So I only ended up with 13 miles last week, but I'm planning to do better this week. Summer time is about to officially begin and hopefully I'll have just a wee bit more time. Probably not. I ran 10 Sunday morning and it felt good. It was pretty hot for early morning but I made it fine. I ran 4 last night so I'm already past last week. I'll try to run tonight also. Cross Country will be here before I know it and I need to get back in shape to keep up with the boys (and girls).
One of the reasons I haven't been able to run as much lately is my new obsession which has totally consumed my life......and I love it! Baseball. No, I'm not playing. Wouldn't want to embarrass myself all over again. One hit in two seasons as a little leaguer wasn't the best batting average. I'll never forget when I finally got that hit in my 2nd season of baseball as a 7 or 8 year old. It was toward the end of the season. And I was that kid - you know the kid...the one kid on the team that can't hit it....the one that shuts his eyes to swing. Yep, that was me. In fact, that's me in the picture right up there. In two years, I never saw a ball go by me at the plate. I developed a really good sense of hearing and could hear them go by but see them....naaah. You couldn't have pried my eyes open with the jaws of life. I guess I was just really scared that the ball was going to hit me and subsequently kill me. Literally. But that one day toward the end of the 2nd season, I swung and heard a different sound....kindof like a pop. Not a swish like I usually did as my bat cut through the air. Then I heard another sound....screaming. Loud screaming. I opened my eyes to see the ball about three feet in front of me. In front. Wow! That was new. Everyone was yelling at me to run. I think even the other team was yelling for me to run. They knew my reputation. So I ran as fast as I could. It took a second to get started as my legs had never felt this before. In the meantime, the pitcher had run up and gotten the ball and thrown it to first. It was then all in slow motion. I hit the plate about the same time as the ball. The world went quiet as everyone eyes went to the man in blue. "SAFE," he yelled. And the world cheered. Coaches hugged. Parents fainted. The newspaper was called. "Little Albert got a hit!" The world had changed. Ok, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but that's how I remember it. And one hit in two years is absolutely true....an unintentional bunt, safe at first. What a day!
But back to the obsession at hand. I'm totally engrossed in coaching a little league team of a very similar age, playing on the exact same field where "Albert's Miracle" occurred so many years ago. I am a brand new coach this year of a 9-10 year old team which includes my son Carter and 12 others. I absolutely love them all. It's a great team and they all get along very well. They all have done so well this season and I really don't want it to end. We are currently in the post-season tournament where we've won 2 games and if we win our next game (Saturday), we will play for the championship. I reluctantly accepted the job of head coach at the beginning of the season having never coached a baseball team. I had assisted with a couple of others but that was it. But I love it. I don't know how good I am at it, but it seems to be going well and I'm really enjoying it. I love the other coaches I work with. I love the parents and of course I especially love the boys. I'd adopt them all if I could. I've learned a lot this season about coaching. The rules. The procedures. The practices. The excitements. The disappointments. Winning and losing. I've learned a lot about baseball. But while I expected to learn more about the sport and how to coach it, the most important lessons I've learned have been the ones that were unexpected.
Story 1 - The other night, we were playing out at Seven Oaks park. We were playing a double header - 2 teams from a different league....the RBI league (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City). We played the Braves first and it was a great game. We kept it close and beat them in the end. Our team made some great plays. It was a fun game. But then the storm came. We faced the Lightning that is. When we had told a couple of people before the games that we were playing the Lightning, they just turned their heads and laughed. Apparently the Lightning were an outstanding team that had gone undefeated all season. Nobody had or could beat them. They were well trained, well disciplined players and nobody gave us a chance to beat them. They came out and warmed up and all we could do was watch with wide, unbelieving eyes. They were nearly perfect....their throws, catches, hitting, fielding, was all dead on. We were in trouble. I thought, 'how great would it be if we could be the first team to beat the Lightning'. What a great motivator and season highlight that would be. Well, I'm happy to say that we didn't disappoint.....their perfect record that is....they still have one. We got creamed. 11-2. (I think that was the score...I lost count...I was just happy we scored 2 runs against them!!) They lived up to their reputation and talent. I know a few of the parents were wondering why we had scheduled this game in the first place. I was kindof wondering the same thing although I knew if nothing else, it would be good practice for our tournament. The teams we were gonna play would be a piece of cake compared to the Lightning. But here's the thing.....it was their coach. I could tell their coach was tough. Constant yelling. Strong, sometimes harsh encouragement. Almost like a drill sargent. Perfection was expected. He was a little scary and when we went to shake hands with the other team, I wasn't sure what he was going to say. He could've said "Ha Ha we creamed you" or "we just wasted an hour and a half on you guys." or "Coach? Seriously?" but here's what he said......"Stick around on the mound for a second." So we did. I didn't know what he was going to say or do. He began by stating that they were glad we came. He had his team clap for us and thank us for making the trip. He then asked if we could all join hands and thank God for the evening. I was surprised and humbled. I never expected this inner city, hard-driving, yeller of a coach to lead us in prayer. But he did. And it was great. He wants his team to strive for perfection and what he did was perfect. It summed up the game, the night, our whole lives. Baseball is nothing compared to the big picture. And thank God for having this man show us what it's all about. I just love the fact that he led us in prayer and that my boys got to join hands with a team from the other side of the tracks to share something we all believe and trust in. God. My respect for that team and coach went up 100%.
