Special thanks to Kris at Fanatics.com who provided me with the prompt “How Sports brings us Together as a Family.” What you’ll read below is my take on the subject and easily one of the happiest posts I’ve written to date. Take a peek at the Fanatics blog for additional bits of wisdom and visit their site to pick up a baseball hat before cheering on your team.
And now, it’s time to Play Ball!!
I’m a sucker for baseball.
Hollywood motion pictures and motivational speakers have used the all-American pastime as a foundation to teach lessons, garner positive vibes and sell tickets.
And I grab the cheap seats and hot dogs at any opportunity.
In fact, BD just mentioned the other night that it if weren’t for baseball, I wouldn’t sit in the recliner for more than 2 minutes before fluttering off to the next task/project/hobby.
As soon as he flips over to the AL Central, second place Royals or a Sandlot/Trouble with the Curve/Field of Dreams marathon the laundry just ain’t getting done. Truth be told…football season isn’t much better either.
It’s an understatement to say that I live in a family whose life revolves around sports, athletic events and physical activity. Each of my offspring are blessed with their dad’s natural athletic ability and my just-stubborn-enough-not-to-give-up attitude. My children have competed in golf, softball, baseball, soccer, track, horseback riding, wrestling and football. Smelly cleats, saddles and helmets add their own fragrance to our chaos-during-the-season household.
Even though our lives might look one-sided to folks who lean toward more cultured activities, we have always stressed school first while emphasizing the larger life lessons that athletics and team sports teach.
You know those lessons, too. You’ve seen the big ones in the movies and while sitting in the audience at corporate rah-rah events that sport sticky name badges and chicken-laden lunch buffets.
- There’s no “I” in team
- Keep your eye on the ball
- We knocked it out of the park
- You gotta step up to the plate
- Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark
While I certainly appreciate the messages, there is something simpler and more tangible to grab from being around sports, competing on a team and growing up in that atmosphere.
It’s all about family.
Coach Bill Snyder preaches it at K-state and we live by it in our own house. The word “family” is used loosely in our circles and includes the two-leggeds and four-leggeds who live under our roof as well as the many who sit in the bleachers or lawn chairs with team shirts that match mine.
“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”
― Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society
Whether I was riding the pine in junior high or watching my kiddos play their sports, this mama’s butt has seen plenty of time in the bleachers.
And while I didn’t enjoy collecting splinters during my teenage years, I certainly haven’t minded them during the hours spent watching my children. These years have provided a coveted front row, box seat view of them growing into dedicated, responsible and confident adults. And I’ve loved watching the boisterous brood from other blood lines do the same.
It seems like just last week we were bundling up in arctic blankets to go watch our beloved Rebels‘ season opener. Now that memories of snowflakes and ice crystals have evaporated into the hundred degree Kansas heat, that same team is getting ready for their last tournament of the summer. They head to Denver, CO for the Global World Series and will have a whole host of fans making the 8-hour trip with them.
It’s gone way too fast.
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steam rollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
partial quote from Terrance Mann, character played by James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams
Even more than usual, this summer has filled our baseball-loving clan with joy, dill-flavored sunflower seeds and midnight double-headers. And, like every season prior, we grew to love these boys and families even more as their limbs grew and stretched to the fences over night, voices deepened between innings and babies became big brothers’ biggest fans.
There is no other game that I can think of whose foundation is built on failure. It takes guts and a sound sense of self-esteem to play in a sport that rewards a 33% success rate while advertising errors on a scoreboard for everyone to see.
In order to succeed, you must be surrounded by a family that lovingly holds you accountable while spending its waking hours pumping up, encouraging and supporting. Those baseball gods have a wicked sense of humor and are not above cursing ball gloves to miss cans of corn or un-blessing bats to strike out to off-speed pitches and nasty curved meatballs. These players need us as much as they need each other.
In teams like this, there are no secrets and privacy often goes out the window. Just ask my son who experienced the worst case of skin-chafe known to man or beast during a recent tournament.
He all but begged his buddy’s older sister to run to the local Wal-mart in order to buy the miracle that would save the day. He skirted the outfield and ran the bases like a rusty robot until the “Dust of the Angels” was finally purchased and sprinkled lightly in between his nether regions. Pretty sure he wanted to marry that young lady on the spot.
(Thank you, Kara!)
In addition to the laughter, home runs and double-plays we’ve seen a lifetime of milestones happen at the ballparks we’ve camped at over the years. While one of our kiddos was pitching a no-hitter, a big sister was talking to her dad in the stands about moving to a different college.
While the Rebels were splashing in the hotel pool after an afternoon bases-loaded-all-darned-day presser cooker, mamas sat poolside to compare notes on stain-fighting techniques while reassuring each other that they were great moms, wives and daughters.
We’ve scrubbed uniforms and rocked our favorite boy’s last year’s numbered jersey. Our families pick up the slack when another needs it and can include everything from grabbing a ballplayer early when one parent has to work late to feeding our little prima donna’s when the blood sugar dives too low and mom forgot the snacks.
We’ve watched the littlest Max go from his mama’s tummy to a sweet, honorary coach feeding signs to the catcher while crouched at the fence. We witnessed (and experienced) babies being born, siblings leaving the nest, grandparents going through tough times and still making it to the games or getting the play-by-play via text messages. We’ve lost some games and, and in life’s circle, a few loved ones along the way, too.
In every instance, we’ve stood as a family.
If one player is in a hitting slump, another is there to provide an extra base hit. There’s always a surrogate mama available to give an extra hug after a rough game to any boy within arm’s length. And, if a pitcher walks in to relieve with bases loaded and no outs, we fans sit outside the fence sending silent prayers and good vibes to the lone warrior out on the mound while the Defense for Dayzzzz platoon takes care of business in the field.
The best you can really hope for is a family where everyone’s problems, big and small, work together. Kind of like an orchestra where every instrument is out of tune, in exactly the same way, so you don’t really notice.”
― Neal Shusterman, Antsy Does Time
Remember that game in Denver I told you about? I don’t get to go.
I have to work and will be sending my boys off to the mountains to fend for themselves. As much as I hate to miss out on the fun, I know that they will both be in good hands. There are plenty of mamas there to feed my kiddo, daddies to pep talk my son (or pops) if the bat isn’t quite meeting the ball and family who will be bundled up and greeting us warmly when the season starts again next March.
You can bet that my butt will be in the front row.
Thanks to the moms who let me use their pictures (and hug their sons when mine runs away!)