When my first-born, ball-obsessed son, Jacob, was a sweet-faced seven-year old, we signed him up for the local Little League team. Practices were held at a neighborhood park, and my husband and I enjoyed hanging out on the side-lines with our three younger children and other families. We couldn’t have guessed at the time it was the beginning of a very long ride, as our son played through the years with many of the same kids and the coach until his final high school game last night.
Throughout the years, I captured many baseball photos.
But the last game, I set my camera aside until the game was over. I just wanted to soak it all in: the boys’ dug-out chatter; laughter of parents in bleachers around me; chill of open air as surrounding storms threatened but left us in an island of calm; my 87 year-old grandmother cheering the boys; friends and family jumping up to capture on film the last at-bat, the last throw; the crack and snap of a little white ball.
It was like the game lasted forever, as I emblazoned its moments in my soul: Jacob’s long, lean catcher -hurl to second base, nipping a steal; players swarming two teammates after home runs; my youngest son, Justin, at short stop, gathering with other players for a mound meeting and fist-bumping Jacob; Justin’s poetry-in-motion launches for double plays; Jacob’s childhood-friends-grown-up flinging the ball from third to first; Jacob directing the field from behind home plate.
It was as if by savoring every second with the eyes of the soul, I hoped to somehow capture and slow the trickle of time.
And, yet, like the crack of a bat, it was over.
My heart is full. As I filter through all these photos, I see how the game became a gathering point for extended family. I see coaches and players who became life-long friends. I see a boy becoming a man.
Long after I forget scores, league records, and batting averages, I’ll remember watching a little boy grow up. I’ll remember the year he mostly sat the bench as the youngest player; and how he learned to submit personal hopes to higher goals of a team. I’ll remember that awkward edgy feeling of disappointment when key games were lost, and how he learned to persevere. I’ll remember dancing in the bleachers with loved ones when he cracked that clutch hit, and learned to dig deep when it mattered. I’ll remember how he became the heart of the team, and could turn the morale of a group of people with his over-sized encouragement and relentless positive dug-out chatter. I’ll remember watching him stop the game, step out from home plate in full catcher gear, and inspire his team out there to become more together than they could on their own.
It’s over. And yet it will always be with us as the foundation for so much to come.