There’s something about a good baseball story that gets me every time. I don’t pretend to follow the sport closely or know much about the players–in this season of my life, I know more about Larry the Cucumber’s moral epiphanies and Curious George’s adventures than the teams heading to the World Series–but I can’t look away when a highlight reel is playing.
Maybe it’s memories of dates with my husband, sitting in the outfield on summer nights when the heat of the day has subsided, clapping to silly cheers, and biting into a stadium hot dog and soft pretzel–both with huge globs of yellow mustard–that help turn my heart toward the sport. Maybe it’s the influence of my father and remembering the stories that he shared, stories of Joe DiMaggio and baseball players who turned in their gloves for guns during World War II, stories of his own time as a player under a coach who took a group of last place boys and trained them into championship men, stories of his time as a pitcher and his one-hitter that still ended in a loss. Or maybe it’s the soft spot in my heart for the little guy and loving the stories of the unlikely hero who took a team who was losing by one to winning by three in one play.
To this day I can still picture Sid Bream rounding the bases, the Atlanta Brave not known for speed, running the fastest he had probably ever run, huffing around each base, and finally sliding into home ahead of the tag in a ninth inning, two-out situation as Skip Caray yelled, “Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!” It was 1992 when this play happened, yet any Atlanta Braves fan can recall this moment that sent the Braves to the World Series and chills down our spines.
Baseball has a rich history, and these stories and memories have made a lasting impression on this little suburban mom. Last week, baseball gave me another story to file away among the great ones.
The story of Josh Hamilton is inspirational in and of itself–a superstar rookie with all the promise of a baseball great throws away his career for his drug and alcohol addiction. Yet years later this man grabs his wasted life by the collar and starts again sober, finding faith in God and meaning in his life, and the baseball talent he had almost lost for good. Yet the story goes on….
This man goes on to receive the award for MVP from the Texas Rangers as they clinched the American League championship last week. But what makes this story great is not what happened on the field but off. As the game ended and the teammates gathered to celebrate, they put aside their champagne bottles and beer cans and whipped out ginger ale out of respect for their teammate, Hamilton. Previously, Hamilton had excused himself during times of celebration so as not to be tempted by the substance that he had allowed to almost destroy his life, but this time, his teammates took away that temptation for the moment, putting aside their wants for the need of Hamilton.
Under a fountain of ginger ale, this team celebrated together, not one player left out, as they rejoiced over their achievement. In this world where our sports idols and movie stars frequently disappoint by their inability to say ‘no’ to the pleasures of the moment, in a society where ‘gimme’ is a favorite word and people are adamant about exercising their rights even if they are wrong, it’s refreshing to see a team who was able to say, ‘wait.’ It’s refreshing to see a team put into action what being part of team really means, waiting ten minutes to whip out the traditional champagne so that their teammate could enjoy his own kind of bubbly.
The kind of compassion the Texas Rangers demonstrated adds one more reason why baseball has my heart. So I’ll lift my glass of ginger ale and toast the Rangers with best wishes for an incredible World Series, and I’ll look forward to the memories they will give us to tuck away with those other baseball greats.