My son's baseball team is playing for our park's little league championship tomorrow night. They played last night to determine whether we would stay in the winner's bracket or move to the loser's bracket and have to win our way back up. I love the boys on our team. They have souls of champions. They are a group of 8- and 9-year-old boys who get along with each other, respect their coaches, hit hard, run fast, and field the ball as if their life depends on it. Oh yeah, and they've been down one player the entire season. Every other team in our league has 11 players. We lost one of ours to a broken jaw before the season even started.
Last night's game started out fairly evenly, two runs scored by each team in the 1st inning. Second inning: the other team scored five, we put only two more on the board. Play by play, swing by swing, we hung in there. In the fourth inning, we kinda' fell apart. Our first baseman - who happens to be my son - missed a couple of key throws that moved the other team's runners around the bases and gave them the maximum five runs for the inning. He was also up to bat in this same inning and hit a short pop fly that made an easy out for the other team. My big #15 came in the dugout - where I hang out and help with catcher's gear, caps, and misplaced gloves - bordering on tears in his eyes, clearly annoyed. "Hoody, come here a minute," I called to him. "What's up?" I asked, as if I didn't already know. His frustration was evident, his disappointment blatant. "Mom, they were perfect throws and I missed them! It's my fault!"
He was ready to call it a day - blaming himself for letting the team down - and hit the shower. I got down on my knees, looked into those chocolate soup eyes and said, "Hey, it's not over yet. You have one more inning to show them what you're made of. Losers quit and you haven't lost yet." And with a tender smack on the very round backside of his uniform he ran back out onto the field with the rest of his team.
I'd like to think my pep talk made all the difference. I'm sure it didn't. I'd like to think my words burned a truth into his heart that he will carry into adulthood. I'm sure they won't. But the boys played a stellar fifth inning, Stephen had a couple of tournament-worthy scoops at first, and hit a smacker to the outfield off the bat. The boys won 16-15.
I've been a bit frustrated as of late. Unemployed since last August and struggling to admit that I've crossed the line from "great investment" to "maybe too old to invest in" has beat me down a little. As I thought about writing last week, I couldn't get the words on paper fast enough. I literally laid in bed at night writing more blogs in my head than I could remember the next morning. And then nothing. Not a thought. Nothing remarkable, nothing to put a twist on, nothing even remotely blog-worthy. And only one person noticed. Now please don't send me a bunch of comments saying, "I was wondering why you hadn't written anything." I won't believe you.
But I had a moment of clarity in the dugout last night. As I was encouraging my son to get out there and keep playing, it was almost like an out-of-body experience. I heard myself saying those words to me, too. So today I've been reminding myself that I have 'one more inning'. Losers quit and I haven't lost yet. I don't have any idea how long my 'one more inning' is, but I'm not going to quit. Yes, my life is difficult right now. Yes, I'm frustrated, disappointed, and confused. I don't understand what lesson or lessons I'm supposed to be learning in this unfamiliar place. But I won't quit. For however long this season is, I believe there is a purpose and a plan. My faith tells me I'm not a loser. So here's to one more inning. And winning.