Last week was our last baseball game.

One last time to walk up to home plate.

One last at bat.

One last hit.

One last run to first base.

Truth?

I’ve have watched more baseball than episodes of the Real Housewives of anything.  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 mom shirts proudly printed with baseball numbers printed 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 and I’ve danced in the stands like a contestant on America’s Got Talent.

And then?

Last week, suddenly, without me really noticing…

…all that sitting came to an end.

My reaction kind of took me by surprise.

I mean—I knew I would be a little sad—it was the last baseball game after all.

But no one warned me about all the emotions I would feel.

No one told me about all the tears that would spill down my face.

No one mentioned the empty place in my heart.

No one said.

After the last game and the last goodbye to the field and the last round of team pictures…

…there was the last baseball banquet.

It was an amazing night.  There were awards and scholarships and yummy food and laughter and more tears.  I watched my son, Zack, stand there proudly with his teammates and celebrate the season and listen to words of wisdom from the coach.

And then?

At the end of the night, my son walked up and handed me this.

It was a bottle of dirt.

Crumbly, dry, brown dirt from the baseball field with a note attached that read in part:

On this dirt you have shown your true grit, determination, and character.

This dirt holds your laughter as tightly as it holds your frustrations.

On this dirt you have made friendships that will always be a part of you.  

Life goes on after this dirt, but nothing can compare to the moments you spent on it.

It’s so true.

The foundation for my son’s character was formed in every footstep he took on this dirt.

His leadership.

His patience.

His determination.

His ability to set goals and work through problems and show up when the going got rough and celebrate every victory and learn from every defeat.

It was all there.

In every footprint.

He began the game as a boy.

And walked off the field a man.

I love you, Z.

Forever.  And ever.  Amen.

PS  Can I please drive you to practice one more time?

PPS If you need a little more baseball with your coffee—this is my favorite baseball story EVER in the history of ever.

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Comments

  1. Image for Sue Sue

    Before you know it....you will be sitting in the stands watching your grandchildren play baseball....a lttle sad now...but it doesn't actually end.....after 4 children all in sports, now my weekends are filled with grandkids games and still loving it....

  2. Image for Marty Oravetz Marty Oravetz

    Love this and so happy to see a picture of one of your sons. He is such a handsome man and has the most amazing smile. Congratulations to him for all of his achievements.

  3. Image for Betty in soggy Arlington Betty in soggy Arlington

    Dirt brings memories! Dirt sustains and carries life! Fitting memento from your dear son! Yes, you'll soon be watching grandchildren's baseball games - and washing their uniforms with that special - dirt! On another note, I buried my parents with some special dirt that i keep in a beautiful Delft ginger jar.

  4. Image for Mary Mary

    My eyes teared up upon reading this. My sons also played the majority of their youth. It was amazing. Yes, now I watch Grandkids play and my heart smiles. AND life did go on~~~

  5. Image for Fran Ferrari Fran Ferrari

    Oh you have raised an admirable young man! I always say that memories help fill the holes in our heart. Sharing baseball stories will help.

  6. Image for Andrea Brankin Andrea Brankin

    My son played from t-ball through college, and I went through the same emotions when he was "done". Then came little league coaching! Now he's an awesome coach whose players adore him and benefit from his lifetime love of baseball. It will stay with him!

  7. Image for Terri Terri

    I .... Can't..... Even....!!!!!! I need my box of Kleenex!! May I say... he walked off the field a "handsome" young man ?? :) ... I love how you share these SPECIAL moments with all of us.... and trust me... before you can blink.. You will be cheering on grandchildren at the Little League Park... T Ball.... etc. etc. ... lolol... I know!! I'm one of those hot bleacher Grammies'!! ... Large Ice Tea please...:)

  8. Image for Renae Renae

    Girl, I can't even. Seriously. My boys are 14 and almost 11 and I have never, ever complained of driving to practice or getting up early or sitting in the blazing, hot Nebraska heat (just like I'm sure you never did). Because I know some day this will all be over. And I will want to drive someone, somewhere. Today I sent my youngest off to his last day of elementary school. And I don't want to cry, because honestly I won't miss the school. But I will miss my little boy being a little boy. But they all grow up and they all move on, and this is the hardest part about being a parent I think. Knowing that we are raising them to leave us. But as long as they are healthy and happy, I have to believe that they never truly leave...

