Writing with My Students: A Secret Door Story
Writing with My Students: A Secret Door Story
I wrote last week about a writing assignment that my students are doing. While I am teaching them, I am also honing my craft as a writer by participating in the assignment with them (right down to offering my paper to tenth graders to edit).
This writing assignment was a 600-800 word narrative involving some sort of secret door. I went with a baseball-themed story. Not surprising, I suppose, since I continue to write the second in the Coach Dave series on weekends and other breaks from school. I hope you enjoy “Billy Van Buren and the Third Base Dugout.”
Billy Van Buren and the Third Base Dugout
Twelve-year-old Billy Van Buren trudged off the Bartleston Baseball Complex’s Field 7 with his head held low. He had suffered through the worst game of his life, making two errors in the field and striking out in his first two at bats. Just when he thought it couldn’t get worse, he hit into a double play. After that his coach brought him in to pitch with his team ahead by one run. That didn’t last long as Billy hit two batters and then walked the next three hitters in a row to force home the tying and winning run for his team’s rival, the Redhawks. In his hurry to get to his dad’s truck and leave this game in the rearview mirror, though, he neglected to pick up his glove from where he had slung it in the corner of the dugout.
“Dad, I forgot my glove.”
“Well, go back and get it. I’ll wait.”
Billy hesitated but realized that he and his dad were the last ones to leave the third base dugout area, and he wouldn’t have to face anyone walking toward him. He was grateful to have a few more moments to decompress before the inevitable questions from his dad began. He would ask why Billy had swung at that ball in the dirt. He would want to know how Billy could let the next pitch go right down the middle without a swing. He would wonder what Billy was thinking throwing the ball to first base when he had an easy out at second. And I won’t have any answers, thought Billy Van Buren, as he turned into the dugout.
“Hey, kid!” The gruff voice from the other end of the dugout startled Billy. “Van Buren, grab your glove and go to short.”
Billy hustled toward his glove then thought, wait, what’s going on? He looked up to see a full-fledged game on the diamond in front of him. All the players were full-grown men, and the scene in front of him was in black and white and varying shades of gray. A graying tall, slender man in a business suit stared at me, spinning his index finger in a tight circle as if hurrying me to do something.
“Me?” Billy asked, pointing my own right index finger at my chest.
“Yes, you. Get in the game.”
“Mister, you have no idea what you are asking me to do. I can’t hit my way out of a wet paper bag, and I can’t catch a cold. I can’t pitch the ball inside the area code. I, I…”
“Son, I didn’t tell you to be an all-star. I told you to get in the game. I’ve won my share of ball games over a whole lotta years, but I’ve also lost more than I’ve won. Baseball is like life, kid. Sometimes it’s important that you simply show up and give your best. Here, stick this little card in your pocket to read later. Right now, though, I need you to get your glove and get out there to shortstop. The game’s waitin’ on you, Billy Van Buren. Get in the game!”
Billy grabbed his glove from the corner of the dugout and hustled past the old coach. Before he took the field, he turned back to the old codger. “Thanks, Coach,” he said before sprinting from the dugout entrance toward his position.
“What’s been keeping you, son—can’t you find your glove?” my dad asked.
“N-N-No, Dad, I found it.” As they walked to the truck together, Billy looked back no fewer than five times at an empty Field 7.
“Son, are you okay? We need to hurry before they turn off the lights.”
Suddenly remembering something, Billy reached into the right rear pants pocket of his uniform.
“What’s that?” Mr. Van Buren asked. Billy handed the business card-sized scrap of paper to him. His dad read,
- I will always play the game to the best of my ability.
- I will always play to win, but if I lose, I will not look for an excuse to detract from my opponent’s victory.
- I will never take an unfair advantage in order to win.
- I will always abide by the rules of the game—on the diamond as well as in my daily life.
- I will always conduct myself as a true sportsman—on and off the playing field.
- I will always strive for the good of the entire team rather than for my own glory.
- I will never gloat in victory or pity myself in defeat.
“Whoa, I didn’t realize you were such of student of the game. Those are some good reminders.”
“What do you mean?”
“C. Mack? Don’t you know who that is? These are the philosophies of Connie Mack, the winningest manager in the history of Major League Baseball.”
“And the losingest,” I smiled.
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.