Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Baseball And Grace

Yesterday there was an enormous row at our house. My brave, baseball playing son decided he no longer wants to play baseball. He was dressed in his uniform and ready to go, yet digging in his cleats and refusing to go. There was yelling. There were tears. There were slamming doors. It was ugly.

Because we are the meanest parents in the world and believe that once you commit to a team you must follow through and finish the season, we made him go. He glared at us and told us that he wasn't playing next year. We told him fine. He huffed at us and told us we could make him go but we couldn't make him care about playing. He told us he just wouldn't try. We told him that was his choice. He could certainly go and not try and let his teammates and himself down. He told us he didn't care about his teammates. We told him that was his choice, but playing the rest of the season was not.

It was a very quiet 20 minute ride to the ball park.

When we got to the field, the coach was already on the field with some players having batting practice. Sean took his equipment and hustled onto the field. Batting practice hasn't been a problem. Despite the hitting slump in actual games, my boy has made some great hits during practice. Somehow it just hasn't translated to game time. So when it was Sean's turn to take some pitches, I was waiting to see if he would actually swing or if he would do as he threatened and not try but just stand and watch the ball breeze by.

He swung. He swung for the fences.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the fences he hit.

This is his coach's van. Ouch.

Sean swung hard and hit a pop up foul that went over the back stop. Waaaaay over. (This, incidentally, is not the first car to get hit. This is also the reason we never park in the front row.) It was like that ball was in slow motion. I could see it flying up, up, up, and then coming down, down, down. It looked for a second like it would hit between vehicles. Except it didn't. There was a loud *THUNK* and then a crackling crash as the window shattered.

Coach looked at my red-faced son and said, 'Nice hit.'

What happened next was a lesson in grace.

Sean apologized. Profusely. Coach told him not to worry about it because that's what insurance is for. (My beloved and I have already spoken to him about taking care of his deductible.) He told Sean that he knew he took a risk parking in the front row and that's why he parked with his back end in first. Then he told Sean that he knew he was a hitter. He told him that was a big hit, but next time swing faster.

Coach and my beloved swept out his van as best as they could and cleaned up the glass. Then coach called my brave, embarrassed, battling son over to his van. He said: 'I have three autographed balls in my office. I'd like yours to be the fourth. Would you autograph this ball for me?"

Sean grinned and took the pen. Then coach asked him if it was his first autograph. While I have always been faithful to my husband, I may have fallen a little bit in love at that moment.

As Sean and his coach walked back to the field to continue practice, his coach told him he wanted him to be three for three in the batter's box. He told Sean he owed him.

And my boy? He was two for two in the batter's box. (Never got a chance to bat a third time because our game was called due to the Mercy Rule in the 5th inning. We were throttling the other team.) He also caught a pop fly for an out and in the next play, bare handed a grounder and threw the runner out at first. His teammates were very happy for him. They also enjoyed ribbing him about the window. At the end of the game, Sean was given the game ball.

When my boy, my beloved, and myself climbed into the car for the silent, tense drive to the ball park last night, we didn't imagine the evening would end as it did. And it all could have ended differently if the coach's response had been different. I knew that in the course of the season my son would learn many things on the baseball field: sportsmanship, being a team player, commitment, athletic skills. I just never dreamed he would learn about grace.

What a lesson.

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