It felt somewhat like an episode of The Amazing Race.
Jamie and I drove through hotter-than-hot-and-humid Iowa (heat index north of 100), trying to find our way from the Iowa side of the Missouri River to the Nebraska side. Numerous highway construction detours and closures thoroughly confused the GPS, which at finally defaulted to an all-blue screen and never-ending dings of “Recalculating.”
At one point, we turned around in a gas station, planning to find the exit we missed only to have the GPS turn us back around and lead us to the exact intersection where the gas station sat. If that sounds confusing to read, it was even more confusing to drive.
Once Jamie and I successfully crossed the river and secured parking, which was another adventure in and of itself, we headed toward Ballpark Village at the College World Series. Oddly enough, we weren’t there to cheer on any baseball teams or see any on-field action. I saw a grand total of three pitches courtesy of TVs hanging throughout the venue. We were there to see Nate and Baseball Seams Company and hear the latest updates on Kevin’s catch-playing adventure before attempting the catch-playing world record with the Play Catch Movement.
Three things about Nate and Baseball Seams Company.
- The new pens made from baseball bats are SO smooth and absolutely gorgeous to hold. I will be ordering one with which I’ll sign my next book contract (eventually).
- Nate’s story of baseball and art is also a story of faith, dreams, taking risks, and fatherhood. It is a story of hope, play, and inspiration overcoming tragedy.
- The America at the Seams map is one of my favorite pieces of baseball art, period. I’m looking forward to the day when it will spend significant time in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
After signing the Omaha banner in the BSC tent and gawking at his latest baseball seams art creations, Jamie and I were treated to excellent BBQ pulled pork sandwiches while Kevin shared his latest stories of playing catch to raise money for Miracle League. On Thursday at the Ballpark Village, in front of the main stage, Kevin will be playing catch for hours while sharing his audacious mission with baseball lovers.
Three things about Kevin’s catch-playing adventure.
- Before Kevin reaches the halfway point of his catch-playing year, he will reach his goal of raising $100,000 for Miracle League. That is a transformational amount of money. I am absolutely amazed.
- Kevin’s adventure inspired Dustin of Ability Tech to create the WHAC, a mechanical ball-throwing device, enabling his son Kayden to participate in the Catch 365 endeavor. Dustin’s invention recently placed first at a competition in Iowa.
- My count is far from official, but my estimate is that Kevin has already played catch with a couple thousand people. I’m equal parts awed and jealous.
Jamie and I departed the village to meander our way back across the Missouri River toward the Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park in Council Bluffs so we could participate in the world record catch-playing effort. We walked up to the registration table, officially numbers 81 and 82, and Matt greeted us.
I have exchanged several emails with Matt (from Georgia), all of which have been fun and encouraging. But meeting in person carries a different weight and joy. Before the day was over, he and I played catch. It was awesome.
I also met Rhett in person for the first time. Rhett is the heart behind the Play Catch Movement.
We’ve texted and emailed and visited on the phone, dreaming about a true movement, from coast to coast and around the world, where playing catch brings people together in a meaningful and memorable way.
Throughout the early evening, I connected with people from across the country. I was able to reconnect with Eric and Brett Potter of Louisiana, catch partners from last year’s National Play Catch Week trip, playing catch with both and hearing the latest in their trips and adventures. I visited with new friends from Florida and Chicago and all parts of Iowa.
Three things about the Play Catch Movement and the world record attempt.
- The official record wasn’t set. Who cares. Seeing hundreds of people playing catch at the same time is living art.
- Watching a mom holding a baby in a front carrier play catch with her 4-year-old son embodied everything good about life.
- In a culture of radical distrust of strangers and fear of the other, playing catch brings people together.
National Play Catch Week kicks off on Father’s Day. It was fitting for ESPN to air Dan Bryan’s story on that day, how playing catch is not only helping in his continued healing, but also the healing of a community along with strangers and new friends. The story he’s living should inspire all of us to make the most of our days.
Like Father’s Day last year, I was apart from my daughters, but they were never far from my mind.
My daughters are the reason playing catch is now such an important and integral part of my life. They were my first catch partners of 2018, the ones who gently encouraged and challenged me to see “what would happen if I played catch every day for an entire year.” Like every game of catch, they are gifts of joy. They remind me to pay attention to what really matters, the stories and beauty of the amazing people all over this planet.
As Jamie and I were leaving the park, I had one copy of A Year of Playing Catch left to give away. I spotted a mother and her sons and made a horribly awkward introduction, before signing the copy to give to them. When I got home, I had a message from Malinda, the mother.
“I don’t know what you believe, but I believe God is always working. Meeting you and learning Dan’s story, for me, was a wink from God. Twelve years ago tomorrow, we lost our 2-year-old son in an accident. Today, he would be in 8th grade and able to join his two older brothers playing baseball for their high school. This has been a tough season for me, imagining what it would be like for three of my boys to be Lynx, on the same field together, playing the game our family loves. We have 7 children, 6 at home and 1 in Heaven. This is the first year all 6 are playing ball. From Coach Pitch to Varsity. Thank you for taking the time to meet my boys yesterday and gifting them with your book. I can’t wait to read it!”
As long as my arm and body will allow me, and as long as GPS helps me find my destinations, I am going to keep playing catch. Unlike the contestants on The Amazing Race, I will do my best not to rush through it, but savor every experience.
Wanna play catch?