Baseball is a family passion (sometimes too much so!). I grew up on it and it even helped pay for some of my college. Our three boys have caught the bug and are in full uniform most weekends before 7 am. To this point baseball has been a great way to spend enjoyable time with my kids doing something we all enjoy. But last night baseball taught my 7-year old a tough lesson…his daddy is not perfect.
Being the pitcher for a coach pitch little league team is one of the most enjoyable and stressful things I’ve done as a father. I love being apart of playing the game with my son and his teammates. Getting to see the spark in their eyes as they dig in at the plate, to share in their success as they get a good hit, and to share in their failure when things don’t turn out as they hoped. The rules of coach pitch are fairly simple, each kid gets three swinging strikes or 6 total pitches. It helps teach the kids to swing the bat and keeps the game moving, but the 6th pitch is a tense moment, not so much for the kids but for the pitcher.
We have several kids who regularly take an at bat to the 6th pitch, but my son is not one of them. He comes up hacking most of the time and I’m can’t recall a time before last night when he saw a 6th pitch. Last night, however, he fouled off 4 balls and watched a pitch to bring us to the moment of truth. I looked him in the eye and reminded him he had to swing at this pitch. He was ready. He was determined to hit the ball because he had never struck out before. He was doing everything right, but I threw a pitch so high and inside that if he hadn’t jumped out of the way it would have hit him in the head.
I can live with throwing a bad pitch, I do it all the time, but the look in my son’s eyes was a tough pill to swallow. His daddy had let him down in very public way and did I mention it was the first game of the playoffs. All I could do was watch him walk very slowly back to the dugout because I had to pitch to the next batter. I talked to him briefly as he ran out the field when our at bat was over, and told him how sorry I was.
But I also began to pray asking God to give me the words to say to take this moment and use it for his purposes. As we walked to the car together after a tough night, we lost the game and he had struck out, I had no idea what I was going to say to him. I had told him I was sorry at least a dozen times, but I had nothing else to say except I will try to do better next time. It was in the car as he tried to take the blame because he didn’t swing at the pitch (he is very tough on himself expecting perfection in everything he does) that I was able to explain it was not his fault, I had made the mistake. Then it hit me, he now knows his daddy is not perfect.
Somewhere inside he knew that before last night, but me almost hitting him with the 6th pitch made it very real. It hit him where it hurt. But as much as I would like to have that pitch back, I would not trade the next few minutes with my son for anything because for the next 10 minutes until we got home, we had a great conversation about the only perfect Father and the only perfect Son. I was able to tell him this would not be only time I would fail him and explain to him there is one Father he can always count on. I was also able take his perfectionist heart and remind him there is only perfect Son. We even spent a few moments in the car praying together after we pulled into the driveway.
As we went to bed, I reminded him that no matter what he did, I would always be his daddy. My love, as imperfect as it is, would never go away. And I asked him, as I have often done before, if he could love me even though I was not perfect. And for once it was not a hypothetical question. My son gave me a kiss and said, “Daddy, I will always love you.”
Thank you baseball for a great night and no matter what Tom Hanks says, there is crying in baseball.