It was a steamy Friday in mid-August, the end of the first week’s worth of the busy-ness that is the school year. Still lamenting summer’s end, I already struggled with motivation. Only 8 and ¾ more months to go. Junior high baseball workouts had begun, and the parents gathered for a quick meeting while the boys wrapped up their practice. Moms and dads chatted in the stands, catching up after summer break until the coach called the meeting to order.
As he filled us in on what the fall season would involve, we watched the players do sprints along the warning track. After lining up at the left foul pole, one boy took off running towards the right foul pole. Ten seconds later, the next started his trek. Quickly, each kids’ foot-speed became apparent. One boy kept a pace similar to the runner in front of him; another threatened to catch his teammate. This wasn’t just cardiovascular training. It was mental toughness. Motivation. Face-saving.
No one wants to be last.
This must have been what one boy was thinking when his turn came. I’ve heard my husband, a coach, describe kids like this as being strong bodied. It’s a build most boys long for—especially during middle school years, the season of huge and sometimes embarrassing physical disparities between pre- and post-adolescent young men. This players’ physical frame gives him an enviable advantage at the plate, and we’ve all marveled at his ability to power the ball, rocket-like, to the outfield wall. Don’t let his twinkling eyes and merry smile fool you: he’s a force to be reckoned with. And he’s only going to get stronger. But today, that body was making it hard for him to move like he wanted to. From the moment he started, his struggle was evident. As I watched, my stomach ached.
Until one someone did something amazing.
One player decided to run next to this kid for the length of the warning track. Catching on to the idea, a few other teammates followed suit. The ache in my gut became tightness in my throat and tears in my eyes. And just in time, the meeting ended, and I wondered whether I was the only one who had seen that little miracle.
Not long afterwards, this child’s mother sent an email about that day . . . . .
[Part 2 soon]