Sunday, July 4, 2010

For love of the game

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.  – Psalm 33:12 (NIV)
I thought we were done. With baseball, that is.
After our son David played his final college game two years ago, I turned to the Pirates to get my baseball fix, watching the games on TV when they were televised and listening to the radio broadcasts when they weren’t. That first spring after David graduated was rough—no trips to plan and prepare for, no game schedule to work my life around. I tried to ignore the signs of withdrawal, telling myself that life moves on.

I was doing pretty well, I thought—until our oldest grandson got picked for this year’s Little League Minor League All-Star team. As I sat in the bleachers in Ridgway on Thursday watching the teams warm up, the memories came rushing back—picnics in town parks between games, long drives to out-of-the-way baseball fields, concession stand suppers, brackets, hot sun, hard bleachers, porta-potties (some with no toilet paper), my husband’s mutterings as he watched David pitch, the excitement, the hype, the thrill, the fun.

In a scene in the 1999 movie For Love of the Game, fictional owner Gary Wheeler of the Detroit Tigers tells star pitcher Billy Chapel he’s selling the team—too many complications have crept in. “I just can’t take it anymore,” he says. “The game stinks.”

“The game doesn’t stink, Mr. Wheeler,” Billy responds. “It’s a great game.”

Later on in the movie, when Billy’s pitching hand is bleeding profusely from a table saw accident and he’s lying unattended in the ER, his girlfriend screams in frustration, “Is this not America? Is baseball not America’s favorite pastime?”

Those two scenes resonate with me—baseball is a great game. And baseball so reflects what America—and life—is all about: hard work, striving to achieve a dream, having fun.

Across America you’ll find a baseball diamond in nearly every community, the sounds of bat hitting ball or glove resonating through the summer night, the roar of the crowd when the ball goes soaring, the aroma of hot dogs, greaseburgers, french fries, and chicken fingers teasing appetites all around. Go to a professional or amateur stadium, and you’ll take in not only nine innings of anything from disappointment to exhilaration, but also pierogy races (I always cheer for the one carrying the purse) and the mascot’s antics. You’ll leap for T-shirts flung into the crowd and scramble for foul balls. You’ll stand for the National Anthem performed before each game and, at Little League games, listen to the Little League Pledge:

“I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”

God, country, honor, doing one’s best—maybe the pledge is one reason I love baseball so much—it’s a pretty good code to live by.
Dear God, thank you for baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and everything that is America. Thank you for my country. Amen.
   Special-Tea: Read Psalm 1


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