JT played three athletic seasons for his freshman year of high school —— cross country in the Fall, wrestling in the Winter, and baseball in the Spring. The final season came to end in the last week in May, in a game that seemed to summarize the year’s baseball season. The team lost by one point thanks to one careless error and two runners left on base. JT was a 9th grader on this team; he played in a few Varsity games but was mostly the bullpen catcher while the older boys played. It was a job he enjoyed very much and he was happy to be part of the team.
Years ago, I encouraged JT to play sports for a couple of reasons. For starters, he needed hours of physical activity each day and sports would help to fill that gap. I also believed that being on a team would be a good thing for an only child. It would show him camaraderie and the value of cooperation; it would help to teach him to be generous toward others and would remind him to share.
My son is a fairly athletic kid and he has nearly boundless energy. But his real talent in the world of sport is being a terrific member of the team. For a singleton who enjoys (and frankly needs) hours of time on his own, the team concept could have been a challenge. But he is a loyal team member who marks the season’s accomplishments by things separate from his own achievements. Two of his most thrilling athletic moments this year occurred independent of a play or win on his own part. He came into the stands to report to me that when his friend L won his first wrestling match and L’s grandfather was there to see it, “I got chills Mama. It was great.” He was impressed by the commitment of baseball teammate C, a Senior who played JV for most of the season, hitting his first home run in a JV game and then, one week later, getting the chance to play in the last Varsity home game and hitting another home run. As pleased as C was (and wow, that smile still hasn’t faded), JT was just as excited and proud.
Those are the sorts of lessons in life that will last long after the season is complete. I am glad that JT is able to embrace them. In an era when virtually every parent on the field is alert for the Division I scholarship that is surely coming their child’s way, I am happy that my son sees sport as a series of lessons in the long ball that is life.