My grandson stood at home plate, fingers Velcroed around the bat, feet poised to sprint around the bases.
That 10-year-old boy had my 63-year-old heart in a vice grip.
“Please, don’t let him strike out,” I whispered to the God of baseball as my only grandson stood up to bat.
He swung. He missed.
But it was a great swing, one that would have sent that ball sailing way over the left field fence to never be found, if there had in fact been a fence.
Oh, the pressure. To stand alone at home plate with the eyes of parents glued to your every twitch, with blue sky beckoning and a long field of green taunting you and an unknown umpire sealing your fate with every call; an umpire who looked to be about 12.
Why did I care so much?
Another pitch. Ball 1.
Another pitch. Strike 2.
Another pitch … that’s when it hit me. Not the ball. My attachment to the outcome. I paused to relax my heart and what I heard in the silence of my soul was this: Your grandson will get whatever life experience this game of baseball is supposed to teach him and that lesson might not be through winning or hitting a home run or even getting on base.
So I let go. I relaxed and enjoyed the game, trusting life to give him exactly what he needed. In baseball, as in life, you win or you learn. There is no losing.
My grandson didn’t get a hit, he got walked. The pitcher walked a lot of boys that inning. My grandson got to walk across home plate. His team won, by one point. Whose point? Everyone’s.
That smile on his face when his cleat touched home plate for the first real game of his first baseball season was like Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon to a grandma who loves her grandson to the moon and back. The final score didn’t matter.
Why do we focus so much on winning and scoring and achieving?
Maybe to compensate for the child in us who warmed the bench, who begged the coach to put us in, who made a puddle of errors when we finally got to play one inning.
My daughter played softball in middle school. At the end of the season, she told me, “I was the worst one on the team, but I had the most fun.” Give that girl a gold medal. Oh wait, she doesn’t need one.
That’s her gift.
She knows her true value. And now that she’s a mom of three, she knows their true value. She accepts and celebrates her kids, as is.
What’s the alternative? Raising a bar they can’t, and shouldn’t, meet. They are supposed to be who they are to bless this world in their own unique ways. We all are.
Last week, my daughter posted a New York Times story on her Facebook page called “Let’s Hear it For the Average Child.” Above the link, my daughter wrote, “Being the smartest and most athletic is overrated if you ask this average achiever. Love this!”
My first reaction was, “What?! My daughter is no average achiever.” I nearly typed a rebuttal in her defense. Then I read the article and realized being average is a gift all its own.
In the article, opinion writer Margaret Renkl wrote a tribute to all the average students, bench warmers and the water boys: “We delight in your love for the game, and we salute your loyalty to the team. … When you look back on these years, what you’ll remember is the pride of wearing that jersey, the privilege of supporting your team.”
She’s right. At the end of my eighth-grade softball season, we won only one game, the game I wasn’t in. I celebrated with the team and still have the Dairy Queen cup glued into my scrapbook.
They don’t give out awards and trophies for persistence, loyalty, kindness, resilience or compassion; all those qualities that will take you a lot farther and deeper in life than a strong grade point average or batting average.
I’m still proud of my daughter for choosing to get “B’s” in high school. She told me she could work hard and get “A’s,” but she’d rather get “B’s” and have time for friends. Those friends she made in high school have stayed with her all her life.
“My life feels above average,” my daughter said.
Out of the ballpark, every day.
Not that anyone is counting.
Connect with Regina Brett on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans. 2018 Best Columnist, AJPA Louis Rapoport Award for Excellence in Commentary.