Coaching children inspires wonder. My son played T-Ball, I coached. Endeavoring to teach more than just the rules of the game, this time spent brought more just than lessons. Blaine’s team of six year old T-ballers first game played on a warm Wednesday summer evening after only two practice sessions. Blaine got a hit, ran to first base, safe. Next batter got a hit too, and Blaine took off for second base, but stopped half way there. He was forced out.
I asked him why he stopped and he told me that two players were holding both of their arms in the air, four arms flailing, waving for him to stop, so he thought, so he did. I explained that the second baseman and the short stop of the other team where calling for the ball to be thrown to them, to get him out, not calling for him to stop. “Next time, Blaine, run all the way to second base. Don’t worry about the other guys.”
Our second game followed Saturday morning. This game too found Blaine safe at first with one out. Blaine’s teammate hit a nice little fly off the T. Blaine ran to second. The short stop caught the ball. Pretty wonderful, any kid making any catch at this level. The other coach starts yelling at his team to ‘throw the ball to first!’, and I start yelling to Blaine ‘run back to first!’ Parents from both sides adding their loud voices, the frantic cacophony seemed to last eternal minutes, the kids all confused about what was going on, why so much yelling, at who, and for what. Finally, after enough time for Blaine to run to back to first at least four times over, the other team gets the ball to first base, Blaine still standing proud, both feet firmly planted on second. Blaine is out. Double play. Inning over. Josh runs out taking the field, bringing Blaine his glove. Blaine still stands tall atop his base.
I go out to second base, explain to Blaine what happened. He is not consoled; with one knee in the dirt, I put him on my other knee, arm around his small shoulder, reassuring him it is OK. Silent teardrops drip down his cheeks. To no avail I offer several more “it’s OK”s, and “you didn’t know this rule.” Finally I whisper in his ear “I still love you Blaine.” Only then he takes his glove and turn in right field.
That evening, on a trip to Frosty Boy’s for ice cream with his sister Loretta, I ask Blaine what lesson he learned about baseball that day, hoping for an answer like ‘half way on fly’, or ‘tag up on a fly’ or such. His response moved me more than ever expected. He said:
“I learned you love me even when I am out.”