  9. Image for Carrie Carrie

    We belong to the same club~ (although my son is football / rugby and my daughter did it all: volleyball, soccer, basketball, track and diving) there is something so breathtakingly sad when it is the 'FINAL' one....all the sweaty uniforms, endless driving, carpools to organize, fundraisers, and booster meetings and countless wins and losses are all held in ONE.TINY.TEAR on that last game....thank you for sharing Z's last banquet. Love the 'DIRT' and more importantly, the influences/friendships/stories that will linger long after the scoreboard is dark, and the announcers silent.

  10. Image for Lisa Lisa

    It’s been my year of “lasts” also. Football, hockey, driving my son to school- a big sigh! But I do get to watch my him graduate and move forward with his life. And just for me I asked if I could drive him to school on his last day, and he said yes and you can pick me up also, this will be a good day!

  11. Image for Teddee Grace Teddee Grace

    Your son sounds like a gem. You are so lucky. And you didn't have to wait 30 years for the message! Just a few months back I received wonderful words of endorsement from my ex-husband's youngest son, who I knew for almost fifteen years and who lived with us during our brief marriage, telling me, among other positive things, that I belonged in the Stepmother Hall of Fame. I had felt like such a failure for decades. I don't think he probably still understands what his words meant, and mean, to me. I think your son is going to make someone a wonderful husband.

  12. Image for Regina Merrick Regina Merrick

    Beautiful post, and I understand completely, only for me it was being a band parent and a soccer parent. You go on, you commiserate with those young parents coming up after you, and you tell them that you still miss it. They won't believe it, but they will, too, when it's all said and done. Bless you! Seasons change, and we get to do other things, but it doesn't mean we don't love those things we did with our kids in the past! Love you, Rock Star!!

  13. Image for Jody K Jody K

    How dare those sneaky kids growing up right under our noses! (It happens to even the most observant mothers.) Enjoy your memories.

  14. Image for Lori Lori

    This made me cry! My son is graduating next week and I felt the same way as the football season ended last fall. So many memories, hardships, life lessons... and so much JOY.

  15. Image for Dorothy Dorothy

    I missed the ball playing days for years, then grandkids. How blessed to be able to take them and watch them grow up to quickly also.

  16. Image for Laurin Laurin

    It is a shocking time for us after we have sat through so many practices and games and for me with my girls it was also band concerts and national contests. Then it is over and the emotions hit. Wait until graduation! Actually my tears started a few weeks before when we would be sitting at the dinner table and I would start to cry. My kids would look at me like what's wrong and my husband would start talking and make us laugh. P.S. Take a pack of tissues and take a lot pictures!

  17. Image for Shelley Shelley

    This fall will be my youngest daughter's last season of soccer and I can't imagine my life after. I've been going to games since 1999. Goodness, I'll miss it for sure!

  18. Image for Janet Janet

    The thing that helped me the most through these milestones was knowing that my kids got the message that they had parents who loved them. The best compliment a parent receives is children that go forth, achieve, graduate and make lives of their own. Good job!

  19. Image for Julie Briones Julie Briones

    Oh my goodness.... Okay, I thought, "I'm actually going to get through this post without crying! Go me!" Then I looked at the first pic of Zach, and then the second... Why, why do you have to do that to me?! Okay, I know you know I love it... but still. Pinning to my new board "Thistle-reads"!

  20. Image for Sherry Sherry

    Love this!!! But as others said. Grandkids are next! With four kiddos you could potentially have 8 grandkid games to go to. Get rady😀

  21. Image for Jan McKenzie Jan McKenzie

    That was THE sweetest gesture on Zack's part, you have raised a MAN and some lucky girl is going to snag him and live happily ever after with him and you will have beautiful grandchildren to adore and spoil and paint bedrooms for and have one in your home for them to come visit. You are very blessed to have such a thoughtful, young man for your son, but you and your husband have been wonderful role models for him. God bless you all.

