My husband loves Little League games. Our daughter Boo e-mails dozens of videos of the grandsons’ games at his request and he pores over them, grinning widely as he watches every play–not critiquing, just enjoying. He attends the boys’ basketball, soccer, and now baseball games vicariously via her iPhone, as she patiently records play after play, good or bad.
On Saturdays, he often walks to the nearby park here to sit in the shady bleachers with parents of kids he doesn’t even know to watch a few games. He’s done it for enough years now that he is able to tell me the playing history of some entire teams. Sigh. I wish he wouldn’t.
This past week, he watched “maybe the best Little League game I’ve ever seen.” The worst team (0-9) playing the best team (9-0.) The worst team was, he said, quite deserving of their place in the standings, but on this day this game was magic for them. Not a single error by either team. The parents in the bleachers were encouraging, not pushy. The umpire was fair. The boys were enthusiastic and playing hard.
This time, he came home with a story worth repeating.
Mikey, the smallest boy on the 0-9 team, is so slight that his pants are gathered at the waistband by a belt. He is leery of the ball and doesn’t see much base action, but this time he somehow got to first base. DB couldn’t remember how… a walk? Pinch runner? Hard to believe that it might have been a base hit.
The pitcher walked the next batter, so Mikey went to second base.
The next batter got a hit, just past the infield. Mikey ran with his awkward gait and as he neared third, his coach called out, “Run hard, Mikey, you’re the go-ahead run!”
Instantly, Mikey put his head down and turned on the jets, becoming Derek Jeter. He streaked ’round third and headed home as the ball was rifled to the plate where pitcher and catcher stood, waiting to make the catch and tag to stop the runner from scoring that go-ahead run.
Pitcher, catcher, umpire, and a sliding Mikey were lost in the haze of red dust whipped up as they all intersected at home plate. Mikey emerged, looking disheveled and slightly bewildered. He retrieved his helmet from the ground and shyly headed to the dugout.
“Good job, Mikey!” one of his teammates called out as he approached.
DB was near the dugout and thus able to hear Mike ask softly, “Was I safe?”
New standings: No. 1 team: 9-1, Mikey’s team: 1-9.
You gotta be a man to play baseball for a living, but you gotta have a lot of little boy in you, too. ~Roy Campanella