75: A Place in the Sun

75: A Place in the Sun

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

A Place in the Sun

Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseballs around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.

~Pete Hamill

It’s been years since my sons were in Little League baseball. I get a bit nostalgic as I see the neighborhood children going off to their games, looking sharp and proud in their uniforms with a number on their backs they will never forget.

In 1963, Colin, my eldest son, played centerfield for the Tigers, a Little League team in Hampton, Virginia. In his first year, his father told him that keeping a ball firmly gripped in his baseball glove would help form a good pocket in his new glove. We’d often find him sleeping with the glove still on his hand, baseball gripped tightly.

I made sure I was at all of our sons’ games, even when I was pregnant with number-four child (another future Little Leaguer) and pushing my youngest daughter around in a stroller. The older daughter was already old enough to help whenever I had concession-stand duty. It was our family entertainment every night of the week during baseball season.

The most unforgettable game came at the conclusion of the ‘63 season and Colin’s last year of Little League baseball. He was on the all-star team, and this game would determine who went on to compete in the regional playoffs. Our all-stars needed to clinch this one. It meant traveling out of town to an unfamiliar field, but we went in hopes of watching our boys beat the socks off the opposing team.

Tied, the game went into extra innings. It was a hard-fought game and a toss-up right to the final hit deep into midfield. In some ballfields, it might have been considered a homerun, but standing tall and ready to save the day far out in center field stood my son with his eye on that fly ball all the way. He seemed to hesitate as he stood there, anticipating the trajectory, and then he began his dash for the landing zone. I sat in the stands praying this wasn’t going to be one of those days that Colin got ahead of his size-thirteen feet as he watched the ball heading into no-man’s land, a weedy patch of knee-high grass and low trailing vines. It arched high, stalled and became lost to us in the lowering five o’clock sun. From the stands, the players were silhouetted against the glare, their mouths gaping open as they followed the ball into the raw afternoon light. Collectively, we held our breath, frantically squinting against the sun for a glimpse of Colin and the ball as it dropped toward the outfield where maintenance had long since been abandoned.

Parents sat mute, resisting their usual sideline coaching. It was the quiet of a golf tournament. Colin took off, feet following his steady concentration on the baseball; first attempting to run, then leaping through the thick and tangled weeds and vines until he appeared to be right under the descending ball. He had his glove stuck out before him. It looked as though he was attempting to correct his position, but then he stumbled backward, vanishing from view.

The crowd in our bleachers groaned as one.

The other team jumped up and down in their dugout, and their parents cheered and whistled.

We fixed smiles on our faces for the sake of our team’s spirit, which would soon be congratulating the other team as victors and league champs. At the same time, we strained our eyes to see if Colin was going to get up to chase the ball.

Then above the weeds, we saw an arm with a mitt raised high. Someone yelled, “He caught it!” The umpire nodded.

The crowd went wild. I thought our bleachers would fall apart with the pounding of feet.

Such a game fulfills the dreams of heroics for little boys and their parents there to witness it. It may be the best day they remember, when they had their place in the sun... and a pocket in their glove!

~Rosalie Griffin
Chicken Soup for the Mother and Son Soul

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