  22. Image for Teresa Gonzales Teresa Gonzales

    OMG! you made me cry over this story. So true- when you look back it will be a blink of the eye. You have raised a great young man- you know you paved the road for his journey in life. That is great parenting, the letting go part not so fun. Remember you gave him the skills to fly. Smile and hugs.

  23. Image for Meta Meta

    No, you haven't gone to your last game! I went to my granddaughter's first t ball game last night. You will get to do it all over again !

  24. Image for Penny Penny

    So many of us have been there. The last soccer, basketball, football, etc. game. Just when you think you've hit your groove, it ends with the last game. Nobody prepared us for how Mom'in changes over the years. No matter where our babies go we will sit, stand & cheer them on as they make their way through life!

  25. Image for Gina Gina

    So handsome! Sports is always a great metaphor for life. Too bad mine is a computer nerd and has to learn the joy of victory and the agony of defeat and the benefit of grit in other ways! Wonderful, Zack!

  26. Image for Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces

    So lovely, KariAnne. Life is a series of firsts, lasts, and in-betweens,,,often we don't realize when it is happening, that it IS a last. There were so many of those lasts as our children grew up. Now as I am older, and am watching our grandchildren grow up...I often wonder if a moment is a last. You become even more aware of your moments as you age and there will be less of them...xo

  27. Image for Gina Gina

    Wanted to add, so sorry about the tragedy in Sante Fe today. I know you are not that close, but living close to Parkland here in FL , I know how numbing it is and I pray for our kids.

  28. Image for Debra Matcovich Debra Matcovich

    I know exactly how you feel. My daughter started baseball at seven. The team or managers didn't know she was a girl because of her name, but the pony tail gave it away. She had some swing and she was a lefty. Any way we moved on to softball because that's the thing to do. At first it was so slow, like watching grass grow. Baseball was so much quicker when they were younger. The speed caught up when the girls got older. Wake up at 5am to leave at 6am to get there at 7am. Depending on where your traveled to. Stay for hours and you might have a 3 hour break in between games. Just like you said it was either, you would think, a winter sport. I wore so many layers of clothes and a big bear blanket, and I was still cold. Or I would just sit when it was 90 plus with those spritzer fans. She played in college, but transferred schools. Just like that it was over. The bats, the bag, the cleats and my softball mom chair was put to rest. I miss those days so much. The only thing I don't miss was that ringing cow bell in the stands.

  29. Image for Cindy Cindy

    Tears ! You are very blessed to have such a wonderful , emotional , loving ,spiritual young man ! Bless you and your family! You have a very special gift !

  30. Image for Belinda B. Young Belinda B. Young

    For every moment you didn't miss, there is a memory no one can take away. Growing up is harder on the parent, but just think how exciting the next journey will be. Don't miss one moment!

  31. Image for Kathleen of Woodstock, Ga Kathleen of Woodstock, Ga

    Such a sweet story...I have boys also...Everytime they finished baseball or football. I was so grateful for what God allowed them to be a part of...Not knowing that he would use one of them again as a football coach..That made me emotional...Thank you for sharing precious moments with your adorable twins and your handsome boys....

  32. Image for June M June M

    The note on that bottle of dirt - very inspirational. Whenever one door closes - another opens. Thank you for sharing

  33. Image for Judi Judi

    My guess is, there will be more baseball in your future, be it Zack playing for fun or your grandchildren. Taking Zack to college is the next hurdle. Steel yourself KariAnne - it’s going to be tough (been there, done that), but you’ll make it through. “Life’s about changes, nothing ever stays the same”. ❤️

  34. Image for Cora Cora

    I know exactly how you feel. Last week my youngest of four jumped his last high jump as a collegiate fifth year grad student. With four kids...many, many sports, teams, games, meets, competitions and horse shows and this was the grande finale. It was a remarkable journey with all it's highs and lows and the memories are sweet!

  35. Image for Leslie Leslie

    Tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat!! Went the distance with my son and baseball and now with my only grandson, an 11 year old who plays baseball on weekends almost year round it seems. Baseball can be a great opportunity for building character. Zack's gift to you is precious beyond words. Not only is he a handsome young man, he has your gift with words, wit and tenderness. I love reading about your family; especially loved the story about the left field. You are a blessing as well as blessed.

