Sunday was NVTBL's Opening Day. It was bright and sunny, but cold. Interestingly enough, this baseball mom has a part time gig as a basketball mom. So I spent most of Sunday inside a warm gym watching my middle son play in an AAU tournament. On the way to the gym, I passed at least three or four youth ballparks - their parking lots full of SUVs and mini vans, their bleachers full of parents wrapped up against the wind and their fields full players basking in the immense possibilities that come with the first game of the season.
This had me thinking about an Opening Day a few years ago. It was cool and bright like this one and as full of hope and promise, but the hearts of my family and many in my neighborhood were dark and heavy. I wrote this piece the next day.
Originally published April 2015
It was Little League Opening Day on Saturday. It is one of my favorite days of the year. The sun shone bright and we almost forgot about the bitter winter we had endured. My older boys have aged out of Little League, but the little man gets to start his first year in the Majors this season. He, as my husband likes to say, was "shot out of a cannon" as soon as he woke up. I was to miss the opening ceremonies because I had to take my middle son to a basketball game, but I raced back to the park as quickly as I could to make it for the youngest's first Little League game of the season.
I pulled into the full parking lot as if a child looking for Santa. The ceremony was over but the park which had been empty and snow covered only weeks before was bustling with activity. Lines of children snaked between moon bounces and food trucks. Music blared and flags flew high over the fields.
This was a day my community needed. After such a brutal winter, we deserved the bright morning and the changing of the season laid out before us. Opening Day is the hope of pristine white pants (a hope that is dashed as soon as those cleats hit the grass). It is the possibility of a winning season. It is the promise of not one, not two, but at least three chances to swing for the fences. I was so ready for this day. I barely had my car in park before I was ready to rip off the seat belt and run up to find a flame-haired, freckle-faced boy with black lines smeared under his eyes. A boy who would adjust his catcher's mask with the utmost confidence that though he is small, he is fierce. Opening Day is full of promise.
But I didn't hop out of the car right away. I looked out at all those little children running through the grass and I had to take a minute to take a deep breath and to tell myself to focus on all the wonderful things that are wrapped up in the gift of Opening Day.
The sun and the spring bring us hope. They bring us sweetness and light. But I know, and so many of my neighbors know, that even when flowers bud and birds sing, our world can still be full of bleak darkness. Of sickness and fear and doubt. Our little neighborhood received alarming news last week that one of our own is sick. This is not a little boy I met due to the fact that I volunteer with a childhood cancer charity. This is a little boy who rides bikes down my alley and plays kickball in the street. He is the son of one of my friends who I've known for years . . . a friend with whom I've sipped wine and discussed books. . . one with whom I've shared block party potluck dishes and with whom I've worshipped. She woke to the same bright sun that morning, but also to the harsh reality of a long journey ahead that she most certainly doesn't want to take with her boy. So, I stayed in the car for a bit. And I watched them.
Little boys everywhere. Little boys running and jumping and sometimes tripping over each other. Little boys wearing the smallest pants their mamas could find that still had to be cinched in at the waist and rolled up at the ankles. And there were spunky little girls, too. Little girls with ponytails pulled carefully through their new caps. Children basking in the newness of spring. Of hope. Of light. Of all the things children are supposed to be and do and have in a new season of their lives.
I stayed in the car and held tears down and I asked God to bring us a child-like faith and a child-like hope. I prayed for a belief that even if you are the smallest, you can catch a fastball thrown or hit by the biggest. That even if you are the weakest, you can connect with the red stitching on that baseball hurtling toward you at lightening speed and send it through the gap. That even when the opponent is formidable, if you rely on your team and your heart and your God, you can fight with courage you might never have known you had.
I asked Him to come to us on that gloriously beautiful day when our souls were feeling scared and dark to remind my friends and neighbors and me of the fact that faith is bigger than fear. That hope is bigger than doubt. And that in our weakness His power is made strong.
My little flame-haired, freckle-faced boy and I are praying mightily every night for our neighbor, Matt. Might you join us?
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9
A 2018 update: Three years after this was written, I am happy to report that Matt's most recent scans declare that he is cancer-free!
Jennifer P. Skinner