At 3 PM, on Friday afternoon, Dad and I drove to Hammons Field to cheer on the Missouri State University baseball team in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The weather was perfect — only one small, cotton-ball cloud was spotted in the powder blue sky. We sat in the shade, on the third base side of home plate, and watched as both teams took infield and outfield practice.
The bats cracked, hitting fly balls and grounders all over the field. Thrown balls hissed in the air and pockets popped so loud I thought they were going to explode. The pre-game rhythms, routines, and general chatter from the ballplayers is one of my favorite soundtracks.
After both teams had practiced, the talented field crew, led by Brock Phipps and Derek Edwards, finalized the preparations for the game. I was reminded of my brief stint with the field crew. Placing the bases after the watering of the infield was my favorite responsibility. Even after a week of rain, Hammons Field looked heavenly.
The Bears’ offense exploded. Two home runs and three runs scored in the first. Another three runs scored in the second. In the third, three more home runs, one a grand slam, and eleven players touched home plate. The Bears tallied 17 runs in the first three innings.
I found myself watching the clock on the scoreboard, keeping track of the length of innings, and wondering if the pitch clock was used in collegiate ball. The first four innings took almost two hours to play. I told Dad about Banana Ball (from the Savannah Bananas) and the two-hour time limit enforced in Jesse Cole’s re-imagining of the game. I knew Mom was planning on having dinner on the table at 6, and didn’t want to be late to a homecooked meal of pork tenderloin, corn on the cob, and Caesar salad.
The game was called after 7 innings; the Bears won 19-3. Dad and I were on-time for dinner and had a great day at the ballpark.
On Saturday afternoon, I was thinking about that game while mowing and trimming trees and bushes. And this is the singular thought that kept my synapses spinning:
What if baseball is supposed to be slow?
What if the time in between pitches and in between on-field action and in between innings is actually good for our souls?
Whenever we ask someone how they are doing, one of the most common responses is, “I’m really busy.”
We live in a culture that is addicted to being in a hurry. We equate our hurried and harried busyness with importance and social status.
Relationships do not grow stronger when we are in a hurry.
Joy and wonder are not experienced when we are in a hurry.
And it is impossible to love anyone, least of all ourselves, when we are in a hurry.
Maybe a good, slow baseball game is exactly what we need to restore our humanity. To remind us to breathe, to enjoy this moment and the people who are sharing it with us. To let our minds drift and relax. To let our faces and souls decompress and smile.
As I continued mowing, while being watchful for the snakes that seem to love to surprise me, I made a connection from reflecting on Friday’s game to playing catch.
Playing catch is an exercise in pushing back the busy-ness and hurriedness of life. Playing catch helps strengthen relationships and welcomes joy and wonder. Playing catch is a slow activity, a slow discipline, teaching us to better appreciate the gift of Life.
Playing catch on a consistent basis just might be a subversive way of reminding us how to be human.
Baseball is slow.
I think that’s a good thing.
Good luck to the MSU baseball team in the championship game!