Sunday, May 13, 2007

Player Of The Game

Tonight we played under the lights. The game didn't start until 7, and by the time we got to the last inning it was getting late. So the lights came on and the kids stopped for a moment, looked around, and knew something was different. It's always been daylight hours play before, with the games getting called on account of darkness when they ran long. Tonight, though, they were the big kids and they were the ones who got to play under the lights.

We faced a team from a neighboring community, as close as it gets to traveling ball at this age. They weren't particularly good or particularly bad. A lot like us, in fact. Their coaches were nice guys, asking us whether we wanted to run on overthrows, sending one of their players back to second when we said no. We tried to be the same, telling one of their players "Nice hit" when he slammed a triple to the outfield fence.

My Lovely Bride's dad was in town with his wife, so they came to the game. They've always been great to our boys, taking each of them alone for a week back to their city, playing golf and cards with them, doing the fun things that grandparents do. Because they don't live here, though, they don't get to see the kids as often as they'd like and they especially don't see many of their games. So this was nice.

My youngest started out catching. He was solid behind the plate, handling most of the pitches, or at least stopping them. He made a nice throw to second with someone advancing on a wild pitch. He got a couple of hits, an RBI, a run scored. In the last inning he pitched in relief, made a nice defensive play for the first out, and then struck out the last batter with the bases loaded. Meanwhile, my oldest kept the book and my middle one alternated between cheering for the team and doing chores for the league president. My father-in-law loves baseball and he loves his grandchildren and I don't know that he's ever had a finer time.

Other grandparents were there, and so were aunts and cousins and friends and brothers and sisters home from college. It was a warm and perfect evening.

We have one kid on our team, a nice boy, nice parents, a friend of my youngest from way back. He's a tremendous athlete, but he's never played baseball before this year. Baseball's a tough sport and he's been getting frustrated. He hasn't gotten a hit, his fielding's pretty ragged, and he generally doesn't have a good handle on how the game works. Coach P. and I have been doing our best and his dad's been working with him too, and we're making progress, just not fast enough for the boy's taste. It'll come, it's going to take some time, though, and we've been worried that he's going to give up before we get there.

Tonight, while my youngest was pitching in the top of the last inning, the batter hit a line-drive shot to third base, right to where this kid was standing. Luck, instinct, or burgeoning skill, it doesn't matter, he caught it. Caught it awkwardly, not the way we'd recommend, but it worked.
"Yes!" Coach P. and I shout.

"Nice play!" yells our catcher as he tears off his mask.

"Way to go!" hollers the rest of our team, and the parents and grandparents and aunts and cousins and friends and brothers and sisters home from college.

In the bottom half of the inning, it was his turn to bat. We'd been down by a few runs but we'd fought back to even. It was on him now.

He walks. He gets on base. He gets moved up to third. He scores on a single by my youngest, the winning run. His teammates welcome home, pound him on the back. After we shake hands with the umpire and the other team it's player of the game time and Coach P. says his name, gives him a certificate for a free ice cream cone and our team cheers for him again. He kind of skips over to his dad, his dad puts his arm around him and says "Good job, buddy," and they walk off together for the ride home, which they'll spend talking about his catch and his walk and his run and, I hope, how much he loves baseball.


fish said...

There are times when I truly love this country. Little League under the lights (minus the potential cobag parent) is one of them.

Chuckles said...

Never got to play under the lights and all line drives that could have hit a player did. We had an ump get hit in the face by a drive right to the pitcher's mound, a first baseman got clocked and a third baseman got in the chest, IIRC.

Good times.

Snag said...

No cobags last night, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Righteous Bubba said...

When you publish this stuff I will buy a copy and beat Garrison Keillor to death with it.

Elmo said...

Well, the truth's not hard to love baseball.


Anonymous said...

My Lovely Bride's dad

Why not say Father-in-Law? Are you ashamed of him? Does he hate you like Katie does?

Snag said...

I called him my Lovely Bride's dad because putting her in my post was my Mother's Day gift to her. She's a lucky lady.