies for the adults in the stands.
Thank you for making me face something about myself: that I can, under certain tense conditions, veer awfully chose to becoming one of Those Parents who spontaneously erupt in outrage at a dodgy call. I always said I’d never be one of those parents, and oh my, it’s much easier to be them than I thought. Thanks for the lesson in humility, God.
Thanks for the fact that every single game is a chance to practice detachment and going with whatever comes. Even when it’s a nail-biting game that I really want our team to win, I’m finding that I can get myself to the point where I think — and actually believe — Hey, we’ll be just fine if we lose. That’s a helpful spiritual attitude to cultivate, on the ballfield and in life (St. Ignatius of Loyola called it “indifference” — the good kind.)
And I have to give thanks for something else, too: the fact that even in a losing game, something good can happen. The game where you get clobbered by thirteen points might be the game where your kid gets his first RBI or one of his teammates catches a fly ball that would make Pablo Sandoval proud.
And all this points to another thing I’m thankful for, God: that playing Little League is really not about the win, but about constantly putting on the cleats and warming up and going out there and challenging yourself to do a little better each time and realizing that if you have that attitude, you can still hold your head high no matter what the final score is. That’s a lesson that resonates both on the ballfield and off. In seeing my son and his fellow players this season, I see how true it really is. Thank you for that.
Oh, and one final thing: Thank you, God, for your wonderful trickiness in giving a totally unathletic parent like me this sporty little kid who is broadening her world in ways she didn’t even know she needed.