Sunday, August 21, 2011

Beautiful Baseball.

So sad news...summer is winding down. It's true. But with the close of the summer, new and exciting things are ahead! One of those being football. Football season is gearing up and all those buff players are being whipped into tip-top shape for another great season. Thank you NFL for not being in a lock-out anymore. But before I get too excited for football season, I would like to reminisce a little on that All-American sport, baseball.

The MLB is still going strong right now, so I guess technically baseball season isn't completely over. But little league/college/high school games...those are long gone. This is the first year in a very long time that my little brothers have not been involved in baseball. Aaron is one heck of a pitcher and Jared is a killer first baseman, but they both decided to hang up the gloves for full time hoop-shooting. It was really interesting to see those little boys (who aren't so little anymore) make a big decision like that. Jared espeically....he played on a competitive team last year and traveled all over for games and tournaments. Call it baseball overload or burn-out? I'm not sure, but the boy didn't want to do it again this year.

A few photos of the boys playing baseball last year.

Aaron pitching.

Jared on first base.

Many a good memory have been made for them through baseball. I'll admit, I really enjoy going to a baseball game and cheering for the runner to slide into home base for a grand-slam. I haven't been to an MLB game, but one day I will go to one. It's on the bucket list!

Growing up, I even watched a baseball movie or two.... Here are just a few of my favorites.

The Sandlot. Such a classic.

Angels in the Outfield. I watched this movie a million times when I was young.

The Rookie.Yes, Dennis Quaid is older, but he's an attractive older man.
And what an inspirational story about Jimmy Morris.

So what in the world would possess me to blog about baseball? I mean, granted, I think it's a pretty wonderful sport and has provided some fun summer memories. But my connection to baseball isn't anything extra special or sentimental. However, today I heard a story about baseball that has been on my mind all day long. It goes a little something like this....

"At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child." Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and a few boys nodded approval, why not? So he took matters into his own hands and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could haveeasily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have beenout and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team-mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base.

By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay" Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet were screaming, "Shay, run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "The boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world." Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy and coming home and seeing his mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!"

This story really touched my heart today. It's not always just about winning and being the best. Let's be honest, often times it's the parents who want the win more than the child. But what a beautiful example of showing Christ-like love. I think that children can teach us adults a lot about service, selflessness, and loving others.

"Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 18:3-4

The General Primary President of the Church, Jean A. Stevens, said this of the youngin's:

"These precious children of God come to us with believing hearts. They are full of faith and receptive to feelings of the Spirit. They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive."

I cannot think of anyone that I would want to spend day-in and day-out with than sweet children. I guess that's part of why teaching elementary school is so appealing to me. Call me selfish, but I feel like they will be the ones teaching me every day rather than me teaching them. I am honestly looking forward to one day interacting with the little squirts all of the time.

I hope that I can be like the baseball team in the story. When I meet a "Shay" in my own life, I hope that I can be open and loving enough to realize the best thing to do. I know that by living a life that would be pleasing to God, I will be prepared and in-tune to show that love and help to bless the lives of others. I hope to radiate that light and love of Christ that is found in a child. So when those screaming fans (for the opposing team, of course) are getting a little on my nerves, I can show forth some of that love. :)

Oh baseball! I am already looking forward to you next summer...

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