It was 1971, and my very first baseball game as a 7-year-old second-grader was on a Sunday in February. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to play on a team for the first time in my life.
In those days, the uniforms were a wool-like material that MLB players had worn from the beginning of time until the 1970’s. Those pieces of clothing would make anyone sweat, even on cloudy days. It was a little too big for me because I was the youngest player on the team consisting of 8-10-year-olds, and I wasn’t the biggest kid at that time. But it was a baseball uniform, and I was so excited to begin what became the first of my 50 years with the game I love more than anything else: Baseball.
On the Saturday night before our first game, I tried on my uniform for the first time. I posed in the mirror for WAY too long just to size myself up. I was so proud of how it looked that I wore my uniform to bed. I woke up the next morning before anyone else and more than a few hours too early to head to the field. The anticipation was immeasurable. To walk into our dugout for the first time as a player is a moment I’ll remember all my life.
The reason I bring up this story is because I got to witness that same anticipation today as our high school team played another team in our first scrimmage of the season. This was both teams’ very first game since the COVID-19 virus shut down sports, and the world, almost one year ago. The dreary feeling all families have had to live with almost seemed to lift today.
The umpires walked onto the field and had their pregame meeting with the head coaches. The umpire then yelled, “Play Ball!’ and you could feel the excitement that baseball was back. Players from both teams were experiencing those same feelings I had 50 years ago. They were going to play baseball again, almost like it was their first time wearing a uniform for their first game ever.
I saw a lot of smiles today. Coaches catching up on the current state of affairs at their respective schools. Players making small talk with their friends on the other team, the people they grew up playing with and against.
Of course, we live in a different time now than we did a year ago. Players had to go retrieve foul balls for their own team on the field. There were plenty of instances of masks being readjusted while the game was in play. But despite all the changes brought about by the new playing protocols, there was a sense of happiness and joy. We all got to witness those smiles and smirks, the pained reaction to swinging at a bad pitch, and the frustration of being thrown out at first base by a fraction of a second.
There was a return to normalcy, even if it was just for a few hours on the diamond. The game ended, and coaches talked to their respective teams while maintaining social distancing. We recounted the good moments and helped point out the bad ones so our players could improve for the next game. For one moment of time, everything seemed right again.
There will be more games, and the stakes will rise once schools start keeping track of their games for the season and head into the playoffs. Players will worry about their batting average and ERA again. Coaches will start to yell a little bit more to get players to do the right thing. And we’ll look back on today and wish we could experience again that moment when two teams were on the field for the first time in 51 weeks.
My suggestion to you is to savor these moments with your child. Help them understand the importance of working hard, but also show gratitude toward those people who have worked so hard to get baseball going again. We all remember the pain our children experienced when their favorite activities were taken away. The news coverage of lives lost showed us this pandemic was very real, and we all had to change our way of living. I still walk away from my car to go into a store and have to turn back around to get my mask. It’s not an easy life we’re managing these days.
But for that first day back on the baseball diamond, we also got to see the result of all our efforts during this difficult time. Baseball is a beautiful game, and we love participating in it for our children’s sake and for our own sanity. We must be thankful that this day, the return of baseball, is coming for all of us. I got to see for myself how wonderful a moment it was for the two teams playing today.
Enjoy life and bear witness to the beauty it has to offer. The joy that’s there is one of the great wonders God has given us. I wish you all the good things coming to you in the days ahead.
Until next time,
P.S.: On a side note, next month we’ll be announcing news about our annual summer training camp set to begin in June. It’s the most important event for your son’s development as a player. Notices will be sent out soon to reserve your spot!