There are many reasons why you would want to run as fast as you can away from the monster of travel sports. I know, I’ve made long lists in my head.
Both of my sons now play travel baseball, the regular season morphed into an all-star travel schedule without a breath. Only the uniforms and faces in the dugouts changed. And that’s good or bad, depending on your perspective and the day. Last weekend, we had a tournament that, true to the travel baseball model, was a test of endurance and will as much as it was skill and talent. 2 games Saturday and, because we kept winning, 4 Sunday!!! (Sadly, we lost in the championship game, 6-1.)
Now. We sacrificed our weekend to baseball, and it’s easy to think it’s another justification to flee. But, there was about a half an hour between the semifinal and the championship game that forced me to tear up those lists forever.
The boys sat (some laid flat on their backs), sore, exhausted & sunburned, in a circle under a tree. Though they were physically spent and had been together for 2 straight days, they remained in that circle, talking, laughing, becoming something very different than they were 3 weeks ago. Then, they were the all-stars from the individual Lebanon county midget teams. Here, they were a new creation, a band of brothers who were standing side by side, learning who they were, and who they were going to be. They were a team, in every sense of the word.
The boy who is the obvious leader deserves most of the credit. He is easy, hilarious and immediately inclusive of the others. (It doesn’t hurt that he can throw a ball through a brick wall;) There is no division (he won’t allow it), as is so disappointingly common any time more than 1 of us are in a shared space. There are no cliques, no arrogant dismissiveness.
My oldest son, who is quiet and reserved outside of this house (where he’s a noisy, stubborn riot) has found a safe place where he can offer his wealth of gifts and personality – in that circle, he laughed out loud, teased as he was teased, he just was free to be all of who he is. The joy in their hearts and on of their faces overflowed into each other, and all of us who were given the unbelievable honor of seeing.
There are lots of reasons not to play, commit, not to engage, plenty of reasons to quit and run away from everything. We’re busy, tired, easily offended, selfish consumers. These boys showed up and gave all they had to each other, to something bigger than their own comfortability, their own statistics, their own wants. And in the giving, they received so much more than anyone could have expected, or ever hoped for.
Yes, they lost, and that was too bad – I wish they could have cemented this time with a championship. But the celebration would have been so much more for the friendships, the bond they are forging, as it was for some cheap trophy. And that is the kind of beautiful thing that doesn’t need a trophy to show what we’ve all won.