It all happened in an instant. I’m sure that no one saw this moment between my son and I as the crowd full of family and friends cheered from both sides. The sheer joy that my son and I shared in a moment of jubilant celebration upon hearing that his baseball team was headed to extra innings was shared among all that were at the baseball field that night.
It might not sound like much but it was in that moment William ran to me, wrapped his arms around me, and gave me what has been up to this point the biggest bear hug to date. At the time, I didn’t even think too much about it. We had to focus on the game ahead of us. It was the postseason tournament and if we wanted any chance at playing our next game, we had to win.
We were celebrating because of the play William had made. He was playing catcher when a ground ball hit past first based scored the game-tying run from third. Our first baseman made an incredible attempt to dive, grab the ball, and get the third out but the ball slipped right under his glove. By the time our right fielder threw the ball into second base it was a triple. The runner made an attempt to run home but our second baseman threw the ball between third and home. William hesitated, should he stay home or go after the ball, he ended up going for the ball.
The runner seeing William was leaving home plate open made his attempt to go home even more evident. As soon as William picked up the ball, the runner backtracked and then made his way back to third. William threw to third. It was on target and our third baseman tagged the runner for the third out of the inning forcing extra innings.
There was some confusion on the play, could the runner have gone home since it was a passed ball throw home. In our league, a runner has to be hit or walked in to score. The umpires gathered mid-field to discuss. Our team stopped in their tracks. Coaches were waiting outside the dugout waiting for the call. William had his catchers helmet on top of his head as he stood by me waiting… anxiously.
Celebration ensued. It was at that moment that William gave me that hug. All the frustration of the at-bats when William went up not even swinging the bat and all of the missed ground balls and bad throws throughout the season were forgotten about in that moment. It wasn’t just a celebration of this play, William made a play in the game prior to this that lifted our team to come from behind and win.
Right then it was a father and a son celebrating how far they had come this year and each baseball season leading up to that moment.
Sure we were headed to extra innings but it was another shot to win and play for the championship. We ultimately lost the game. But not without putting up a fight over two extra innings in the sort of game that would have been an Instant ESPN Classic airing the day after the game. And the thing of it is, I’ve never seen a team in our opponent win with such grace and dignity and a team lose not hanging their heads and truly wishing the team good luck in the championship game. Maybe it was the adrenaline but there were smiles on everyone’s face following the game.
Walking to the parking lot families from each team wished each other good luck, William wishing players good luck in the championship game and players from the other team wishing us good luck in the fall when we would inevitably meet this team again.
With everything going on in our world, it was the sort of game that both sides needed to just have an escape and forget about everything for once. Two teams, both worthy of winning a game, but playing not for a college scholarship but for the fun of the game. For that one moment when William embraced me with such jubilation and the entirety of the two and half hour game, it was as if there were no outside forces.
It was just fathers and sons playing a game they loved.