A Father’s Day Field of Dreams

Brendan, a baseball player for the ages.

Me: Hey, Anne, what’s going on for Father’s Day?

Anne: How would I know? You’re not my father.

That conversation actually happened this morning. And then there was this: Teddy told me that for Father’s Day “mom” was taking him to the sporting goods store and buying him some new soccer shoes. (FYI: Baseball season ended about ten minutes ago.)

I’m totally cool with this, I really am. Not a problem. Seriously.

But the man in my life who’s having an unforgettable Father’s Day is my good friend, Keith—Brendan’s father.

Brendan is ten. He plays baseball. Brendan is lots of wonderful things, but he is probably not a future holder of the American League batting title. Until yesterday’s championship game he did not have a hit. That’s an entire season of at-bats without a hit. I’m not sure how many at-bats that is, but not getting a hit for an entire season is the sports equivalent of having a crawling race across the Wal-Mart parking lot. It’s hard to do it, it’s harder to watch, and and then it slowly gets worse.

You would like him, I promise. He’s always smiling and contributing and he’s one of the funnier eleven year olds you’ll ever meet. Everyone loves Brendan.  And that’s why what happened yesterday happened. Everyone loves Brendan. 

So it’s an early inning. Brendan steps up to the plate. There’s the pitch. He actually makes contact dinging the ball to the infield! He starts running to first base like his coach is chasing him with a flame thrower. (In the most encouraging way, that is.) I’m sure you know where this is going. The ump signals him…SAFE!

 

 

The wave to the ump from a first time runner.

 

Exactly why Brendan chose to wave to the ump at that moment is unknown. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that he’d never been in contact with first base before and he simply didn’t know what appropriate base runner behavior was. It didn’t matter. Brendan was now breathing the rarified air that only base runners breath.

Anyway, the crowd goes wild, like REALLY wild. Everyone is cheering for Brendan. People who are not related to him and don’t even know him are high-fiving and hugging each other. It’s beautiful.

Now the trick is to not make an out which would be slightly deflating. OK, a lot deflating. The first base coach does a great job of picking the right moment and sends him to second…he’s off! Brendan is stealing second base! (We are in some seriously unchartered waters here.) The crowd holds it’s breath. The sun appears to be moving toward the eastern horizon. Someone said that a woman in the stands was being revived but I cannot testify to that.  Brendan is having something that appears to be an out of body experience. The most amazing thing then happens!

HE’S SAFE AGAIN! It’s hard to imagine that the crowd’s reaction could top what happened so long ago at first base, but it does. There is universal, joyful bedlam. People (read: men) are seen wiping tears. Everyone knows they are witnessing a moment that will forever remind them of why we play baseball.

 

Father and brother watch the drama unfold.

Of course, people then start fantasizing about the impossible. Could Brendan actually score? The baseball gods are cruel and blind—everyone knows that. But faster than anyone can process what just happened another batter advances Brendan to third. HE’S ON THIRD BASE! The world is a beautiful place.

And then, as in a dream, another batter pokes a ball past the second baseman and Brendan takes off in slow motion like a movie. Actually, he was probably running normal Brendan speed which is slightly faster than slow motion but if you were there you would swear that it all happened in super slo-mo with Chariots of Fire music playing at deafening levels.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more loving sports moment, and very likely never will again. The opposing fans are cheering and clapping. Keith, the dad, is there to embrace him as he arrives home. His older brother is patting him on the back, clearly proud to be related.

It is the exact opposite of Casey striking out.

Welcome home from dad and brother.

So many things can go wrong with baseball, but all of them were no where to be seen in Philadelphia yesterday. In his second at bat, Brendan got on base yet again. He rounded the bases like a seasoned pro this time, stealing at will. He scores again! His team wins the championship.

Brendan is MVP. Let me write that again. Brendan is MVP.

Seriously. True story. Brendan is MVP and the proud owner of the game ball.

 

Brendan (center and looking into the camera) leads his team to the championship.

I should also tell you that Brendan’s mother was wracked with anxiety earlier this week thinking that he would come to bat with the base’s loaded and lose the whole game for them. I told her not to worry, but I will be honest. I was worried, too. I’ve been there. Alexander struck out a half a dozen times with the bases loaded to end the game a couple of years ago.

Sweet championship victory

So Happy Father’s Day, Keith. Welcome to the field of dreams.

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