I have been watching baseball for most of my grown-up life.
My son started playing right around the time he lost his first tooth and he’s a junior in high school now.
That’s a lot of games.
An extra lot sprinkled with extra innings.
I’ve sat in the pouring rain and the blazing sun. I’ve huddled underneath blankets, shivering and frozen with a cup of hot chocolate. I’ve sat in stands you could fry an egg on and sipped sweet tea to stay cool. I’ve worn shirts proudly printed with the number 11 on them and cheered until you couldn’t hear my voice and waved my hands around like I was on the jumbotron and high-fived anyone in sight. I’ve sat in the car on long rides home after a loss and listened to the silent sadness of a baseball player covered in red clay and dirt.
But I’ve never danced through the stands.
Until last Tuesday night.
Tuesday night was our first game of the season.
It wasn’t supposed to be.
It was supposed to be number seven, but the first six games of the season were rained out. Before a game, my son would get dressed and put on his uniform and pack his bags and remind me when everything started. And then? The skies would open up and the rain would pour and the clouds would storm and the game would be cancelled.
Game after game was rained out.
And so it was that seven games into the season….
….our team finally walked onto the field.
It wasn’t the game we wanted to play. We didn’t want to begin the season with this game. We wanted play our first game with an easier team, not the one we were about to play.
You see….our school is little.
We don’t have fancy equipment or a fancy practice field or fancy bags or fancy uniforms or a lot of money for anything extra.
We practice on a field under a blue Kentucky sky next to cows.
And the team we were playing?
Their school is almost triple the size of our school. They have an amazing stadium and beautiful playing fields and they started the season with a strength that made their opponents quiver. By Tuesday, they had already played eight games this season….
….with scores like 29-0.
And they were the 29.
Nice to meet you.
The game started like everyone expected it would.
We were scoreless and they scored. We batted through the line-up twice without a single run. The skies looked cloudy. The forecast looked grim. I looked up and prayed for rain.
Number 11 stepped up to the plate.
The cutest number 11 you have ever seen in your entire life.
He stood there on that field with his wavy brown hair and twinkling brown eyes and a grin that would melt your heart. Then he stepped up to the plate, squared his shoulders, gripped the bat, tapped the base, lifted the bat up, brought the bat around and swung at that pitch with all of his might.
All those years of watching. All those years of practice. All those years of rain and cold and sun and shade and sweet tea.
All of that for a moment like this.
If I squinted, I could almost see that first-grade ball player with the gap in his front teeth.
It was a hit.
The stands went wild. He was safe at first. Then the next batter advanced him to second and the player after that advanced him to third.
The next player sent him home.
He crossed home plate with the first run of the season.
The rest of the game was a blur. We scored two more runs and then they scored another run and then it was the bottom of the last inning. The other team was up to bat. All we had between us and victory were three tiny, simple, maybe-achievable outs.
We got the first out.
And the second and then in the last inning with one final out under a cloudy Kentucky sky with a setting sun and the moon on the horizon we held them….
….and won the game.
I’m a baseball mom.
All those years of watching and waiting and hoping and dreaming bubbled up inside me.
I couldn’t help it.
Right then and there in the middle of the stands I yelled and cheered and waved my hands and high-fived..
….and danced like no one was watching. 🙂