Monday, April 7, 2014

Throw the Ball

Benjamin's baseball team competed tonight, but I noticed a curious phenomenon.

For the first few innings, the boys would field the ball and then hold it, arm back as though ready to throw, but frozen in inaction until the runner was safely on base.

I can only surmise that this paralysis came in response to the game they barely lost Saturday.

After a close game in which they headed into the bottom of the last inning ahead, they made error after error in the field: throwing over the first baseman's head or into the ground or anywhere but the glove. The mis-throws gave the other team run after run and ultimately the win that could have been ours.

The loss was painful to watch and disappointing for them to experience.

And so, I think, they decided to play it safe tonight. Rather than throw the ball away and give up runs, they'd field the ball and hold. This way they wouldn't make errors. This way they wouldn't give up runs.

But in so doing, they gave up outs.

After the third inning of incomplete plays, after watching player after player field the ball and freeze, after watching the other team score four runs one inning and five the next because the only outs came from strikeouts (not common in coach pitch), the boys' coach finally yelled (uncharacteristic in itself), "The next person who doesn't throw the ball will sit out the inning!"

Even our mild-mannered, ever-encouraging coach couldn't take it. Play the game or sit it out!

So the next time they took the field, the boys began to attempt the plays. Not perfectly. Not to the point of turning the game around. But they made the throws to first. They got the out at second. They tried to throw the runner out at home.

They were playing the game. And in one inning, their plays got the outs they needed to hold the score and get their at-bat.

At one point, Benjamin fielded a ball from short stop and threw to first. He didn't beat the runner, but he made the play. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and the attempt made me prouder than anything else he had done on the field.

Another boy in the outfield attempted to throw a runner out at second. He overthrew the ball, giving up a base in the process, but I found myself cheering wildly in the stands.

Sitting in the bleachers under the lights of the little league field, I realized I'd so much rather they throw the ball and miss than be afraid to make the throw.

At least when they throw the ball, they have a chance at greatness. At least when they throw, they can grow in skill and experience. At least when they throw, they can learn something for next time: stay calm, get your arm back, point your other arm toward the target, step into the throw.

In the first three innings, it felt like they would never progress because they wouldn't try, wouldn't practice their new skills, wouldn't put the coaching and rehearsing to use. Playing that way, they'd be the same team in three years that they are now.

They have to attempt the plays in order to make the plays. And they have to attempt the plays to become better players.

I felt myself convicted because I recognize that sometimes, we lead our lives like those boys played the game. We hold back because we're afraid to fail. We're on the field, and we can say we stopped the ball, but we refuse to take the risk and throw.

Unfortunately, in our paralysis we beat ourselves.

When our focus is to not make mistakes, to avoid disappointing those around us, then we ensure we will never contribute to victory. The goal must be the process, regardless of outcome.

Field the ball, make the throw, get the out.

Sometimes we'll fail. But we will have learned something, and we will have gone down trying.

But sometimes we'll nail it. And the joy of that one moment is too sweet to be missed for fear of shame.

And the cumulative joy of making play after play and having moment after moment? Well, that's pure glory.

Throw the ball or sit it out.

Anything less isn't baseball. Or true living.

photo credit: adwriter via photopin cc


  1. It's also wonderful that Ben has experienced defeat. Throughout life there's no such thing as a scorless game. You're going to be an excellent soccer Mom too.

  2. Thank you, Dave! There are so many good lessons to be learned on the field, especially in defeat. I'm glad he's reached the age where they get to experience it all!


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