  36. Image for Leslie Leslie

    Must add: Since reading about Zack's big catch, I cannot watch baseball any longer without taking special notice of what happens out there in the left. Another of my favorite stories is the one about the basketball player and the cheerleader. So heartwarming! Your surprise endings remind me of O'Henry and help etch each delightful story in my memory. BTW, Whitney helped coach my 7 year old granddaughter's basketball team this year. She (Whitney) is a treasure, as you well know.

  37. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    oh boy. I felt the same way at the last band concert. What a ride! Then one day it was all over and we had our Octobers and summers back. It's not the same going to a game when your kid isn't playing. But oh the memories! Enjoy this special time. He sounds like an amazing young man! :)

  38. Image for Dianne Dianne

    Brings back so many memories of my youngest on dance teams for so many years. Competitions that went on for looooooong weekends, staying in hotels, learning to apply her false eyelashes, sitting in the audience waiting for her to be on stage, the drive home asking why she didn’t get the score she wanted/deserved. That last dance was so tearful for me. This is all why she, at 28, and I are so close now, we had so many bonding moments. Your son has your gift, well done Mom.

  39. Image for Ann Ann

    Your son is a talented and handsome young man! Your love for him and pride in him shines in these two articles! Will he be going on to play college baseball? I'm sure baseball will be a part of his life in some way, shape, or form! :)

  40. Image for Rhonda Rhonda

    Awww... so very sweet! So many ends of eras! The last ballet recital, the last basketball game, the last high school graduation... But then there are so many beginnings -- the first college degree, the first marriage, the first grandchild,... Life!

  41. Image for Glenda Glenda

    This story made me cry. What a handsome young man. It is so sad to end a chapter, but, he will have many more chapters to share with you.

  42. Image for DeMarie Ingraham DeMarie Ingraham

    (Sniff sniff.) Gulp. Your story is so many of us moms’ story. And now I get to watch my 4 yr. old granddaughter kick a soccer ball, and go to ballet and tap recitals, and know, that this too, will go by at warp speed.

  43. Image for Brenda Brenda

    Such a sweet story! I know exactly how you feel! I have two sons and they both played baseball. I would not trade all the memories and good times we had!!

  44. Image for Emily Small Emily Small

    Thanks for sharing and wow ....this is touching. A good reminder to enjoy these moments and cherish our times together as a family.

  45. Image for Laura Harrie Laura Harrie

    Oh Karianne, such a wonderful story to share with us. Thank you for opening up your heart to all! I can totally relate, been there done that. The best thing for your son was having you involved, that is what good parents do!

  46. Image for Rhonda Hanson Rhonda Hanson

    My son played from age 4 to an elite travel ball team and 4 years of NCAA. I have travel all over the country watching this amazing young man play baseball. One year around the age 13 I won a Mother’s Day award from a contest my son entered. He bragged on how his mom is the only mom that sits in the rain, sun, and freezing cold to watch him play. He couldn’t understand why other moms would sit in their cars. The memories are precious and I would do it all over again. Now my grandson plays baseball, he is 6 and this his 3 year playing. Just like his Uncle Tyler(his own words). ❤️

  47. Image for laura laura

    My boys played tennis, my older son plays in college. I love this. We have always said character is built from the sport our kids' play (tennis). My kids learned at an early age; respect your coach, the sport, your equipment and your opponent. My son just finished his freshman year and was asked to co-captain their college tennis team next year. I love your post and the life lessons created on the courts, fields, tracks, pools... proud mama and I get the pride you hold tonight. love you, laura please find a regional version of HAVEN for those of us in the middle! hearts and hugs

  48. Image for NormaJean NormaJean

    KarieAnne, just one of many LAST times, but so many wonderful FIRST first times ahead!! He is a handsome lad and looks like his Dad.

  49. Image for Kris Kris

    Stop making me cry!!!!!!!!!!! Oh my goodness, he's a heartthrob. Can he wait for my 12-year-old to grow up? ;) You done good, mom!

