Super Sunday, the Granddaddy of all sporting events in America is this weekend. Advertising, multi-million dollar commercial breaks and half time shows with big name stars. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. For many, this is the apex of the American sports dream. I simply want to challenge that notion. The apex, the pinnacle, the high point is not the super bowl. I will submit to you that it is actually Saturday morning tee-ball. Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, folks wandering by watching the mighty midgets on an all grass infield. Well, … I mean, some are all grass … or all dirt, in most cases, all weeds. The greatest sports lesson I ever learned was from a bunch of 4 and 5-year old’s playing sports Gods way.
The story starts with a hero, 30 inches of baseball enthusiasm, the mighty Drew. Drew was fast, he could throw, he could catch, he could run, a virtual superstar in any tee-ball league. Drew was no right field daisy picker. He knew about three outs, home runs and sliding whether you needed to or not. We often had to tone him down a little as he was too accurate throwing the ball to teammates who hadn’t quite mastered the art of moving the glove to the ball in order to actually catch the ball. A ball bouncing off the forehead does not instill much confidence in a 4-year old. Drew had a man-sized mitt that was four times bigger than his hand. I think it hung down to his shoelaces. Drew loved to dive for balls. He could put on a diving/sliding clinic and he was only 5. His mom and dad would joke about his on field Drewmatics.
It was a fine spring day, the weeds were freshly mowed, backstop nicely staked down and held together with zip ties, parents circling the field in lawn chairs. The field admission is finding a place to park without getting a ticket, priceless. My team was sporting their yellow tee-shirts, blue jeans and on the mound, … the mighty Drew. Well, he was standing where a mound would be if there was a mound, … or a real pitcher. A little boy for the other team was approached the plate. Getting ready to take his turn at bat. He stood crooked, the bat appeared to weigh 100 pounds in his little hands. The way he walked and the manner in which he swung the bat, low and slow, made it apparent that he had special needs. His dad had him playing because he wanted to provide him a rich experience of normalcy. This little guy knocked the ball off the tee about 5 or 6 feet and began slowly winding his way down the base path to first base. True to form, Drew sprang into action, raced to the ball and scooped it up with all-star form. He turned towards first, pointed his front shoulder, pulled the ball back, executed a perfect crow hop and then, …. well, … and then he hesitated. Drew looked at the boy slowly making his way down the path, he started to run at him and he stopped. Then, he looked like he would throw the ball to first again. He stopped, he put the ball back in his glove and walked to the mound. Now, the clueless people looking on. You know, the ones who were supposed to be in charge, the parents and coaches were all yelling at Drew. Throw the ball, tag him, touch first, Drew, do something. The adults initially missed that Drew was doing something, he was teaching a God sized lesson on compassion for the least of these.
The next batter came to the plate and hit a ball directly to Stacy our second baseman and the little boy was running right into an easy tag for Stacy. She took a cue from Drew, took a step back to let the boy pass and attempted to get an out at first base. The next ball as if directed by God himself was hit to our third baseman Kevin, who chose not to touch third, though his foot was 6 inches from the bag and it would be an easy force out. The kids chose to continue to get an out, to make a play anywhere except on the little trouper making his way around the bases. The little bugger scored on the next ball that was teed up. His coaches and teammates celebrated with him like they had just won the world series. A bunch of kindergartners taught the adults a lesson often forgotten in the world of competitive athletics. There is a much bigger game at stake than the one being played out on the scoreboard. I have never seen a Super bowl, World series, Stanley cup or any other professional world championship have this kind of impact.
The coach for the other team was a friend of mine from playing and coaching earlier in my life turned. He was the father of the little boy. He came up with a tear in his eye and said I want you to thank your kids. That was my boys first hit and the first time he has ever scored a run. It made his day. The purpose of sports is to remember that it is a gift given by God to experience Joy and Wonder of play. When sport is done well, it is designed to bring out the best in everyone. Players, opponents, officials and fans should all experience a little joy and some wonder at each event. Was this game broadcast on national TV? No. Did we get a trophy for the day’s victory? No (I think there might have been juice boxes and cookies) Did our Heavenly Father look down from heaven and smile? Absolutely, our kiddos played the right game that day and every adult went home with “A Reason For Joy.”