Baseball season has come to an end in our small town. Gone are the weeknight practices, the games under the big lights, the umpires and the concession stand. No more bug spray, no more coolers of Gatorade in the stands, no more scoreboard lights. The bases have been collected and the buckets of balls stored for yet another season.
This year, my older son played “PeeWee” baseball. It is a step up from “Coach Pitch”, which just so happens to be a step up from T-ball. In the PeeWee division, boys get to pitch the ball. Bases can be stolen, and run limits are not always enforced. It is more like “real” baseball, which can be a bit intimidating to an eight year old. In our three months in baseball this Spring, though, we learned more about ourselves and about life than we ever thought possible.
Our biggest lesson was on our final game. Ahead by three runs, our team took the field with confidence and cockiness. Forty-five minutes later, our boys came in, defeated, a score of 17-4 run on them, and my child had been the pitcher of record. It was devastating on so many levels. Yet, there was so much to be learned from that one experience.
Not everyone wins. Someone loses every time. Sometimes, you are the winner. Sometimes, you’re not. But, you don’t lose ALONE. Everyone works together to earn whatever outcome there is. The pitcher pitches the ball. The fielders field the ball. The batters try and hit the ball. And, if those components fail, the team doesn’t win. That’s the key, though – the TEAM doesn’t win. No one is singled out; everyone has to work together. The team is only as strong as its weakest player, but it is the strength of the TEAM that achieves the goal.
Sitting there, watching each pitch my child threw, I saw him grow. He was patient, he was calm, he persevered. He rallied his teammates, never putting them down but always encouraging them and cheering them on. He did not put the blame for the devastating loss on anyone but the team as a whole, himself included. And, when the game was over, he was the first to go over and congratulate the winner, shaking each hand and looking each player in the eye.
Part of me is sad that our team suffered such a huge loss in the end. My heart aches for each of those boys who held the championship in the palm of their hands, only to watch it run through their fingers. Another part of me is thrilled to be done with the practices, the sweaty games and the laundry. Yet, I am wholeheartedly proud of my son for being so diligent, so mature and such an amazing player in the midst of everything that happened. That was the best lesson – for all of us.