We Were a Baseball Family
All of my brothers played baseball growing up and I was very lucky to be born into a large family. Reunions and family parties are always a great time. With so many memories of growing up in this large family, some of my favorites have typically involved sports, either playing myself or watching one of my siblings. My parents and all of my siblings have led very athletic lives, and several of us have had knee surgeries to prove it.
As adults, my youngest brother cannot be called my little brother for he is 6′ 5″. He is a fantastic baseball player, started playing at seven or eight years old in little league and still plays (softball) today, he is in his early forties. I can remember freezing my patootie off at evening games and going to every possible High School game that I could. When I say he was a great player, I mean it…, he was built perfectly for a baseball player with lanky arms and long legs – his height was an advantage playing first base and pitcher. He was a young high school senior, only seventeen, when he made the varsity team and our family was thrilled.
The Pain of Bench Time
We lived in a small farming community in Northwest Indiana; high school baseball was very important to this town, having won 8 state titles. To make the team or even be a team bat girl was a very big deal. They hold the most State Championships of any other high school in the state and the coach was renowned for his sharp tongue and harsh character. And yet, every boy desperately wanted to make that team. The year my brother made the team, they won the state championship. It was a bittersweet win for our family because through it all, every single game – home or away, my brother barely played. And when I say barely I mean maybe four innings total the entire season. He worked hard, the practices were grueling. But he stuck with it no matter what. I never heard him complain, not once. I seem to remember my parents thinking there was some kind of conspiracy – like the HS coach hadn’t liked my brother’s long-time little league coach or because my brother elected not to play ball on Sundays, thus missing a lot of tournament play. No matter, he had made the team and had helped build that team as a team member. And those were the thoughts that held him together, that quieted the pain of bench time.
Sacrifice of Pride
I looked at him after each game and wondered how he was able to do it, why he never quit was beyond me. It was an incredible lesson in humility and grace, for all of us. I will never forget his sacrifice of pride. I think of it sometimes, when I feel like my contributions are not valued, when I think or feel I should be treated or viewed as something better than I am. His strong example of courage and patience has been quite humbling, throughout my life. And while I wish he had played more often and received the recognition I think he deserved, perhaps it was played out exactly as it should have. Perhaps that lesson of bench time was to benefit us all. Would the memory have been as impactful has he not sacrificed his pride? Would that lesson have been lessened?
Today and for the last several years, his pride is, once again, placed in others with proof in the form of pictures/videos of his daughters – their home runs and fantastic hits being posted online. The pain of bench time now replaced by the pleasure of sitting in the bleachers and cheering on each of his four daughters as they walk gracefully through this life.
With sisterly pride, I think he deserved that state championship more than any other player. As he ran from the dugout to celebrate their final win, I know he was not thinking of himself. He was the poster boy for “taking one for the team.” We aren’t all superstars. Those who are, aren’t always recognized as such.
But we keep on plugging along – enduring the road, biding our time, and learning the lessons of bench time.