  50. Image for Theresa Theresa

    What memories, and even better reading it and hearing your voce tell the story! So glad I met you at Becoming conf in April to hear you in your lovely words💕 Thanks for sharing! Have a non- baseball question - where ever did you find the National Oats grain bag in one of the pictures? I grew up about 30 miles from Wall Lake ( the prettiest lake in Iowa) and my dad worked for National Oats summers when he was in college! That brought back memories too! Thx much!

  51. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    Golly what a story!!! I have been there but he played football from a tiny boy all the way through college. We both had times of shedding tears together most especially when they would move him to play center and he was the size of a linebacker. The coaches promised him time and time again a position as a linebacker until their center would get hurt...then Kelly would play center. His ultimate dream was to play professional but isn't that really every young man's dream when they play a sport. I love your story and the message about the dirt. You have a great looking son and who knows you might get to see him play again someday!!! You rock KariAnne!! xoxo

  52. Image for Becky Becky

    I don't even know where to begin! I have four sons and baseball is their life. Baseball is our life. We have moved for baseball, changed schools for baseball, revolve our lives around baseball. We are a baseball family, through and through. I have spent many a sleepless night over baseball. Our oldest son is playing at a D1 college for baseball, the others not too far behind. I often wonder what will life be like when it does not consume us. I wonder what it will be like without a batting cage in our basement, a wiffle ball field in our backyard. Gloves and balls constantly strewn on my kitchen island and white pants to pressure wash. Crackpot cooking, crappy fast-food dinners. Fundraisers. Figuring out how to manage my time most effectively to see as much as possible of every game I am blessed enough to get to. The gazillions of dollars spent traveling across America to play baseball. The bat that costs as much as a mortgage payment. Truth be told, I am not looking forward to it one bit. I will continue to cherish these years!

  53. Image for MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!) MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    Such a lovely post, KariAnne! You and your dear husband have "done good" in raising your precious son! I know that your hearts are just overflowing in love for Zach. He will definitely do well in his next venture -- and you, too! He will just continue to make you proud! What a precious "dirt" gift and note -- so thoughtful and so unique! Your boy is truly one in a million -- just like his wonderful parents are! Thanks for sharing your precious family with us! We pray that God will continue to bless you all! Blessings! Have a wonderful week-end!

  54. Image for Tammy Tammy

    Awww... this made me cry! What a wonderful story. It made me remember all the days my sons played sports. The days I froze, fried, laughed, and cried. All of the fun we had. Why I have what I fondly call "bench bottom". The first last days of each of their sports. Thank you for the reminder. P.S. I love the bottle of dirt!

  55. Image for Jill Brewster Jill Brewster

    Great story, and yes I spilled a few tears reading this, but believe me it does not end here. You will find yourself right back on that field cheering on a grandson or a granddaughter, and it will be just as exciting, and just as rewarding. Life goes on and it continues to get better. Jill

  56. Image for Carol@BlueskyatHome Carol@BlueskyatHome

    I felt exactly these same feelings with softball, volleyball, soccer and baseball. It's bittersweet, for sure. It's a passage of raising children and sometimes, I think it's harder on us than it is on them.

  57. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    Girlfriend, I know how you feel. My BABY GIRL graduated from college on Saturday - how can that even happen?? And my bestie's son played his last game (JUCO in KS) the weekend before. LIfe has a way of going on... onward and upward to see what lies ahead!

  58. Image for Sarah Sarah

    Now I’m wrecked. Good thing I don’t have my mascara on yet today! 😉Gosh, I know I’m going to have all these same feels when my boys are done with soccer. Thankfully, I’ve got two little guys still - so I’ll be on the sidelines for a few more years. Mom life is just the best, isn’t it? ♥️🙌🏻 Love you, friend.

  59. Image for Deb Deb

    KarriAnne, there is nothing that compares to the joys of motherhood. Somedays we wonder how we will get through the challenges of raising our children. At times it seemed as though they would be littles for ever...and then before we know it, they are adults....cherish those special moments and know that there are many more special firsts to come...we are now grandparents and loving our grands...attending their baseball, soccer, dance recitals...I promise more JOY to come! Blessings, Deb

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