Five years ago, my family was eating lunch at Qdoba with my parents after church when I met Joel. He was with his parents and siblings and grandparents. Since that meeting, we’ve played catch on multiple occasions and the connections between his family and mine have only increased.
Joel’s mom is the senior class president for my graduating class. Driving over to play catch with him this afternoon, I realized that this year will be the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation. I asked her about planning a reunion and she just smiled. Her youngest child is 22-months old. I don’t blame her.
Joel’s aunt is one of my sister’s lifelong friends and his grandfather was the debate teacher for my daughter and my dad was their veterinarian and there are probably more connections but you get the idea.
When I first met Joel, he looked just like I did at his age — skinny, short, and bald with a big smile. Joel also has alopecia.
Joel recently turned 13 and has spent the majority of his energy the last year growing. In the last twelve months he’s grown about a foot and now stands almost as tall as his mom, something I couldn’t boast of until my sophomore year in high school.
His cousins are in town for Easter weekend; I brought my bag of gloves and helped everyone find a good fit for the last minute game of catch. Delaina used my first glove and worked on grounders. Scott used my gap glove. Jonathan tore a ligament in his thumb as a catcher; he used the glove for lefties, catching and throwing with the same hand. It’s a difficult skill, but he adapted well. Joel used my George Brett glove. I worked on breaking in the new Wilson that still needs a name.
My first two years at then-SMSU, I lived in New Hall. It bothered me that my residence hall didn’t have a “real” name.
Though the skies were quite dark and the air was thick, the rain held off during our catch playing. Joel’s getting ready for baseball season and told me a fantastic story from last summer.
While playing second, he attempted to field a routine ground ball. At the last second, the ball took a small, unexpected hop and rolled right up his arm and into the sleeve of his jersey.
“It would’ve been such an easy out at first, and then that happened,” Joel said with a smile.
Life is all about adapting to unexpected hops of all sizes.
Sometimes you lose your hair as a kid and have to learn to live with the awkward stares and uncomfortable questions.
Sometimes you break a lace and the glove manufacturer sends you a new glove.
The only thing you can control is your reaction. Just keep playing; don’t give up.
Before I left I gave Joel two pieces of advice.
- Always use sunscreen.
- Always wear a hat.
I’m hoping to go to one of his games this summer and cheer him on.
Three months complete!
Side note: Umpire Perry Barber gave an official ruling on this morning’s post.
“Do as we umpires do, Ethan: make up the rules as you go along! That way, any interpretation will be the right one.”