My nephew Bobby is an amazing baseball player. Now don't stop reading this because it begins with "my nephew Bobby." This story isn't all about Bobby or baseball. It's about, well I guess I'm not sure what it's about. You decide. I just know I watched the boys on this team, their manager, their coaches and their parents, and I was inspired. This Highland, Indiana All Star team had made the playoffs.
Dan (my husband) and I went to one of the playoff games. Upon arrival I noticed parents and kids wearing t-shirts that said, "We're playing for Shane." So, I asked my brother, "Who's Shane?" He told me Shane had suffered a season ending injury the night before while pitching. My brother said, "he's an amazing pitcher!" He threw a pitch and then just fell to ground in excruciating pain. He had broken his arm. Knowing how devastated Shane was feeling, the parents quickly organized and decided to have t-shirts made to make Shane feel better. From what I could see EVERY parent was wearing a t-shirt. I thought wow, that's pretty amazing and really a nice thing to do. I could see Shane with a cast from his shoulder to his wrist. He was in the dugout, standing at the fence, supporting his teammates. I don't remember the score of the game, but they won.
We would miss the next two games, but if they continued to win, we would be able to attend Monday's game. They won!
We arrived at the game on Monday evening. We could feel the energy from the parking lot. I observed my brother taking things out of the trunk of his car. He had a small ladder, video camera, plastic strips, and a tripod. He was oblivious to our presence. He walked over to the left field fence and began his routine. The ladder was to stand on, plastic strips were to secure the tripod that would hold the video camera to the fence. He was ready.
The team was all smiles and seemed so calm. They had that "just another day at the ballpark" kind of look on their faces. Seriously, they were so layed back. As the innings progressed, I noticed they players encouraging each other. It wasn't a yelling "C'MON" kind of encouragement, it was encouragement that came from some inner strength. If someone dropped the ball, they were encouraged. If someone hit a pop-up, they were encouraged. If someone struck out, they were encouraged.
Another thing I noticed, after each turn in the field they waited for each other outside the dugout until everyone was there. They stood as one and said, "HIGHLAND!" Then entered the dugout. They did this again when going back onto the field. They waited until everyone was standing outside the dugout, stood as one and said, "HIGHLAND!"
I honestly can't remember if it was this game or not, but one of the boys hit a home run. After rounding the bases, he made a small gesture toward Shane as if to say, "that was for you." I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but I did. Oh, and my brother caught it on his video camera.
There was a quiet, respectful confidence about this team and I mentioned this to my brother. They just seemed like really nice kids. He said, "they are." He then told me the story of the manager's son who died in 2001 from a rare cancer, neuroblastoma. His name was Michael Williams and he LOVED baseball. The field the boys were playing on was named after him. It is the Michael Williams Field of Dreams. My brother continued to tell me about the night the team was formed and their first meeting with their manager. He said, their manager, Lou Williams was talking to the boys in the dugout. The boys were listening intently. He said, the parents were curious about what he was saying, but couldn't hear no matter how hard they tried.
Mr. Williams told the boys about his son's love for baseball. He told them about his fight with cancer. He told them about his prized baseball possessions being buried under home plate. He gave them each a baseball hat with an M and the outline of a dove on it. The hats had been worn at the dedication of the baseball field they were playing on named for his son, Michael Williams, Field of Dreams. All of this being told by a loving father and manager and being digested by 12 and 13 year old boys. What they were thinking?
While my brother relayed this story, we continued to watch the game. They won!! So exciting. There wasn't a lot of screaming and yelling. There was just a lot of high-fiving, big smiles, excitement and nods of acknowledgment between dads. The next win would take them to the State Finals.
We arrived for the "Big Game" which was already filled with fans. Again, my brother had enough equipment to shoot a small film. He had now added a digital camera which he wore around his neck. (I wish I had a picture of him.) The parents looked tense. The kids seemed relaxed as they warmed up. It was going to be a good game. It wasn't a high scoring game, but it was a good game. The boys were serious, yet relaxed. They were laughing, having fun and were obviously there to win.
It was now the bottom of the 6th inning with one out to go. Everyone was standing. I ran over and grabbed my brother's digital camera. With that, the last pitch was thrown. Strike three. THEY WON!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!! THEY WERE SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!! The field was immediately covered with baseball hats, baseball mitts and jumping 12 & 13 year old boys. The manager had the biggest smile on his face and then he put his head in his hands. The coaches were slapping each other on their backs. The parents just smiled and watched their boys celebrate. Many had tears in their eyes. They were so excited for their children. You could actually see and feel the love. You really could.
There was a brief award ceremony and then the Highland All-Star team was given their winning banner.
This is getting long, so I'll wrap it up.
The celebration continued with the boys running around the outfield with their banner, while the manager, coaches and parents proudly watched. There was carbonated grape juice bottles popping, a few pie tins filled with whip cream delivered to the coaches by the boys and hugs everywhere. I saw my brother hugging the manager Mr. Williams. They both had tears in their eyes, as did so many parents and fans.
There was nothing brag-a-docious about this celebration. It was respectful, much quieter than I anticipated and even thoughtful. At this point, I notice the other team standing in the parking lot watching the celebration. They even had a look of admiration on their faces.
So what's my point with this post. My point is, the Highland, Indiana All Star 12 & 13 year old's had an amazing, loving once-in-a-lifetime manager. They had incredible caring coaches. They had marvelous, unique, loving parents. Each and everyone of these people put these boys love for the game of baseball first. They allowed them to be boys. They allowed them to play the game they love. They encouraged them to care and stand for each other.
How lucky are they!!!