I've had a really good team this year. The boys work really well together and encourage each other. I've got several great hitters and several great pitchers. So we were all excited to start the tournament. We drew the Mets first. That was good news and bad news. The good news was we had beaten them during the season. The bad news was we only beat them by 2 and it was a tough game. I had watched them play on a couple of additional occasions and knew they were good. It was going to be a tough game. We hated to lose our first game and move immediately to the losers' bracket. So we got ourselves ready to play and pumped up for our first tournament game. We played last Saturday. The game was close the whole time, each team going back and forth for the first few innings. Then it happened. We had a bad inning in the field and they went up 13-8. Five runs!! We would have to score five runs just to tie them. And we only had two more innings to do it in. We got up at the end of the 4th and scored zero. Nothing. No runs. What? I had just given a motivating speech right before we batted. I really believed in this team and we got nothin'? Really? To be honest though, I still believed we could do it. My hopes were not as high as they had been, but I never lost hope completely. Apparently, my boys didn't either. Luckily, we only let them score one additional run in the top of the last inning. 14-8. So this was it. The bottom of the last inning. Also luckily, we had flipped for position and had won home team which meant we got to bat last. I thought about giving another speech as they came in from the top of the inning, but decided against it. Like I said though, I still had some hope.......that was until I saw where we were in the batting order. We were ready for our bottom 5 hitters. Now everyone on my team can hit, but let's be honest, every team has great hitters and just average hitters. And it was time for the average ones. I didn't lose hope altogether but I knew it was going to take a lot to win this thing. Their coach already had the win on his mind. I don't want to be mean, but he took the comments and mocking a little too far so I hated to lose to him.....know what I mean? Batter Up! First batter. Who is it? Oh yeah, my son. Carter. The first of the bottom five. Carter can hit but he's had a slump lately. I was just hoping for anything. A walk even. That's when it happened. He nailed it. He ran to first and was told to keep going. That doesn't happen to Carter. He went to 2nd and stopped but we were yelling as loud as we could to keep going. I think he was in shock that he was being told to go to 3rd. He made it. A triple. A triple!?!?!? Carter Thweatt? Was I dreaming? Long story short - too late - of the next 4 batters, 3 of them got on base and we went to the top of our order with only one out. That's when I started to get excited. My top batters went into victory mode and all hit. Then with the bases loaded and down by only 2 runs, Tyler hit another triple. 2 runs scored and we won the game 15-14. I lifted Tyler off the ground - my hero. They were all my heroes. I haven't felt so excited in a long, long time. I think I literally jumped 4 feet off the ground when he hit that ball as did the rest of the coaches and parents. We won and here's why... My boys didn't give up. I never did either. I'll be honest and say my hope was low, but there was still some there. It was such a great feeling to see my boys so excited, cheering each other on, and not giving up. It was a great game, but more importantly, it was a great lesson in life.
There will be times when our hope might get lower. We may think we're beaten. But because God is on our team, winning is never out of the question. There's always a chance and hope of winning. I love this verse that I recently found:
2 Chronicles 15:7 "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."
My hope is high right now. For baseball? Yes. But more importantly for Heaven. I'm going there. And I won't ever give up. Will I get down or have moments when I'm "behind in the ball game"? Absolutely. Had a big one recently. But I'll never be completely defeated and I'll never give up on winning the game and collecting the tournament trophy in Heaven. I encourage you never to give up. No matter what comes your way. You can always win the game. Keep striving. Keep encouraging others to join you.
See you on that Heavenly field. I call home team! But it doesn't matter. That game will never end!
I love Griffin and I love God.
Keep runnin'. The PRIZE awaits. (Php. 3:14)
My Weekend with the President (Kid President)
7 years ago