When Baseball Does Not Matter
When Baseball Does Not Matter
I have friends who are wholly unconcerned with all things sportsball. Baseball does not matter to them at all, nor does any other sport. They don’t know about the history in the making in Major League Baseball right now. They don’t care about college baseball, high school ball, or youth travel ball. This post is not for those to whom baseball does not matter at all, ever.
I choose to belong to a community to whom baseball does matter to some level. With boys playing in junior college and in youth travel ball, I keep up with baseball at most levels. For better or for worse, these are my people. To be clear, to me “for better” is when players are learning important life lessons from a game. “For worse” is when a kid’s game earns too much importance in our lives. (Ouch, guilty.)
Despite every player, parent, and coach’s best intentions, baseball sometimes gets the best of us. We make more of it than we should. It matters too much. I am writing the Coach Dave series to try to bring us all back to center and remind us to make the most important things the most important things. But there are times when life cruelly reminds us that, really, baseball does not matter.
This scene from the forthcoming Coach Dave Season Three: Middle School is a reminder that baseball does not matter as much as we parents, players, and coaches allow it to at times. Many times, all it takes for our priorities to snap back into place is one phone call.
Coach Dave’s Phone Call
After a very brief post-game meeting with the players on the field, Coach Kevin Forsythe led the players to where their parents had gathered behind the first base dugout. “Parents, Coach Rivers asked me to say a few words to you about the game tonight. His phone was blowing up near the end of the game, so he wanted to take just a minute to see what that was all about. I guess it’s like Coach’s meeting with the players on the field; there’s not much to say except that we were completely locked in for this game.”
Kevin went on to mention a few specifics about the victory, but my eyes wandered down the right field line on the other side of the fence where our head coach had gone to make his phone call. When I saw him fall to his knees and wrap his loose arm around himself, I alerted Charlie Jones. “Very bad news.” Charlie slipped away from the as yet unaware group of parents, crossing through the gate and making his way toward Coach Rivers.
“What’s going on?” Dean whispered, suddenly appearing to my left.
“Don’t know but looks like bad news.”
Dean moved toward the coach, as well. Charlie had just reached him, and Coach Rivers collapsed in his arms. His wails reached our group and alerted the rest of the parents and the team.
“What happened?” someone asked.
“I’ll go find out,” Rooster said, stepping out toward the field.
“Wait,” I said. “Here comes Dean.”
Dean saw that the team and parents had been taken notice and picked up his pace. Reaching us, he took a deep breath and announced, “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Coach Dave’s father had a massive heart attack earlier this evening and passed away.”
The collective gasp from the parents gathered behind the dugout spoke volumes about the impact that Dave Rivers had made on the Southburg community in less than a year since he had moved to our town. Dean allowed the news to sink in for just a moment before continuing. “We don’t know much else at this point. I know many of you would like to express your condolences to him, but I think he needs some time right now. Charlie is praying with him now and asked that if you are praying people that you would gather around to pray for Coach’s family, who will all be gathering in Missouri in the next few days for the funeral.”
The crowd circled immediately and began to pray for our coach and his family. Both players and parents cried and held one another as if a member of their own family had died.
Meanwhile, Fletcher Brandt quietly slipped away from the circle.
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.