Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Lessons Baseball Teaches Us

Last night I wished my Dad was still around.

I needed some advice.    

I needed the kind of conversation I could only ever have with Dad.

Last night the roster for the Turtle Club all star team for the senior girls t-ball league was picked.

The Good Coach called our house at a quarter after seven. But we didn't hear the phone ring.

We were outside – listening to the Tigers game on the radio.

We were outside – working on the back yard gardens – and watching the girls swim.

I went in to get a drink and noticed the answering machine flashing two missed calls.

The one call was from my Mom in Pensacola calling to see how my lovely wife Darlene made out with an out-patient surgery earlier this week - and to see how the girls made out with All Star tryouts. She is planning a visit in July and wanted to know if travel team baseball trips would be on her itinerary.

The second call was from the Good Coach. He left his number asking we call him back.

I called the Good Coach back – and left a message for him to call me back. He was likely busy calling every one of the sixty or so girls that tried out.

These tryouts took pretty much three weeks to complete. There was a Friday night session, and then a three hour Saturday session in the hot sun in the afternoon after the morning games were played.

They wanted to see throwing and hitting and fielding, They wanted to see how the girls handled situations. They wanted to get an all around feel for each girl.

Each girl was assigned a number, a sticker they wore on their chest.

An email followed asking that before the selection can be made, that we please confirm our kids will be able to play in all three of the tournaments – one of them a four day holiday weekend out of town.

Our great friends from Ireland – Ray and Shell are coming back for a visit this summer – as well. These tournaments would land right in the middle of their visit. I talked it over with my lovely wife, and we agreed that this would be a wonderful thing for our girls should they make it.

And Alannah had the very best shot. She was playing good smart baseball. Fielding well and hitting to gaps. A real joy to watch this year.

It would do wonders for her self confidence.

I replied to the email committing to the tournament dates.

Another email was received stating that a third tryout was necessary.

The third tryout was held. They split the girls into two groups. And again the clip boards were used to track the girls by the numbers on stickers pasted to their t-shirts.

And again we were told to wait for a call.

During this period – the league teams kept playing their regular season games. Six games in total – three against the Good Coaches team.

And Alannah and her team mates played great.

As well, Ashley-Rae – on her own accord – decided to start switch hitting – hitting from the left or right side of the plate to hit the gap in the fielders – and she was hitting line drives.

After not getting a reply back from my message – around nine o'clock – I called the Good Coach back again – and this time I reached him.

"I'm afraid I don't have good news for your girls, Fred", said the Good Coach.

My heart sank.

"Even Alannah?", I asked.

"It was such a close call", said the Good Coach. "I see lots of improvement", he continued. "She just doesn't know the game well enough", he stated simply.

"You have to work with her more", he finished.

I swallowed hard.

"Can I speak with each of the girls?"

"Well, sure, I did have a speech for them prepared for any circumstance, but sure."

I handed the phone to Ashley-Rae, and watched her face drop to a frown, and she handed the phone to Alannah.

"Really?, but I thought for sure … ok … bye", her voice breaking to a sob midway through as she hung up.

And Alannah broke down, and she cried.

And there was consoling, and hugging, and a whole bunch of sadness.

The phone rang back only moments later. It was the Good Coach.

"Alannah sounded really sad, I wanted to make sure …"

"Oh, she is sad, but this is all part of life's learning. I do appreciate you being a stand up guy though".

That was last night.

This is the next morning.

And the girls have a ball game at eleven.

What the moral of this story? There are probably several.

I know that Alannah was good enough to make that team. I know this because I watched every one of those other girls. Many much better. Many much … not better. Alannah was in the top fifteen.

But like I keep telling the girls, and telling my wife, and telling myself.

Life just ain't fair. And baseball is as foul as it is fair.

The judgement comes from how good a sport you are about it.

In the end – that's the best testament – legacy – we can leave behind.

Just ask Armando Galarraga when the umpire blew the call that cost him his perfect game.

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