It was a little after 5:00 as I left work on Thursday. My destination was Andrew’s baseball game. The game was slated for 5:45, but I knew I’d be late. There was 40+ miles of Atlanta rush hour traffic between me and the ball field. The highways had been stress free of late. I tried to leave as early as I could, but still knew I’d be late.
I called my wife from the road to update her on my ETA. She and Christopher were in the bleachers. The game had started.
“I’m just passing Gwinnett Arena,” I said. Another 20 minutes or so till I get there.
“I probably won’t be here when you arrive. I have to take Christopher to his practice.”
I arrived about when I expected and took the first available space I saw. As I walked to the field, I saw my wife’s car leaving. I ran over and said hi quickly, then headed to Andrew’s game. His team was the guest so I sat in the third base bleachers. The sun was setting directly over the first base line. Parents held their hands over their eyes to block the glare. How can the kids batting right-handed even see?
Andrew came up second in the inning and I did what I had done so many times before: glance towards Heaven and tried to imperceptibly cross myself. Andrew started playing baseball only last spring. I hoped back then he’d get some hits. I don’t remember when I started offering my silent prayers. However, cursed with an un-athletic father, Andrew isn’t gifted with the bat. Any help…I’ll take it. Andrew does have a good eye and waits for good pitches. Last spring, he managed to get on base every game either via walk or hit-by-pitch.
Andrew stepped into the batter’s box and I wondered how much the low sun would affect him. He let the first one go by.
“Ball!” the umpire said.
“Good eye, Andrew!” I yelled. Andrew stepped out of the batter’s box, looked at the coach, and then stepped back in. The next pitch came in slightly above the letters. Andrew swung, but couldn’t catch up to it.
The cheers from the other side were loud and clear, matching the encouragement we gave one our side. “Good swing, Andrew!” I yelled.
Andrew let the next two go by. The umpire called “Ball!” on both. “Wait for your pitch,” I called out.
The next pitch came in letter-high. Andrew swung and connected. I’d seen him foul balls off. He’d done so in the previous game. However, as I watched this one make a rainbow arc over the third baseman, I realized he’d hit it fair. As it sailed towards the left fielder, I uttered a second plea to Heaven. Please don’t let him catch it. The ball dropped in front of the left fielder and then bounced passed him. Andrew was running as fast as he could. He’s not fast, but he was listening to his coaches and wasn’t about to stop. The right fielder picked up a ball and hurled it to the second basemen. However, Andrew touched second base at that time and headed towards third. The second basemen threw it to third. A chorus of “Slide” came from the bench, but it wasn’t necessary. Andrew beat the throw, making it to third standing up. His whole bench was cheering. Andrew’s smile could have lit the park.
I pulled out my cell phone to call my wife. I was sorry she had missed Andrew’s first hit. I called her several times, but had to leave a message. The next batter hit a single that brought Andrew home. I smiled as he passed by in front of me and said to him, “Way to go!’ Andrew entered the dugout. His teammates slapped his helmet in congratulations.
I glanced to Heaven once more: Thank you!