Last night our family was down at the ballpark. That in itself is nothing new – we’ve been there almost every night for the past six weeks. But what happened last night is something that will not soon be forgotten.
My Facebook status pretty much paints the picture:
“This just happened: Jeremy’s team needed an extra player tonight. Micah agreed to play. The first time he got up he struck out and the pitcher laughed at him. The next time he got up the pitcher laughed again. Micah hit a 2 RBI single – and Jeremy was one of the ones he hit in! Then Micah proceeded to steal second. Steal third. And Steal home. Who’s laughing now, punk? :0)”
Obviously graciousness is something I need to work on. But what can I say? This is the person who spent an entire season rooting against her favorite NFL team because they traded away her favorite player. I have issues.
But, my issues aside, last night was incredible. And about so much more than baseball.
What my Facebook status didn’t reveal was the fact that two minutes before the game, Micah was in tears, not wanting to play.
Here’s the full story of what happened:
When the game was supposed to start only seven players had shown up. It’s the end of school so promotions and other activities took our players away.
The umpire came over to David (he’s the coach) and said, “Here’s the deal. If you only have seven players, you have to forfeit. If you can find an eighth player, you can play. The player has to be in this league and 12 years old or younger.”
David asked, “Can he be 8 years old?”
The umpire smirked and said, “Sure. As long as he’s in the league.”
I went and told Micah that he was going to get to play and then ran to the car to get his glove. When I was on my way back, Micah met me at the gate, crying.
Since Micah absolutely loves to play baseball, my first assumption was that one of our players had shown up and so he wouldn’t get to play after all. I asked him what was up.
His answer was simple. “I’m too afraid to play.”
I asked him what he was afraid of and we talked for a bit, and then I knew I had a decision to make.
I knew he could do it. I’ve been watching little league baseball games since I was a kid myself, and I know talent when I see it. Micah’s got a hefty amount of talent, and so I made my decision.
I just looked at Micah and said, “You’re playing. It’s not a choice.”
I know that there are people who will disagree with the decision I made. Psychologists have been debating the issue since psychology became a thing, and I can find 100 blogs to tell you how I did the absolutely wrong thing as a parent last night. But I respectfully disagree.
He went into the dugout still crying, so I said, “Dude. There’s no crying in baseball. Play the game the way you know how.” We prayed that God would keep him safe and help him do his best, and then I walked away from the dugout. He stopped crying, and the game started.
One of his fears was that he would get hit by the ball. When one of our players did get hit by a pitch and dropped to the ground in pain, Micah looked at me with huge eyes. I smiled and shrugged, and prayed that the kid would get off the ground. Thankfully he did – and it was Micah’s turn on deck.
He took his first practice swing and our entire dugout was stunned. Micah has had a nearly flawless swing since he was in tee ball. It’s nothing we have taught him – it’s just completely natural.
As I said on Facebook, he struck out his first at bat. And the other team was laughing at him. But something changed in Micah after that. He ran out to the field with his head held high. He got the balls that came to him and threw them in quickly and accurately, and played just as good – or better – than some of 11 and 12 year olds out there.
When he got up to bat the second time the other team was still laughing. Here was a little 8 year old, standing in the box. He didn’t have baseball pants or cleats on, but instead wore shorts and Spiderman shoes that lit up when he ran.
There were two outs, and he had two strikes on him. The pitch came across the plate and his beautiful swing connected with the ball, sending it over the infielder’s head. He ran to first and was safe, while the runs he hit in crossed home plate and cheered.
At that moment almost everyone was cheering for Micah. The parents from both teams, the coaches from both teams, and the players from our team. The players from the opposing team weren’t cheering. Sheepish would be a more appropriate word.
But Micah didn’t notice. He was zoned in on the game, taking a tentative lead off the bag. Well, a series of passed balls and wild throws allowed Micah to steal his way around the bases, complete with a slide into third base.
Micah ran his way home, with a smile on his face like none I’ve ever seen. He went into the dugout and was flooded with high fives, and then came over and gave me a fist bump through the fence.
I know that Micah will never forget what happened last night. It is one of those moments from childhood that will stick with him. But my prayer is that he will also remember the lesson behind it.
I pray that he will remember that although he may be afraid at times, he can’t let his fear stop him from trying new things. I pray that he will remember that God has given him gifts and abilities and that his job is to use those gifts and abilities and to always do his very best. And I also pray that he will remember that if you get hit by the ball, you just get back up.
And, okay, fine. I also pray that he remembers how awesome it feels to get 2 RBIs and three stolen bases off a pitcher who laughed at him. But those are my issues, not his.
See you tomorrow!