We don’t always watch the World Series. But the Braves were playing for the championship so we watched every night, mourning the nights they lost and cheering vigorously when they won. We agreed that we had the best seats “in the house,” not having to elbow through crowds and not having to pay a monstrous amount. We just settled back in our comfy chairs until someone made a big hit when we almost danced.
Watching the games, I began considering some things I’ve learned about baseball. Though my knowledge is meager, I’m going to share a few of those baseball lessons. Hope not to embarrass my son and grandsons!
You might say my experience with baseball began when I was eleven. I was visiting my oldest sister Pat and her husband David in Charleston, West Virginia. Ostensibly, I was to care for their baby girl, Lorna, while they moved to their new house. However, all my older siblings (eight of them) were ever watchful for giving us younger ones a new experience and this was no exception. Hence, one hot summer evening I accompanied David to my first baseball game. Only now do I realize what a drag it must have been for poor David to have the responsibility for an ignorant little girl instead of sharing the game with Pat. On the other hand, David, who loved baseball better than his favorite chocolate pie, was engrossed in the game and didn’t notice I was so bored I went to sleep and all but fell out of the bleachers. Why did everyone yell and clap when the score didn’t change? What in the world was there to get excited about when, time and again, a batter tried to hit the ball and couldn’t?
Baseball Lesson #1:
If you don’t know the rules, there’s no joy in the game.
Forward a few years: One afternoon at a college church retreat I found myself “forced” into playing softball. I still didn’t know the rules and had no skill. But I did know the point was to hit the ball and then run as if a monster were after you. So I did that. Problem was, I didn’t have a clue when to stop. I collided so hard with the third baseman, an elderly deacon, that we both hit the dust. I was hurt very little and I think he got up laughing, but I was humiliated beyond words.
Baseball Lesson #2:
Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to go.
I learned enough about football to enjoy yelling for the Georgia Bulldogs but still was baseball ignorant. Then, in 1973, when our son was five years old, we signed him up for tee-ball. He has been an avid lover of baseball and other sports ever since. I took him to every game and practice and watched as he progressed through Little League. I didn’t want to miss a single game. This was my child so I was very interested. I began to learn the rules, at least in rudimentary fashion. I watched every move my young catcher made springing from a crouch to chase a wild ball or trying to put a player out at home plate. Listening to other excited parents nd coaches, I learned some of the baseball phrases: “Good eye, good eye!” “Shake it off, shake it off,” “Heads up in the outfield!” “Run, run, run!” and “Touch the base!” I clapped wildly when my star hit a grounder and made it to first base, or when, wonder of wonders, he hit a homerun. I cringed when he struck out and retired to the dugout looking hot and unhappy. Good moves or bad, I clapped as did the other supportive parents. I tried to listen as Charles, much better versed in baseball than I, explained what was happening so I wouldn’t clap at the wrong time.
Baseball Lesson #3:
When you love someone, you become deeply interested in what means a lot to them.
For a few years in the 1980’s several family members met each fall for a few days at St. Simons Island. My mother was always a part of the group. In fact, it was John’s “trip for Mamma” to which others of us joined if we could. One year our vacation collided with the World Series. One night we were seated at a seafood restaurant waiting for our entrees when, on television, a World Series game began with a soloist singing the National Anthem. Mamma, who knew even less than I did about baseball, very elegantly stood at our table with her hand to her heart. The rest of us at our table, rose with one accord, while other diners stared. We might not all be smart baseball fans, but we were fans of our country. And we knew, even as adults, we’d better do what Mamma did.
Baseball Lesson #4:
Loyalty to our country and our team (whichever team that is) is very important. Loyalty is a characteristic of our parents and grandparents that we must pass on to the next generation.
Now here we are pulling for the Braves in the last game of the series against Astros. It’s the first time Braves have made it to the World Series since 1999. The score for the series is Braves 3-2 and Astros 2-3. Braves need only one more win to become champions. Midnight approaches and here we are with sleepy eyes glued to the television as our team plays a spectacular game, shutting out the Astros 7-0. We text back and forth with our son in Birmingham: “Way to go, Braves!” “Monumental homerun!” “Can you believe that double play?” I enjoy details that the little ignorant girl of eleven knew nothing of: the pitchers’ strategy in striking a player out, the timing and accuracy on the part of those batting, those pitching, and certainly the outfielders, and I enjoy observing the characteristics of each player and getting to know Rosario, Freddie Freeman, Soler, and others as if they were friends.
When the Braves win the World Series for the first time since 1995 we celebrate with them as well as with crowds of fans in Houston and Atlanta. Somehow, their win makes us feel like winners too! The players, their manager, and certainly the fans are ecstatic. Players and officials are almost tongue tied when they are interviewed. I think every one of them makes mention of how they won only because they played as a team. Several give glory to God for their success and for pulling them through great difficulties in the past year.
Baseball Lesson #5:
Keep your eyes on the ball, never give up, and be prepared at all times. Don’t go to sleep when, inning after inning, nothing happens. You will surely miss something! When wonderful things happen, be sure to recognize all who contributed to the success and, especially, remember to thank God. And celebrate!