My friend Chris and I celebrated today’s fifty-degree calm before the April snowstorm on the softball field.
Chris is passionate about softball. He’s a switch-hitting southpaw who has played every year since 1992.
“Except for 2015, that year broke the streak.”
I’ve known Chris since college. He’s got a story for every situation and a smile to back it up. His oldest daughter is also a junior in high school, so we were able to commiserate about the rapidly approaching college days for our daughters.
Ah, the circle of life. Both amazing and humbling.
We went to Meador Park today to play catch and chase fly balls and practice grounders. What I didn’t know about Chris is that he’s also a softball umpire.
I have umped exactly one game in my life. It was in Texas while I was in seminary at Baylor. I went to watch one of my students play and an ump got sick on another field. I was volunteered to fill in as the field ump for a group of 10 – 11 year olds. I almost made it the entire game without making a call. In the top of the last inning, with the home team winning by one run, a grounder was hit to shortstop. The kid who hit the ball flew down the line and made it a bang-bang play. In my mind, I knew that an ump is just supposed to make the call, any call, quickly and with conviction.
I forgot I was that ump.
I took a breath and then remembered and quietly called the kid out. Which, in truth, he was.
And then the stands exploded and I wished I could have crawled into a hole.
I have never had any desire to ump after that experience.
As we tossed the ball and fielded grounders and chased fly balls, Chris told me several of his stories of umping church and rec league softball. Like the time he was assaulted by a third baseman. Or the quick calls he’s had to make. Or what happens on an overthrow that rolls into the dugout. Or what’s a strike and what’s not.
Through it all, Chris continues to smile.
“It’s just fun being on the field, you know?”
I think a lot of adults could learn a few lessons from Chris, about the power of a smile and the choice to find the fun no matter where you are.
Side Note: Only three days until Field of Dreams on the big screen to benefit Miracle League!