Monday, April 30, 2012

First pitch

Sitting in the deserted bleachers yesterday during practice, I watched Branson walk, head down, into the dugout. A couple of moments later he exited with his batting helmet and gloves, bat in hand, headed slowly to home plate.
"He still doesn't look good," I thought.

After missing nearly half a week of school last week, I thought by now his headache and would be gone. But evidently our over-the-counter meds weren't clearing this up. A couple of nights ago during a game, a few of us moms in the stands diagnosed Branson (in our professional medical opinions) with a sinus infection. But not yet having retrieved a Z-pack, it was evident all throughout practice yesterday that Bran's energy was zapped.

Regardless, he practiced just fine, calling out a few encouraging words to his teammates every now and then. With twelve games down and only four to go, yesterday's was my first practice to attend. Any chance he got between drills, Bran sat down in the outfield and waited his turn.
As I watched him approach the plate for batting practice, his coach called out, "Billy, go pitch."

My head jerked up. Billy? Billy had never thrown a pitch as far as I knew. I could tell Bran was as surprised as me.

Both coaches stood together way in the outfield while Billy approached the mound. He pushed his glasses up on his nose, glanced side to side, and looked at Branson.

"Hey Billy, why don't you just throw a few pitches first, get warmed up?"
My heart settled a little in my chest. Bran knew what to do. Knew how to make him a little more comfortable.
"Here you go, right over home plate, Billy."
Billy turned sideways, reared back his arm and threw a wild one - higher than my son's head and no where near the plate.
I flinched.

Undaunted, Branson set aside his bat, crouched down in catcher's position behind home plate, and held out his batting-glove-laden hands as a target.
"Here, right in my hands. You got it, Billy."
And he did. Pitched for several minutes to Branson under the watchful eyes of their patient teammates sprinkled across field.
Bran picked up his bat, assumed a hitting position, and Billy threw out his first pitch. Bran connected and the ball sailed.
On it went for half a bucket of balls, Billy throwing a ball towards home plate, pushing his glasses on his nose between each pitch, and each time Bran calling out words of encouragement, "Great job, Billy! You got it. That was a good one. A little harder, now."

I sat perched in the stands, chin in hands, with a tears puddled behind my sunglasses. Watching my son handle this potentially embarrassing situation with kindness and dignity was not only worth the hour and half watching practice, but touched me more than line drives and fielding finesse ever could.

Father, thank you for glimpses of your love in our children. These precious encounters get us through the difficult ones. Thank you for reminders that you are putting your thoughts and actions into their minds and hearts, and for the encouragement it gives us as parents to see an overflow of your grace in them. We trust you with all these precious kiddos, Lord.  They were truly yours before they were ours, and will be yours after they are ours!