Thursday night officially goes down as a rainout — a rather unceremonious ending to a quite glorious season for the Shreveport Dixie Youth T-Ball Braves.
The team finished the regular season with a record of 10-3. I’m not sure a single player on the team could tell you that. They knew we were keeping score, but they didn’t seem to care. At the end of most games, the boys asked these two questions, in this order:
- “Are we getting snacks?”
- “Did we win?”
This was Hadley’s first season of playing organized baseball. Any organized sport, for that matter. He and I had thrown a ball around, and he had hit some plastic balls with a plastic bat. But this was the real deal.
At that first practice, he saw two classmates from school and 10 strangers on the field. But one of Hadley’s gifts is that no one stays a stranger for long.
Early on, Hadley showed a real nose for the ball. He settled in nicely at first base. He snagged almost every grounder that came his way, and he recorded several outs along the way. He also chatted with a lot of opposing base runners. Like I said, never a stranger for long.
Hadley learned a lot at the plate, too. I remember his first home run, and the big fist pump after he crossed home plate. He finished the season with five home runs, including a grand slam. The most important stat of the year: Hadley finished the season with 12 teammates and friends.
But what I am most proud of is what Hadley learned beyond the outs and the runs — the lessons that will help him in every area of his life.
I told Hadley when the season started that baseball has 3 unwritten rules I wanted him to follow:
- Keep your eye on the ball
- Give it your best all the time
- Have fun
Hadley played by those rules the entire season. But he reminded me about one of the most important rules. He told me that, win or lose, his favorite part of the game is lining up and shaking hands with the opposition. He likes that because he likes “having good friendship.”
I thank Coach Ross for putting Hadley on the team, and for giving his time to coach the boys. I also thank Coach Brandon, Coach Chris and Coach Dean for investing themselves into the boys this season.
I have always loved baseball. Like any relationship, I’ve had my ups and downs with the sport. The Dodgers have had more lean years than I care to count. Home run kings and pitching aces have been tainted by drug scandals. Strikes and All-Star Game ties have left me scratching my head. But my love for the game has been rekindled thanks to moments with Hadley on and off the field this year.
I took him to see “42” during the season. Hadley knew the way some people treated Jackie Robinson was wrong. But Jackie is now one of Hadley’s favorite players. Hadley is thinking about switching his jersey number from 18 to 42 next year.
Last weekend, Hadley crawled up in the big comfy chair with me, and we watched the Red Sox and the Yankees from “Play Ball!” all the way to the final out. He asked me about strategy. He argued balls and strikes. He cheered every Boston run. Me, I cherished every second.
Hadley’s season might be over, but I want the relationship to continue. I want him to experience the intimacy of a minor-league ballpark and the grandeur of The Show.
Thank you, Hadley, for giving it your all this season. And thank you, baseball, for reminding me why I fell in love with you in the first place.