Another Baseball Season in the Books
We knew it was coming. We prepared for it last week. A furious comeback delayed it for six days. Last night, though, was the last night of baseball season for Lewisburg High School. The Patriots dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision to the two-time defending state champions New Hope to fall in the third round of the Mississippi 5A playoffs.
Last night also brought an end to a three-season run in the broadcast booth for my partner Michael Plumlee, the Camera Kid (know on the Values Storying blog as the Little Fella), and me. What a thrill it has been to provide color commentary from baseball fields all over the state and beyond through our internet broadcast on NFHS Network. I remember “broadcasting” my imaginary games as I played them as a kid, so this has been somewhat of a dream come true for me.
Each baseball season has brought unexpected twists and turns as new contributors emerged, players stepped up for injured teammates, and off-the-field storylines affected on-the-field play. Michael and I did our homework for every game, but new plot lines often arose to add drama to the broadcast.
Here are just a few of our memorable moments from the three seasons:
- Houston (MS) High School’s light-hitting shortstop came to the plate in a bases loaded, two-out situation in game one of a 2013 playoff series. And by light-hitting, I mean .091. Dude was playing Bingo (O-91). A three-run double later, and a star was born. The Patriots overcame the Houston shortstop’s unexpected heroics, however, to survive and advance and eventually claim that season’s 4A state title. The 2013 baseball season was one of redemption after falling a run short of a title in 2012 and of jubilation that only one team in each classification gets to experience.
- Rain had affected play throughout the 2014 spring break tournament. The broadcast booth at Oak Grove High School was nice and dry for the beginning of the Columbia-Lewisburg matchup that was halted a few innings in because of more showers. After the Oak Grove team tarped the field, all three teams combined for some of the most creative rain delay theater antics I have witnessed. The 2014 baseball season was an up-and-down year marked by high expectations and the final disappointment of an opening-round playoff loss. On that night in the rain, though, the game was fun again.
- Down 5-0 early in a pivotal Game 3 of last week’s round two series, the 2015 Patriots had the look of a team that had mailed it in for the year. A two-out double plated a pair and flipped the switch for a faltering offense. A two-out, two-strike hit in the bottom of the seventh set the stage for a remarkable, come-from-behind walk-off win in extra innings. It was the most fun call that Michael and I had in three years on the broadcast.
Lessons Learned Through a Game
I’ve spent baseball season writing a book about baseball and life lessons learned through it. Meanwhile, I’ve had the call for real-life baseball lessons, both on the field and at home.
Older Brother rolled in about 1:30 this morning and needed to sleep quickly before this morning’s first block class that he could not miss. Rarely missing an opportunity to teach life lessons through a game, I told him that one day he might very well be a dad who was up with his crying baby for much of the night, only to have an early call for work the next day. I suggested that he would be prepared to come through in that situation because he had already learned that lesson…through a game.
There are plenty of kids around the world who learn life lessons like responsibility and hard work and sacrifice the hard way. I have seen kids, for example, scrounging through the dumps in third-world countries to do their part in providing something for theirs families’ meager existence. They would certainly love to learn life lessons in an easier way through, say, putting down a sacrifice bunt for a teammate…in a game. Learning life lessons through the game of baseball is certainly an undeserved privilege.
A Baseball Season of Unique Perspective
Finally, getting back to the baseball season just completed, our crew has seen a rare perspective from the boys in navy and red. Many high school baseball players train hard, practice hard, and play hard to win as many games as they can through their high school years…only to discover that the most valuable part of their experience was the relationships they developed. They realize that their opponents weren’t the enemy but guys very much like them with the same goals and dreams.
Since re-entering the world of high school baseball after about a 10-year hiatus, I have been amazed at the number of relationships from my days as a high school coach that have been re-kindled. Add to those some remarkably like-minded baseball fans that our broadcasting team has met over the last few years. These fans of other teams are now friends.
That’s the most rewarding part of this year’s Lewisburg baseball season. The seniors weren’t highly regarded as a group. The expectations weren’t extremely high. But they didn’t have to wait five, ten, twenty years to understand that their relationships were their most valuable asset. They got that from the beginning. And because of that, they played some pretty good baseball.
For the play-by-play voice of the Patriots, Michael Plumlee, and the Camera Kid, this is color commentator Al Ainsworth putting a wrap on the 2015 baseball season for Lewisburg High School. Seniors, thanks for the memories. You’ve earned your spot in the fraternity of those who have played the game with passion. Represent it well on behalf of the next generation of players…
Check out my previously published books:
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.