91: Magic on the Diamond

91: Magic on the Diamond

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

Magic on the Diamond

You don’t need a ticket to see some of the best baseball in the world; you just need to drive one of the players to the game.

~Author Unknown

Brrrr. It was a freezing cold night in Small Town, USA. This was the first night game of the fall season for our son Joseph’s Little League team — and possibly the last. My husband Angelo had just returned from the nearby coffee shop and passed out hot coffees to shivering coaches and parents.

“If I were a betting man, I’d say this is it. Game over,” one of the parents blurted.

Others nodded in agreement as they sipped their coffees. The score was 8–4, bottom of the last inning. I sensed everyone’s thoughts.

“Almost time to pack it in for the season… No championship… It’s November… Time for basketball and wrestling and shopping for the holidays… Too cold anyway.”

Not me. I had only baseball — and this game — on my mind.

“They can do it,” I countered. I could see my breath as I spoke. “It’s still possible.”

Okay, call me Pollyanna Mama. But, I truly did believe our kids could come back and win this thing! Then, invoking the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, I added: “It ain’t over till it’s over!”

The others chuckled. I knew it was a long shot . . . and yet I was a little older than these parents. I had lived through the 1978 Yankees — the Greatest Comeback Team ever. I witnessed underdog Bucky Dent smack a homerun over the Green Monster at Fenway in the historic one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the go-ahead run. I saw the Yankees come back to win the World Series after being fourteen-and-a-half games behind first place in mid-July — a feat no other team had accomplished in baseball history.

I believed our Little League boys could do it, too. This is America — Land of Big Hopes and Dreams. You’re never too young to dream big, and these boys dreamed of being champions. They had been practicing their batting, pitching, fielding and sliding every day since March. Besides, it wouldn’t be the first time they’d come from behind in a game.

Sure enough, the scoreboard began to change. The number in the “guest” column turned to 5. Then 6. Then 7.

“It’s 8–7. Still want to bet?” I asked the parent.

Suddenly, everyone switched from packing it in to cheering them on.

Then… last out. Finished. Final score: 8–7. No championship. Man, this loss really, really hurt.

That parent was still impressed with my positive belief, though.

“It WAS close. They almost tied it!”

“Yeah, almost.”

Actually, our boys HAD tied it, but because of a bad call in the third inning, the run didn’t count. The umpire called a ball that bounced off first base a foul ball. He soon realized his mistake — it was indeed a fair ball — but instead of allowing our boy to remain on second base on his double, he made him go to bat again, where he struck out. After that, our team loaded the bases. That player on second would have scored. The game would have been tied at 8–8.

That call and that run made this loss for the championship — the end of their dream — even more difficult to swallow.

Dejected, Joseph packed his bag. We drove in silence to Grandma’s house for her homemade lasagna.

“You were amazing,” we told him. “You boys never stopped trying, and that’s all you can ever do in life.”

A half hour later, my phone beeped. It was a text from one of the moms on the team.

“Check your e-mail. We have a life.”

It sounded so ominous. What did this mean… we have a life?

The e-mail was from the coach. “Game is not over. The opposing team made an illegal re-entry of a pitcher. Game will resume where we left off when illegal entry was made. Probably Tuesday.”

Then those closing words — “We have a life.”

We all jumped off the couch and started doing the We Have A Life Dance! Even Pollyanna Mama here couldn’t believe the game wasn’t over!

Just as baseball records were made to be broken, Yogi’s immortal words needed to be tweaked . . . EVEN WHEN IT’S OVER, IT AIN’T OVER!

The Little League Team that lost — at first — had become the Little League Team That COULD still become champions!

Tuesday came and the game resumed in the top of the 6th. Our team was up, bases loaded, one out. The score reverted back to 8–4.

Suddenly, I was catapulted to 1978. I was in the stands at Fenway Park, witnessing the historic one-game playoff between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. I had that same intense feeling one experiences when an entire season comes down to one game and every single play counts.

A few cracks of the bat and our boys were rounding the bases… and…

SWEET JUSTICE! WE TIED IT! 8–8!

Bottom of 6th — the other team did not go ahead.

EXTRA INNINGS!

Top of the 7th. We were ahead 10–8. Bottom of the 7th, they tied it — 10–10.

Top of the 8th — We scored TWO BIG RUNS! 12–10.

Bottom of the 8th . . . Other team…Did.Not.Score!

WE WON! WE WON! WE WON!

To think. Two nights ago, the boys had thrown their gloves in their bags and packed it in for the season. Now they were living a completely different destiny. Their dreams — coupled with hard work and determination — were revived. On this cold November night, these boys embodied the American Spirit.

In small towns all across America, Little League teams play hard and dream big. Baseball fields — as vast and verdant as America itself — symbolize endless possibilities. It’s on these fields our children learn the craft, play their hearts out, and never stop believing they, too, can be champions.

~Antoinette Rainone

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